Wedding fair string quartet
So with the TV, (with sound turned down, it would be absolute mayhem to have a ceilidh band blasting over the television speakers in competition with a string quartet playing some classical baroque piece), brides and grooms were able to see the range of offerings that was available and I was able to explain how each kind of music was used at Eastnor Castle, to best effect.
Obviously it was easiest to talk about how string quartet was used, as there was one playing there and then in the bride and groom didn't have to use any imagination. I could even walk round to different parts of the Castle and explain what would happen during different parts of their wedding day, and they could still hear string quartet playing in the background. Brilliant. This is quite different to a typical modern hotel, where the rooms are designed to be acoustically dead and sound absorbing, so that what is happening one part of the hotel doesn't disturb something completely different that is happening somewhere else in the same building. All very useful and practical in some ways, but not very good music. It means that the music can only be heard properly in the room in which the music group applying. But not so at Eastnor Castle. As I commented to several brides and grooms, when the castle was built they didn't have television, and live music was an integral part of the life of a wealthy family in those days. Indeed, back then, it was common to have family get-togethers and soirées where family and friends played music for their own enjoyment. And what better little house to do it in the Eastnor Castle. (My own house, which looks Victorian and still has servants bells, but is actually dated from nineteen twenty-five, is acoustically quite good with what are considered tall rooms by the standards of an ordinary house. But the little house of Eastnor Castle has as its main room, hall that is the height of about seven ordinary house rooms. I don't know what it is in metres, I really must ask next time and then see if anybody knows. Someone must measure the.
I deviate again, I was talking about the family playing music in the great Hall of Eastnor Castle. I'm sure that's what they would have done, and James Hervey Bathurst is himself an accomplished oboe player. And who wouldn't want to be a musician if you owned a house like that!
So should I talk about the different music groups, and how they might be used for a wedding or grand banquet, or should I talk a bit about Eastnor Castle itself and the different rooms, so that you have a picture setting in which the music takes place? I think on balance I should talk about the castle first and then follow all with how music is used during the wedding. Yes, that seems most sensible. And I suppose it's not just the interior rooms of the castle that are important, but the outside to, as when the weather is good the string quartet sometimes plays outside the imposing entrance of the castle to greet bride, groom and guests who are arriving from Eastnor church, down in the village. Sometimes guests walk up from the church, led by the bride and groom. Other times, guests will drive from the village and the bride and groom may arrive in your horse-drawn carriage or a vintage car. And that reminds me, I really must talk about the church in the village, it is really quite delightful and we often have one of our string quartets playing there.
The castle is approached from the village of Eastnor, through gates with a notice that announces whether it is open to the public that day or closed for a private function. (The castle is open on certain days of the week, as are the grounds with its sleek and woodland walk. On the other side of the main road from Ledbury to Tewkesbury is the Eastnor Deerpark which continues on up into the Malvern Hills, and to an obelisk at the southern end of the range of hills. All sorts of things go on in the park. It has a caravan site, which is a beautifully informal affair, you just go and park your van anywhere in a vaguely designated area that looks onto the hills and looks down onto a series of small lakes. I stayed there with my caravan on occasions, even though it's only a few miles from my house. Great for taking young grandchildren and only twenty minutes drive from the house. They also run a range of events during the summer months, from the big chill music festival (which sadly has gone defunct, but is not organised by Eastnor, is just the grounds that they used to use,) to model aircraft and boats events, (I used to take our children their when they were younger, for their enjoyment only of course, I could never admit to enjoying the events even more than they did could I!). Then there are food festivals, wild West festivals, I'm not sure really what they do there, but there are also often notices up about the latest events that is happening.
Then there is the Easter egg hunt, but that takes place on the other side of the road in the grounds round the castle itself. There are mud runs, though not sure where that happens, I'm not crazy enough to do that sort of thing myself. Not because I'm a musician, because one of the members of the string quartet I play in is a time trial cyclist, and has been known to appear to play quartets having just completed a 75 mile race, the really upsetting thing is that he isn't puffing even in is certainly not tired. And there is another person who plays on occasions and are quartets whose fanatical about running marathons, and when they aren't tough enough he does triathlons and things like that. They seem to involve jumping into the freezing cold river seven, swimming a mile, falling out of that and leaping onto a bicycle to pedal frantically for half an hour, and then on to some other equally exhausting and unnatural thing. Why do people do it? It's definitely not my style. (That doesn't mean that I'm lazy, I just prefer the natural things like walking in the hills or climbing a mountain rather than a competitive thing where you haven't got time to notice what's around you and the beauty of nature, your aim is purely to win the race.) And I often struggle to see the point of it. The cyclist friend is very keen on track racing, so long one day a week he spent a few hours hurtling around a banked indoor race track with a pile of other loonies, and always in an anticlockwise direction. I've suggested that sometimes he cycles clockwise just to unwind himself, but he's never amused and just grants that is dangerous enough already without doing that sort of thing. Aren't humans strange creatures? Though I suppose I can't really talk, being a violinist. Is there anything sensible about scraping some cat gut strings that are attached to a hollow wooden box, and scraping them with the hairs of a horse's tail to boot. They can't be much that is crazier than that!
Around Eastnor Castle itself there is an arboretum, lawns and lake. At the back of the castle there is a terrace with views over the lake, where we have played with our string quartet and also performed ceilidhs (in a marquee that is sometimes erected on the terrace). Descending to the lawns, either via a grand flight of steps down which, on occasions, brides or grooms have descended to a ceremony on the lawns, (the most memorable of which was a groom descending the stairs to the theme music of Star Wars, played by a string quartet, bride groom and best man walking in the manner of Darth Vader, always a special treat for their young son), or a shorter flight of steep steps, probably used by the servants in the grand days to take food and drinks down to the guests on the lawn.
The lake, which is used by fishermen these days, stocked with carp. Once, when we had been booked to play as a flute and string quartet, (that is flute, violin, viola, cello,), the bride asked if it would be possible for the flautist to stand in the prow of a boat that was being used to row her across the lake. What an entrance for a wedding ceremony! My first reaction was that this was totally crazy, the flautist would probably fall in the lake. Then a picture came to my mind of our flautist trying desperately to balance in the prow of the boat whilst playing her flute. That really tickled my fancy, so I said "yes, what a brilliant idea, she would love to do that." Unfortunately, the bride changed her mind about this, and asked us if the flautist would lead her to a small temple folly in the arboretum on top of one of the hills, where the rest of the string quartet would be ready to play for the ceremony. We agreed to this and even visited the temple to check that everything would be okay. But the gods of the temple were not with her on the day. I think it was raining or blowing a gale or something like that, and we ended up playing in the castle as usual ceremony. What a pity. But that is one of the advantages of getting married somewhere like Eastnor Castle. Even if the weather is atrocious, the interior of the castle are so spectacular that it makes up for changing some exotic set of plans.