Hymns in the Mix with Acoustic Violin and Guitar

I really do love learning so much new music.  In the past 9 years, I have arranged and played almost every style of music from Catholic masses to Kanye West to Old Crow Medicine Show!  Sometimes though it’s lovely to return to one’s roots.

Our July 31st bride and groom chose a violin and guitar duo and requested a number of hymns in the mix with other styles of music including Classical and Classic Rock.  Since my public playing of the violin really began as a child playing hymns in a small country church, the opportunity to revisit sacred music was so special.  Even better, I was joined again by guitarist Nate Macy who I began playing music with almost 15 years ago while we were in college.

Jordan and Janae’s ceremony was held at a venue that was new to me—the Riverview Restaurant’s Waterfall Estate.  The weather was perfect and our setup under the gazebo for ceremony and cocktail hour offered just enough protection from the breeze and sun.  After the cocktail hour, the guests moved inside for the dinner and reception.  Nate and I continued to play for another hour inside and then spent the rest of the evening facilitating the couple’s i-pod playlist on our sound system.

This was just a gorgeous wedding—the bride and groom are obviously well loved by their family and friends and there were a number of couples in the room approaching their 50th wedding anniversary!

Hope you enjoy listening to a few of the songs we played—please pardon some rumbling wind and the crows “singing” in the background toward the end of Amazing Grace.  Too bad it couldn’t have been a bird with a slightly more elegant voice!  I guess at least this way you won’t question whether this is really recorded live.

Come Thou Fount

Servant Song

Amazing Grace & Midnight

July 23rd Acoustic Irish Vineyard Wedding

Effesenden Acoustic Trio 
July 23rdwas a special wedding for Effesenden Music not only because the music was enjoyable to play.  It was also the first outdoor wedding of 2011 that did not involve substantial weather related contingency plans ranging from tents to entire ceremonies being moved to shelter.  As an avid backpacker this violinist tries to take it with humor when mother nature throws a curve ball like she did in the beginning of the summer… but one generally does prefer it when recreational outdoor survival skills do not have to be implemented in four inch heals.

Set on the veranda of a Tuscan themed home overlooking a vineyard, our Acoustic Trio included guitarist Nate Macy, upright bassist Nolan Staples and myself on violin.  The textures, energy and versatility of this trio is a fitting soundtrack for the color and topography of a vineyard landscape.  There is such a fusion of elegance and earthiness at a winery and I believe that the music should reflect that.

(Other Acoustic options Effesenden Music offers include cello, keyboard, 2nd fiddle, mandolin and percussion.)

The first live recording is our arrangement of “Simple Gifts” from the beautiful Classical American Ballet Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copeland.  This piece is a lovely crossover between Classical and Americana styles and is personally significant for me as an artist as it really draws together my own musical influences.

Appalachian Spring Theme

Before the ceremony as guests mingled sipping white wine and lemonade, the musical mood was a relaxing mix of classical with slower bluegrass ballads.  Ceremony selections were mostly Classical with an Americana tinge.  After the ceremony it was time to liven things up with fast Irish, Bluegrass and Old World Jazz.  The groom’s two-year old nephew Jack seemed to be a big fan, cheering on after anything with a pulsing beat such as this next sample, Wedding Jig– actually a medley of Celtic fiddle tunes that the bride’s parents fell in love with while on a trip to Ireland.  This joyful medley will definitely be staying in Effesenden’s playlist.

Wedding Jig

The second recording is an original fiddle piece I wrote this winter with the working title “Tokyo.”  It’s a lot of fun to play and is part of a larger project I have in the works… but that is a story for another blog entry.


The third recording is of one of the first Bluegrass fiddle tunes I learned to play—I love the quirky title and there are many memories attached—including an incident at the Chicago Hyatt when we did not realize that the jam session we were holding in our hotel room was not quite what our neighbor had in mind for his afternoon.

Bonaparte Crossing the Rockies

Basically, with Bonaparte, I like to start fast and repeat getting faster and faster until we sort of collapse from exhaustion.  Aside from that irritated hotel guest back in Chicago, people always seem to love hearing this song!

