Weddings at Eastnor Castle
The string quartet plays in the Gothic Room for the wedding ceremony, which I will describe in detail later. I think that it is the actual Gothic Room that has the civil wedding license, as I can't recall holding the ceremony anywhere else in the Castle or grounds, but I'm not absolutely sure.
The dining room, which is at the other side of the annex containing the mounted knight, from the ceremony room, rarely has live music. At some venues string quartet would play during the meal, but at Eastnor Castle there is not normally enough room to accommodate the for musicians. Sometimes the wedding breakfast is held in the great Hall, but only if there are a large number of guests, (I guess it is very hard work to shift all the furniture out of the great Hall and fill it with dining tables. No wonder the people who work at the castle look so fit!) It is one of those stately home rooms absolutely filled with paintings. It's like dining in an art gallery. Amongst the many portraits is one of Edward Charles Cox, an intelligence officer and elder son of the first Earl, who died at the siege of Burgos. When I learnt this bit of information about the painting it brings home even more the things that have happened in walls around Europe, in places that one visits today as holidaymaker. I know Burgos from my caravanning holidays around Spain, and the imposing Burgos Cathedral. The obelisk on the flanks of them Malvern Hills in Eastnor Park was erected in 1812 in his memory.
They no longer use the original kitchens, there is an adjacent modern kitchen which is put to very good use. The food they serve is superb. Indeed, in some ways the superb food dictates the progress of the wedding or the corporate event. If we are in the middle of playing something with a string quartet, when the call goes to summon people to dinner, we bring the music took weekends so as not to detain people from going into the dining room. We know that the food will be prepared to perfection and that even a few moments delay guests being seated and ready could detract from that perfection.
The octagon someone is reached by another door that leads from the Gothic room. It's Windows have a wonderful view over the Veranda, the lake, and the woods and hills beyond. This room was changed in the 1930s, but was reinstated in its original form in the 1990s when the room was painted by the decorative artist Laura Jeffries. The crystal chandelier, another magnificent chandelier, is Dutch. The carpet was made in China in 1994. It is made in the style of other carpets in the castle that were originally woven in India. If I remember correctly, the carpet is rolled up and removed when our ceilidh band plays there, though I think that perhaps they lay a floor there when the jazz bands are performing. I should remember, I've played there often enough, but I am so preoccupied with getting the equipment set up and playing the music, that such details tend to go by me.
The long library, which I've mentioned before, is somewhere that our string quartets do not playing. In my mind this is a good thing, because the acoustics would not be suitable. There is a piano in the room, but I don't know if it was ever played in that room or whether it has just ended up their as there is another superb piano in the great Hall, which does have good acoustics. We've often had jazz or classical pianist playing during drinks receptions, often for corporate events or private parties, but sometimes for weddings.
As well as being lined with books it is lined with 17th century Flemish tapestries, and has is often the case depicts mythical scenes. I can't remember if any of the tapestries have got musical instruments being played. This is shocking to admit considering that I'm a musician, as many mythical scenes incorporate some sort of ancient instrument, whether it is a lute or bowed stringed instrument, a small harp or flute or panpipes. Next time I am there I must have a look. (You see, it can be therapeutic and useful to ramble on like I am now, all sorts of thoughts come to mind.)
Another fact I've read about the library is that there are 5000 books. To think that it could all now be on the Kindle! (In fact, in effect a Kindle can access all the books that are on the Amazon servers. On the one hand that is a wonderful facility, but is it just my suspicious nature that this is slightly worrying. If the America of Mr Donald Trump were to go pear-shaped, does this mean that all knowledge would be locked up on the servers in the USA, under the control of Amazon or whoever by then might be controlling Amazon? You can't copy books from the Amazon server for obvious reasons, which is fair enough, but what happens if those servers get taken over by some regime the decided that it wasn't going to let it be accessed by the rest of the world. We still have books in libraries around the UK and other parts of the world, not just on that one set of servers, but more and more books are being published only online.
Could we be heading to a situation as happened in Alexandria in the days of ancient Greece, when the library of Alexandria, the store of all knowledge that time, was accidentally burnt in a battle? The whole library was not lost then, but the remainder was destroyed, some say deliberately, by one of the early popes. Civilisation collapsed, knowledge moved to India, China, back to the Arab countries and only started to come back into Europe in a serious way around the time of Isaac Newton well over 1000 years later. Could we be in store for a similar situation with books and Amazon? (I hasten to add that I'm not criticising Amazon or suggesting that they have any such intention, as they are providing an amazing service to the world, and quite rightly making a good profit out of it as they deserve. I am merely musing about possible future scenarios.) Maybe this is a case of fiddling while Rome burns? I am half Italian, but I've never fiddled with my string quartet in Rome, and if it happened to be burning at the time I'd certainly get out of the way quick.
There are many other rooms in the castle, but as we don't play music in them I won't mention them. Visit the castle and have a look for yourself if you're interested. Other relevant parts of the castle of the Veranda on the lawn far below, where we have played with a string quartet on many occasions and even held Kayleigh's and barn dances on the Veranda where they have erected a marquee for the occasion.
Now that you are familiar with the layout of the castle, I will talk about how we provide music this venue. I've already talked about how we play with a string Quartet at Eastnor church, and the choreography and timing of this option, so I will now talk about what we do for civil wedding ceremonies at the castle itself.
Typically, the string quartet would set up in the great Hall while guests arrive and have drinks, before the ceremony itself. We set up in the corner by the door, unless it's Christmas time, when there is absolutely enormous and beautiful Christmas tree in that position. At Christmas, we normally set up at the opposite end of all newly entrance to the octagon room.
We also sometimes play there during the drinks reception after the ceremony, if there are a lot of guests and the weather is bad, so that people tend to move into the great Hall rather than going out onto the Veranda. Normally we play as people trapped and drink and perhaps have canopies if it's the reception. There have been occasions which have been a little different though. I remember one event, I think they might have been South American, but they certainly were a wedding party who had come over to the UK for the ceremony and the reception of the castle.
(We have played with a string quartet on the number of occasions for parties that have come from other countries especially to get married in an English stately home. This is one situation where booking musicians via our website is particularly useful. It doesn't matter what country the bride and groom residing, they can send us an enquiry via our website, we emailed them the quotation which links them to the relevant section of our website to see and hear each music group that we've quoted them. If they want to book a live music group from us, then the booking is done online and payments can be made by credit or debit card, in any of the main international currencies, or by direct bank transfer, though bank transfers and so useful if the bank account is a non-sterling account.)