Alice Freeman offers a one-hour free consultation at her studio to review musical selections and your order of service. If personal consulting together in Laramie is not convenient she also offers video consulting sessions using Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangouts.
Rehearsals are required if Alice is asked to accompany singers or other musicians chosen by the bride. However, she charges an additional fee to attend rehearsals and this can easily double the prices charged for a wedding.
What type of music can be played on the harp?
Almost any type of music can be played, but not every tune in each type is possible. For example, music like "True Love" by Cole Porter is easily playable on a piano, but is difficult on a harp because of the number of accidentals (places where a harpist must actually change the pitch of a string). A harp player is limited by the number of lever changes that are physically possible within a specific span of time.
Classical, baroque, renaissance, medieval, folk, rock, jazz, show tunes, music from movies and new age music can be played on a harp. However, if you would like a specific song played, it is best to check with your harpist to make sure that song is playable on the harp. And if you would like a specific type of music (like country and western), check to make sure the harpist you are hiring plays that genre.
Does a harp require amplification?
The short answer is no, it does not. A pedal harp is designed to produce a large sound capable of being heard over an orchestra in a concert hall. Many smaller harps also produce a sound that carries well, even from one room into the next. At receptions, people have often commented that it is nice to have music which can be heard throughout the space, but is not overpoweringly loud.
Some events, however, may be held in locations which are not harp-friendly. For example, very large rooms with carpets and heavy drapes, or events with several hundred people conversing can both prevent a harp from being heard. Another problem situation is an outdoor wedding where the wind is carrying the sound away from the guests.
If you are concerned about whether the harp by itself will be heard, ask the harpist if they have their own amplification system and if they need to be situated near an electrical outlet. In addition, you might ask your venue if they have a house sound system which can be used to amplify a harp and if they are familiar with amplifying acoustic instruments.
Alice Freeman has her own battery-powered amplifier, pickup and preamp for use in appropriate situations. Nearby access to electric power is never needed.
Will a harpist be willing to play for my event if it is outdoors?
This depends on the harpist. Playing outside is hard on both the harp and the performer so some harpists choose not to accept outdoor gigs. Other harpists will add an extra fee for playing outdoors and specify conditions under which it can be done.
For example, Alice Freeman always accepts outdoor engagements because she plays a Carbon Fiber Harp which is very tolerant of many weather conditions. She prefers temperatures above 60-degrees Fahrenheit, winds no more than 20 mph, and likes to avoid playing in the rain, but this harp will never be damaged by adverse conditions.
How does a harpist move their harp to an event?
Harpists use a large trunk to ship their harps to distant locations. Locally, the harpist moves the harp him/herself by putting a soft padded cover on the harp and strapping it to a specially designed furniture dolly. Then the harp can be easily wheeled to an event location.
Alice's Carbon Fiber Harp weighs only 11 pounds, so she can easily carry it anywhere.
Do I need to provide the harpist with anything?
Most harpists will bring everything they need. This includes the harp, harp stool, music stand, stand light, music books and amplification equipment (plus extra strings, repair tools, water, etc.). Providing a chair or a music stand is sometimes welcome, because it means fewer things for the harpist to unload.
Alice Freeman always brings everything she will need. Since all her music is on her iPad, she also has 6-7 hours of additional music she can play if the start of an event is delayed.
This FAQ has been adapted from information provided by and with permission
from Kari Gardner, harpist in the greater Chicago, Illinois area.
Please visit her Web site at http://blackandgoldharp.com/index.html.
What to Ask
Have a preliminary conversation with anyone you are considering and ask the following:
How long did they study or how long have they been playing?
Be wary of someone who is self-taught or very new to the instrument. If they mention a degree in music, did they major in the instrument you want them to play?
Do they use contracts?
Any professional musician should be willing to give you the details in writing. Insist on a contract for your protection as well as theirs.
Where can you hear them?
Professional musicians may have a steady engagement where you can hear them play or a demo tape or other recording as a sample of their work. Make sure you listen to them before hiring them.
What is in their repertoire?
Most professionals will have a repertoire list that includes titles of the music they can perform. Confirm they have sufficient repertoire in the style you want.
What is their cancellation policy?
Have they ever canceled on a client? What is their policy if you must cancel? Do they send substitutes without notifying you?
What to Look For
If possible, try to either observe the person you are hiring at another event or check with any references they provide. Look for:
- Appearance: They should be well-groomed and dressed appropriately.
- Promptness: They allowed sufficient time to set up and were ready to start on time.
- Programming: Their program flowed steadily from one piece to the next without long lapses or conversation between songs.
- Conduct: They behaved professionally, not like a guest.
- Flexibility: They were willing to work with the client, taking last minute changes in stride.
