Ceilidh Throwback

Oh how I miss doing ceilidhs! I’m not 100% sure where this photo was taken but I think it’s a Bristol Folk House ceilidh with the Bristol Ceilidh Quartet, and that’s the lovely Nonny Tabbush on the left. Out of camera shot will be another fiddle player, a cellist, a caller, and 100 sweaty dancers having the time of their lives!

Please check out Bristol Ceilidh Quartet on YouTube and you’ll be able to see what fun everyone is having! And if you’d like more information, please get in touch.

New Year, New Start

My regular violin and piano teaching resumed this week, and along with it is a strict new regime of learning new violin repertoire, in the hope that I’ll get to perform it soon. I’ve got a new app that shows me a bar graph of how long I’ve practised each day – pretty simple but starting duolingo last year taught me that I’m more competitive than I ever knew!

Photo: Jennifer Lei

Christmas Engagements

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and winter break. If you got engaged recently, congratulations! I’d love to chat about your wedding plans. I’m looking forward to more music-making and more weddings in 2021.

If you’re planning a wedding (big or small!) for 2021 or 2022 and would like some live music to add that extra sparkle to your day, please get in touch!

Music Tuition

I think my recorder playing skills peaked at infant school, but I’m glad I stuck with violin! Usually when I’m not playing at weddings I’m teaching violin and piano to a lovely collection of young students. It’s definitely weird to think I’ve only seen them through a computer screen since March, but it’s lovely hearing what they’ve been up to each week and seeing them grow more independent when learning new pieces. Silver linings?

For more information about my teaching please visit www.alisonrowleyteaching.com.

Classical Music

Classical music is probably what you imagine when you think about a violinist or a string quartet playing at a wedding. And there are some popular classical numbers in standard wedding repertoire that you’ll recognise at once, even if you don’t consider yourself to be a big classical music enthusiast.

Classical music can be used to perfectly set the scene for more formal venues like churches or sophisticated country houses, or it can provide that ‘English country garden’ atmosphere for a classy outdoor drinks reception.

I’m aware that not everyone has an in-depth knowledge of the wide world of classical music, so I think of my repertoire in terms of broad categories to help create a varied playlist. There are the big wedding hits like Pachelbel’s Canon in D, the Flower Duet by Delibes (Gavin and Stacey fans might have spotted this at Dawn and Pete’s wedding!), and the fast and furious Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba by Bach. There are relaxing classics like Satie’s Gymnopedies, Debussy’s Clare de Lune, and Einaudi’s Le Onde. There are the ones that everyone recognises even if they don’t know where from, like Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre (the Jonathan Creek theme tune) or Elgar’s Nimrod (from ‘that hovis advert’). And then there are the innocuous classical minuets, trios, adagios, mazurkas, etc etc that might not stand out from the crowd but lilt along beautifully, providing that gentle background murmur that says sophistication without being too in-your-face.

And of course, if you want classy classical AND a bit of Taylor Swift, I’m always happy to genre hop!

Why Have A Ceilidh?

I just LOVE a good ceilidh (‘kay-lee’) – I think they are absolutely the best way to get people on the dance floor, laughing their heads off!

Ceilidhs provide the chance to blow off steam after the formalities earlier in the day. The ‘caller’ explains the moves and walks everyone through the whole dance, nice and slowly, then when they think the dancers have enough of an idea of what to do, the music starts and the energy in the room goes through the roof. There’s no experience required to join in with ceilidh dancing – and when things do go a bit sideways it’s just more fun!

I play in several ceilidh bands across the South of England, including Bristol Ceilidh Quartet (pictured here but instagram made me cut out our cellist!). Get in touch if you’d like more info!

Your Venue Layout

When considering your drinks reception or cocktail hour, have a think about where people will be likely to congregate. This will help you decide where to place key features. Is there seating for less mobile guests? Is the guest book or photobooth somewhere visible and accessible, to encourage people to take part? Will people spread out to explore the different spaces your venue has to offer, or cluster together in one spot?

All these factors are particularly important if you’re planning to have entertainment too. My role tends to be background music, so I don’t want to get in the way of people milling around or deafen the people right in front of me, but I do need to be visible (otherwise why bother having live music). Also bear in mind that some performers might need access to mains electricity – fortunately my setup doesn’t require this so I can play anywhere!

Usually the best solution is at the edge of a large space, in sight of the seated area but not right on top of it. Bonus points if it looks purposeful rather than a random spot I happened to stop in! Near a fireplace, in an otherwise empty corner, on a beautiful terraced area, at the foot of a beautiful staircase, you name it. Have a think about your venue and what unique features it has.

Pictured: Coombe Lodge, Blagdon. This has a lovely covered area (great for me on a hot day!) in view of the outdoor space near the bar but not in the way of the door. Perfect.

Pop Songs

Music for a modern couple! Choosing a violinist for your wedding ceremony doesn’t have to feel old-fashioned and stuffy. I actually enjoy playing my pop repertoire a lot more than the classical pieces you might expect, because of the reaction it gets from guests every time! I’ve never yet played ‘Happy’ during a drinks reception without people joining in.
Fun fact: when I play pop songs at weddings I don’t actually use sheet music most of the time! The page in front of me is usually reminding me of the lyrics, which gives a more natural and emotional performance than counting furiously without knowing the meaning of the song.

A Wedding At The Ritz

I love this shot from the first wedding ceremony I played solo violin at. The venue? Only the RITZ in London!! The room was beautiful, and the rest of this lovely couple’s celebrations were absolutely gorgeous (carriage ride through the streets of London anyone?). If you’d like to add the glamour of a live violinist to your wedding ceremony, please get in touch!
Photo: Kev Hurdle

All About Me

I’m Alison and I’m a professional musician. I’ve lived in Bristol for six years, but I’ve been doing this wonderful job for 11, ever since graduating from the University Of Cambridge in 2009. I’m a solo violinist and I also play folk fiddle in loads of ceilidh bands, including the Bristol Ceilidh Quartet and Licence To Ceilidh. I love helping to make your wedding day extra special with live music!
The rest of the time I teach violin and piano to some really lovely young students, and I occasionally visit schools to teach maypole dancing amongst other things. I also spend far too much time doing DIY and slightly inept sewing.