Renting a grand piano

There’s nothing like a grand piano in a wedding reception room to bring an added caché to the proceedings. The sight of a beautiful instrument, and the rich sound of hammers striking strings, is something special.

So, you want to hire a grand piano for your wedding, or other event. Excellent! This is a brief guide to the process, when arranged through me as part of your function package.

Let’s start with the bad news. Hiring a grand piano is expensive – currently (2017), you would expect to pay anything in the region of £500 upwards. That’s just for the piano – I’m extra!

So why is it such a costly business? There are a few reasons. Firstly, a good grand piano is an extremely expensive instrument for the hire firm to buy. To give you an idea, a 7ft Yamaha C7 (a very nice but by no means extraordinary piano) comes in at about £50k new. A premium brand like Steinway typically doubles that in cost. So you can see that it could take some time for a hire firm to recoup that investment.

Secondly, grand pianos are big and heavy. They need to travel in large vans, which are probably not that economical as vehicles in the first place, but the weight of a grand piano vastly increases fuel consumption. The size and weight means they always need at least two people to deliver and install them, and those people also naturally need to be paid.

Finally, when you move a piano of any sort, it invariably goes out of tune. Some will go further ‘out’ than others, but every piano installed will need tuning by an expert. That again adds to the cost.

If you’ve decided that you’re lucky enough to be able to afford one of these beasts on your wedding day, what else do you need to consider? Primarily, position and access.

The position for the piano should ideally be set apart a little from your guests, as these things are sometimes louder than people expect! The room should be at a steady temperature and the piano should not be too near to any direct heat source.

You also need to consider access. For delivery, a piano’s legs are detached and the instrument is strapped on its side to a ‘sledge’. This means most normal doorways are not a problem, so don’t worry about that. However, if the piano has to be lifted on to a raised platform, or worse still, go upstairs, it will be more costly (more people required for the installation) and in some cases, it may not be possible at all.

Also up for consideration is delivery and collection. As you can imagine, it’s not that speedy a process and the tuner alone will need about an hour before your function starts, so please allow time in your arrangements for this. Do check with your venue how soon a piano can be installed, because the room where your reception is may be used for other things, such as breakfast service, earlier in the day.

You must also consider collection. If you’re going to use the same room for both the wedding breakfast and evening reception, it may not be practical to extract the piano, and it may need to be collected the following day. Please be aware that most hire companies charge extra for this.

In closing, a word about my own arrangements if you want me to hire a piano on your behalf.

Firstly, because of the high rental costs, I require payment of these charges in full as soon as I have arranged the hire. The charge is non-refundable.

Secondly, I will require you to sign an indemnity form which transfers ALL liability for any damage to the instrument to you. As we’ve already established, grand pianos are expensive instruments with high quality finishes. Despite the very best intentions, things sometimes get out of hand, drinks are placed on the instrument, something spills, someone scratches the (highly expensive) finish… you get the idea.

While I will do my utmost to dissuade people from doing any of the above while I have ‘custody’ of the instrument, the fact is that on many occasions, I will have long gone when the piano is still on the premises.

Finally, what if you can’t afford a grand? Never fear – I supply my own high-quality Yamaha digital piano absolutely free of charge. It may not have quite the visual impact of the real thing, but it sounds damn close and does have some advantages over its acoustic cousin – not least that it can be easily moved between various rooms at your venue, to add musical support wherever you want it.

Have any other questions about renting a grand piano? Contact me.

Music for your wedding ceremony

The variety of music played and heard at wedding ceremonies all over the world is enormous, yet (in Western culture at least) there are two undisputed favourites, whose “airplay” far outstrips their competitors, even today.

The first of these, usually heard as the bride walks down the aisle at the beginning of the ceremony, is the Bridal Chorus from Richard Wagner’s opera Lohengrin, more popularly known as Here Comes The Bride, or simply the Wedding March.

The first four notes of this melody are so ubiqitous that they have become a kind of “shorthand” for weddings, frequently quoted in film scores and so on.

The second of this famous twosome is the Wedding March from Mendelssohn’s suite of incidental music for Shakespeare’s celebrated comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Again, the first seven notes of this tune almost shout “wedding”.

The Mendelssohn is normally used at the conclusion of the ceremony as the happy couple walk back down the aisle and the cameras flash.

So how did these two pieces come to be so popular? Well, just as today, royal weddings are trendsetters and it was the marriage of Princess Victoria (that’s Queen Victoria’s daughter) to Prince Frederick William of Prussia in 1858, which used both pieces, that established a trend that was to last well into the 21st century.

Needless to say I’ve played both the Wagner and Mendelssohn many, many times on both organ and piano but they do tend to provoke a bit of a “Marmite” reaction from couples.

In church services, other popular classical pieces such as Jeremiah Clarke’s Prince of Denmark March or Widor’s Toccata are substituted, while in civil ceremonies in hotels or other wedding venues, tradition will often go right out of the door, with the couple’s choice in modern pop music creating the right mood for every part of the wedding ceremony.

In the end, it’s your choice. There are a few other good reasons why you may not choose to go with the “Big Two”, however.

Firstly, if you’re marrying in a church, you may not be aware of this but neither piece is remotely “religious”. Indeed, some Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches actively discourage either piece being played because they regard their subject matter as “pagan”.

And whether you’re religious or not, you might want to be aware that in Lohengrin, the Bridal Chorus is actually sung AFTER the ceremony, when the women of the wedding party are accompanying the opera’s heroine, Elsa, to the bridal chamber.

It doesn’t work out well, with the groom killing five of the wedding guests and abandoning his estwhile bride – who then dies of grief.

Just thought you might like to know!