Other Suggestions and Considerations
Watch out for embellished résumés and distinguish fact from exaggeration. For example, if someone tells you they have won several awards or have an advanced degree in their "chosen instrument," question whether the award/degree was for performance and whether their chosen instrument is the one you are hiring them to play.
Look for distinguished accomplishments
Look for accomplishments that distinguish them from the crowd (e.g., national recognition, awards, acknowledgment by their peers, etc.) Most musicians have played at prestigious venues at some point. Find out whether this was an ongoing contract or a one-time event. Were they the "main attraction" or the substitute at a steady engagement?
Become a discerning listener
You must listen and compare before you might recognize a difference between harpists. Take the time to hear anyone you are considering.
Do you need other musicians in addition to a harpist?
The harp is a wonderful solo instrument, just like the piano. If you hired a string quartet, you would have 4 instruments that only play one note at a time. The harp will produce more sound and more notes at one time than an entire string quartet.
Don't make price the deciding factor
With musicians, there are many variables to consider, such as experience, training, and talent. If someone offers a discounted rate, there is a reason. Are their limitations worth the savings? Are you willing to risk disaster for something as important as the music at your wedding? Hire a pro. You will be glad you did!
This checklist has been adapted from information provided by and used with the permission of Jan Jennings, author of THE HARPIST'S COMPLETE WEDDING GUIDEBOOK, and a nationally renowned harpist herself from the Orlando area. Please visit her Web site at http://www.harpbiz.com/.
Another excellent resource is Anne Roos' book THE BRIDE'S GUIDE TO MUSICIANS - LIVE WEDDING MUSIC MADE EASY AND AFFORDABLE. It is published by Hal Leonard Books, © 2010, ISBN 978-1-4234-8290-1. Please visit Anne's Web site at http://www.celticharpmusic.com/.
Planning weddings can be both exciting and rewarding. Weddings can also be very stressful. As a wedding professional Alice knows what makes a wedding a success. Consider these Top 10 Tips as a starting point for planning your wedding.
1. Plan early
Start at least eight to ten months in advance if your preferred wedding day is a Saturday in the summer or choose another day or season to wed if you only have a three to six month lead time. There is high competition for services and venues for summer Saturday weddings. Be creative with your scheduling to get a wider selection of wedding professionals to hire.
2. Know your service providers
Referrals work well as the reputation of the service providers you choose is important. Avoid unpleasant surprises on your wedding day by selecting professional service providers with a depth of experience. Emailing works great but close the deal by telephone with a written agreement to follow.
3. Get it in writing
Your quoted prices should include all the details as agreed. Verbal agreements at weddings get lost in the excitement.
4. Be methodical
Keep copious notes and plan achievable goals in a weekly task list. Revise your overall action plan regularly as you progress. When feeling overwhelmed midway, look back to see all your successes to date.
5. Know your desired outcomes
Be clear as to the outcomes you want and articulate them well. People cannot please you if you do not know what you want. Wedding professionals create magic if they know what "works" for you.
6. Your social rules apply
You set the social boundaries for your event, not etiquette nor obligation. Invite only the people you want to your wedding and no more. Social obligations dampen many a special day. Choose to be surrounded by people who love and care for you. Opt only for the ceremony conventions that have meaning for you and create your own significant moments that work best for you.
7. Prioritize your budget
It is very easy to spend large sums. There are so many wonderful choices available but many are secondary to your immediate wedding needs. Separate the "must haves" from the luxuries and your spending priorities become clearer. Do not go into to debt simply because of social obligations.
The bridal couple and their families should all enjoy the wedding and be proud of it. This means you being open to hear the expectations of those around you. If you disagree with their ideas, speak about it calmly and tactfully until an understanding is reached as to what will be in both yours and their interests. See Tip #6 if there is no agreement.
Follow up two to four weeks prior with your service providers and confirm your arrangements, provide any additional instructions, and reiterate the wedding schedule and your desired outcomes. It will reassure you and it assists the professionals in understanding your expectations. Weddings never go 100% to plan. The professional providers know this and as long as they know your desired outcomes they can make weddings flow seamlessly.
10. Relax and enjoy!
If you do not have a Wedding Planner, choose a strong Master of Ceremonies who you trust and allow the M/C to liaise with all the wedding professionals during the whole day. A well briefed M/C will allow you to enjoy your wedding for its full emotional significance. Do not let your micro-managing spoil an otherwise fun, happy and beautiful time.
Take a few moments to step back and enjoy what is happening around you – smell the air, catch the view, focus on your partner-to-be, enjoy a flower. At a certain point, you have to let go, let others manage, and entrust your wedding to the people you have chosen to make your day flow beautifully.
These tips have been adapted from information provided by and with permission from Canadian harpist Alison Vardy. Please visit her Web site at http://www.alisonvardy.com/.