This final piece is that beloved jazz standard Summertime:  a really fun song that can be done so many different ways but always great ambient music… kind of suave and quite suitable for the cocktail hour vibe.


This was definitely a wonderful wedding to contribute to and many congratulations to Megan and Sam!

Epic, Beautiful and Unique: Our August 6th Wedding

“Epic” was the word that my August 6th bride kept using as she described the vision for music at her beautiful evening vineyard wedding. It was such a treat to collaborate with Claire because she communicated her ideas and then trusted me with them enough to allow me to make artistic decisions that I knew would achieve her goal.

Our ensemble was comprised of string quartet to which I suggested Claire add vocals and percussion for a few of the numbers.  The following are the live recordings I made at the ceremony:

Seating of Family–August 6th

Processional August 6th

Bride’s Procession August 6th

Recessional August 6th

Our quartet was comprised of:

Violins:  Wendy Goodwin & Noelle Sisk
Viola:  Nelly Kovalev
Cello:  Ashley Peck

Our beautiful vocalist was Bethany Cibolski and we were delighted to have the creativity and energy of Mr. Martin Zarzar of Pink Martini for our percussionist.


To better accommodate the different needs of different weddings, we offer 3 different types of song selection options– Basic, Premier and Effesenden.  This wedding was our Premier option and included up to 6 new songs that we arranged specifically for the wedding day plus complete control over the playlist from our current repertoire.

Claire chose to begin her preceremony cocktail hour with classical selections such as Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring and Ave Maria but she spiced things up by taking my suggestion of a few tangos.  Since the wedding had such a cosmopolitan feel to me, I thought that the Tangos would really give a great energy intermixed with the elegance of the more traditional classical selections.

After about a half hour of playing, we moved down to the venue’s lawn where we played Pachelbel’s Canon and a song from the PGA Golf tour called Augusta that is apparently one of the groom’s favorites.  Canon was meant to draw guests towards the ceremony since it is such an iconic wedding song.

Here is our recording of Canon in D from the wedding.

For the seating of the mothers, we played “Vide Cor Meum” from the movie Kingdom of Heaven and Hannibal. Bethany’s beautiful vocals soared over the string lines.  We used just a bit of amplification to give her some reverb since outdoor weddings don’t really offer much in the way of acoustic response.  It was reverent and beautiful.

Our next piece was one that I am an absolute sucker for…I have always wanted to do this one at an Effesenden wedding and when I finally go the chance, I really went for it with the arrangement–” The Kiss” from the Last of the Mohicans could not have been more dramatic and beautiful and special.  I loved the effect of starting with 1 violin and growing and growing until the processional was nearly done when we faded back down to just the lone violin as the children processed down the aisle.

The bride’s entrance song was new to me– “Now We Are Free” from the movie Gladiator.  It is such a cool song. . . and Bethany had the added challenge of figuring out how to sing in a nonsensical language that was used in the writing of the song.  The processional was long.  Instead of rushing down the aisle like so often is the case, Claire knew what part of the song she wanted to enter in and we planned ahead.  She stood at the top of the stairs and waited until the moment before beginning her walk.  While some might feel that the wait was not a good idea in a processional, I really thought it was a wonderful way to soak in the moment.

Our society is SO fast paced… maybe we should be just pausing now and then for 2 minutes to listen to a song and watch a beautiful woman illuminated by smiles and late afternoon summer sunshine have her moment!

During the ceremony, we provided some background music for a sand ceremony and I played with two of the bride’s friends as they performed Eddie Vedder’s amazingly romantic “Longing to Belong.”  For the recessional, we got our “Brit pop on” with “Starlight” by the band Muse.  It was fun, upbeat… and I loved arranging this one and hearing the lyrics “Starlight, I will be chasing this starlight until the end of my life…” even though we played it instrumentally, I always love seeing what the lyrics are to a song and they often effect how I voice things.

After the recessional, our quartet moved back up to the patio and played entirely pop music ranging from Adele to U2, Coldplay, Beatles and Kings of Leon.  It was so awesome to be able to play so many different types of music and to work with such great musicians!

I will glow from the fun of being a part of Claire and Jeff’s day for a long time and wish them every happiness!