Loving People Through Live Music

Effesenden Wendy Goodwin Solo

I started playing for weddings long before I established Effesenden Music.  One of the first weddings I played was as a young high school student at the beautiful Willamette Valley vineyards near Salem, Oregon.  It was very windy and the little metal folding music stand I was using blew over during the prelude– music went everywhere!  Then for the recessional, the guests had been given these wax paper envelopes which contained freeze dried butterflies which were supposed to, when opened, spring to life and flutter gently out of their slumber, surrounding the happy couple with beautiful, brightly covered wings.  Instead, these butterflies were like Snow White without the kiss.  The envelopes were opened. . . .nothing happened.  When guests tried to dislodge them, they just dropped stone dead to the ground.  Talk about not a good way to start things off… but then, as my husband and I well know, sometimes the epic fails end up being the best stories that we are still laughing about years later.

While still in college, I was asked to play in a string quartet for weddings. We would ride around in this windowless white van that sort of had the serial killer vibe– there weren’t even seats in the back, just musicians rolling around with the rest of the gear from one wedding to the next.  Sometimes the other violinist was super drunk but he still managed to play really well in tune.  I don’t know how!  Sometimes we would have three weddings in one day– luckily traffic wasn’t as bad back then as it is now in the metro area!  Everyone has their crazy college stories and many of my fellow musicians went on to have incredible careers but I knew that when I started Effesenden Music, I really wanted to do things differently.  I wanted to place my focus on relationships, kindness, enthusiasm, quality and attention to detail.

Here are eight of my favorite wedding memories as the owner of Effesenden Music.

  1.  Performing for a wedding reception with violin, guitar and cello, the groom’s 90 year old grandfather came up to say hello.  He then proceeded to pull a harmonica out of the pocket of his plaid suit coat and asked if he might join in for a set.
  2. Playing Canon in D for that critical moment of the bride’s procession at a gorgeous outdoor venue in Clackamas.  Suddenly, A spider dropped from my hair and began repelling down towards my violin.  I HATE bugs but I kept playing.  I am self controlled when I need to be!
  3. The night my guitarist, Nate and I had played for the ceremony live but stayed to provide DJ services for the reception at the Abernethy Center in Oregon City.  As we were starting to pack up our gear, amidst the black coiled sound cables, was a black coiled LIVE snake.  SO glad I didn’t pick it up and bring it home.
  4. I’ve played violin since age three but a few years ago, I learned to play the Ukulele for a wedding that needed it.  Because of this, I was able to help a young boy tune his ukulele to perform a special piece for his dad, the groom.  I am not a great ukulele player by any means but it was great to be able to have the skills to help out.  That same night, on my way to the venue I accidentally took a route that put me in the path of the infamous Portland naked bike ride.  GPS doesn’t warn about things like that!
  5.  When our string quartet performed for a stunning wedding ceremony and reception in Maui, Hawaii, we discovered that a number of the guests were professional hockey players.  I’ve never seen a hockey game in my life but our Canadian born cellist was absolutely beside himself.
  6. Playing solo violin for a wedding ceremony at a private home in Sellwood.   The catch was that none of the guests knew they were coming to a wedding–they though their friends were just throwing a party!  I love seeing community in action.
  7. When I broke my pinkie toe on my music stand- I never forgot about the tipping metal stand of my teenage years and bought a super heavy stand that would withstand gale force winds, however, my fellow musicians and I nicknamed it the “Stand of Death.”  Why?  Because every time I would use it, there would be an injury.
  8. The ongoing opportunity to work with so many awesome musicians who I love and admire.  The daily challenge of taking a song that maybe was never meant for strings and finding a way to create an arrangement that makes my clients smile.

 

Live Music for Outdoor Weddings: How to Plan for Oregon’s Unpredictable Weather

So far this year, our outdoor wedding musical adventures in beautiful Oregon have included a thunder and hail storm, soft sneaky rain that kept appearing and disappearing prior to the ceremony—just toying with us, 90 degree heat and 54 degree temps with periodic downpours intermixed.  There were also a few of those amazing Oregon summer days that we try to keep secret from the rest of the country so we can maintain our reputation for being a rainy, flannel wearing kind of place.

We at Effesenden Music LOVE your unique venue ideas.  We are all for bringing beautiful musical atmosphere to match your gorgeous outdoor venue and with just a little forethought, you can ensure that your music will be great no matter what Mother Nature decides to present on the big day.

