But it’s only an hours work!

I’ve seen this so many times on weddingsonline that I thought I’d try to explain why (for most musicians anyway) it’s not just an hours work!

I meet all my couples in the church initially for an hours consultation so that they can hear me singing various different pieces before they decide to book me. It’s the only way to do things – I strongly advise anyone to hear their musicians live…studio recordings can camouflage many faults! Then I usually meet them again, at least once, for an hour or two until they have chosen all their music but if they want to meet me more than that I’m happy to do that as well. Then I have to schedule rehearsal time with the accompanist and learn any new pieces.

I arrive at every wedding an hour before the ceremony is due to start to warm up my voice and have a quick run through again with the accompanist. More often than not the bride is late, the ceremony lasts for approx an hour and a half – so we’re usually in the church for 3 hours (often longer!). This excludes travel time to and from the ceremony location – I’ve often left the house at 10am and returned after 5pm

There are also many costs involved in doing this as a profession – I can’t just show up and hope for the best! Some church organs are totally out of tune so I bought a weighted keyboard which is basically a portable piano. On its own it’s of no use so I also had to buy an amplifier for it. Again some churches have really poor acoustics so a decent microphone was needed. They all have to be insured against theft or damage.

I also have travel costs, tax, insurance, advertising, sheet music for myself and any accompanists – all of these costs have gone up while I have kept my price the same.

Another huge cost factor for a professional singer is voice lessons. If you want a teacher that knows what they’re doing you have to pay for it! I’ve been studying voice for 6 years and will be going on to study a Masters in voice soon. Obviously you can get someone to sing that doesn’t have any training but I doubt you would expect to pay the same price as you would for a trained singer. I certainly didn’t charge the same when I started out and had very little training or experience.

I also have to curtail my social life! Who wants a hung-over, husky voiced classical singer arriving at their wedding! I’ve heard of it happening! If I have a wedding coming up it means no socialising for me for the few days leading up to the wedding  That’s the choice I make but I also hope it shows that not all musicians give the same service.

So apart from the hour or two that the couple sees me at the church, there’s a lot more time and expense involved that they don’t see. They are also paying for my expertise and should be comfortable in the knowledge that I know what I’m doing. I will show up…I won’t cancel at the last minute and leave them high and dry (which I’ve also heard happening far too often) and if there is ever any kind of emergency I have dependable, quality singers that I can call on to take my place.

Having said all of the above, of course some people don’t want to spend that kind of money on ceremony music and that’s their prerogative – there are various standards of singer and various prices to match!

Siobhan Oliver
Church Music Expert at Weddingsonline.ie

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