Here I was in mid May, rocking my black winter scarf and down vest.  During the prelude and ceremony, it kept raining on and off so we were under shelter but then the sun came out and created the most beautiful natural lighting so we were able to setup al fresco for the cocktail hour.

Effesenden Performing at Bridal Veil Lakes
Photo Credit: Caressa Rogers Photography

If rain is not a concern, setting the musicians up under the shade of a tree is usually totally adequate to keep instruments safe and music sounding awesome.  If you’re dealing with a drizzly forecast or epic summer heat, here are some tips on how to ensure that your music will not be negatively impacted by the elements.

What’s the big deal about violins in the rain?

Okay Lindsey Stirling, seems able to play her violin in a pirate costume surrounded by Bellagio-like fountains and Cirq du Soleil worthy dancers… but take a close look at that fiddle:  my soon to be blissfully wedded friends, it is a specially made electric violin.  Now if you’re interested in this type of musical performance at your wedding, let’s chat.  I really like the guy with the harpoon. . . but assuming you’re thinking of more like professional musicians dressed in classy black and performing beautiful music for you and your guest to enjoy for prelude, processional and cocktail hour please read on about how to make music possible outdoors even in um…challenging weather.

What happens to a violin or cello if it gets wet?

Kennedy Violins has a wonderful blog post you can check out to get the full details.  In a nutshell, wood is porous and if the wood of an instrument absorbs water, it can expand causing major damage like warping and cracking.  (Shudder.  This is R rated stuff for a string player to even think about!)… and to put it simply, thousands of dollars of damage or possibly irreparable damage can be caused to instruments that are often hundreds of years old.  You don’t want that bad juju happening at your wedding!

Okay but it’s sunny!  Not a cloud in the sky— so I’m good right?

Unfortunately direct sunshine and heat can do serious damage as well if temperatures are hot.  Remember the whole porous thing… if the wood gets direct sunlight and high temperatures, it can shrink those pores and again cause cracking, warping and discoloration.  All this stuff that costs a lot of money and a lot of worry to repair.

This is not about high maintenance vendors trying to ruin your day, but rather that we really really want to play for you and make it awesome and share all the music we’ve prepared just for you.

Okay but lets say you are an evil person who does not care about other people’s prized musical instruments… why does it still matter to you?

Because when instruments get exposed to weather extremes, they go out of tune.  They sound bad.  They sound like this guy:

SO What to do?

If we’re talking rain, and you are not planning to tent the ceremony area for your guests, consider renting or purchasing a 10×10 open-sided canopy tent and setting up your musicians to the side or behind the guests. The music will still sound great. The tent won’t inhibit the view or pictures if positioned behind and your musicians can concentrate on beautifully performing all of those songs you carefully selected.

Here’s a video of our String Trio and Guitarist performing on a 90 degree+ day at the Resort at the Mountain in Welches.  The elegance of the acoustic instruments and more importantly, the gorgeous sounds they create more than make up for a little infrastructure amidst the natural beauty.

What type of tent should I get?

This tent  pictured below from Costco sells for just $149.50 and would be totally adequate for providing shelter for your live music if needed. Ask around too… often there is someone on your guest list who already owns one and would be happy to help out!

Sample Canopy Tent for Musicians

You should plan on having a tent for the musicians even if your backup rain plan involves moving to an indoor area. Why? Because many times, if you’re just seeing a little bit of drizzle, you’re going to want to go ahead with your original plan.  Your guests can snuggle under umbrellas or pull out a jacket but the musicians are then left with the problem of not having a way to protect their instruments from that precipitation.

A word of caution, many people think of possibly using a circular bistro umbrella (such as the one pictured below).  They look really classy but the problem is that they do not provide enough shelter for more than maybe a soloist.  The central base takes up the most sheltered area of the umbrella.  What’s worse is that I have personally seen them catch wind and tip over on more than one occasion, especially for Gorge weddings:  there’s a reason that Kite Boarding and Wind Surfing are so popular around here!  This is not only a liability for the musicians but for your guests as well!

Patio Umbrella

 

Closing Thoughts

Most Oregonians really pride themselves on being creative and undaunted by crazy weather.  When we accept the responsibility and privilege of providing the live music for your wedding, we want to absolutely ensure that things go as smoothly as possible.  By taking just a few precautionary steps, you can relax in the confidence that live music is possible just about anywhere you can imagine getting married in this beautiful state!