Live music at your wedding is a fantastic choice, it allows you to choose the exact tunes for each part of your day and creates a certain romantic ambiance that is second to none. Whether you choose a string quartet, live band or something a little different. We caught up with Stephen Donoghue, whose specialty is the cello, to gain an insight into his life as a wedding musician.
Tell me how you got involved in music.
Like a lot of kids, I started out on the recorder in primary school, which eventually led to learning the clarinet. Then, when I moved into year 8 of secondary school, I started the saxophone. It soon became my main instrument during my GCSE, A’ level and college years. I’m not sure if at the time anything inspired me as such to learn any of my instruments, I think I just wanted to have a go, and luckily it worked out for the best!
Why did you choose to specialise in the cello?
I’m a big of fan of the band Clean Bandit. When they arrived in the charts, I immediately loved their music. It wasn’t until I heard their performance at BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend at Norwich that it really struck a chord with me. When they started their first song, “Real Love”, I knew where the cello would start playing, it ignited a spark inside me, and I knew right then, I needed to have a piece of that in my life! I haven’t looked back since. At the risk of sounding a little stalker-ish, I even decided to buy the same electric cello they used during their performance. Somehow it makes it more sentimental to me.
Which musicians inspire you?
As far as being a cellist goes, one of my absolute favourite and most inspiring players has to be Tina Guo. Every time I watch her perform, she inspires me to not only challenge my ability on the cello, but also as a performer, to express myself and “own the stage”. She has proven that the cello can be used to amazing effect, not only in classical music, as it is so well known, but in rock, metal, jazz, and all sorts of other styles.
As well as being a huge inspiration for me as a cellist, Tina has also shared her tips and ideas on financial management for freelancers. Since I decided to take the plunge into self- employment, these have proved invaluable. It would be great to be able to thank her in person some day! If I’m listening to classical music, I love Inbal Segev. Inbal has a YouTube channel where she not only posts videos of her performances, but technical ones, where she breaks down complex works of music. In addition to sharing her ideas and interpretations with the world on these pieces, she’s an absolute joy to listen to and I love the tone she produces from her cello.
What is the best part of playing at a wedding event?
The best part has to be feeling involved in making the day a happy one, and a day to remember. I take great pride in making sure I perform to a high standard and I love speaking to the couple whilst I’m there and before I leave to express my gratitude that they have asked me to be involved in their big day.
Which is your favourite piece of music to play and why?
It’s so hard to choose just one piece, because my set can vary depending on my clients, however I do really love Symphony by Clean Bandit. Although there’s some tricky parts in it, I worked hard to be able to play it with flare.
Can couples get a recording of the music you play?
Currently my main platform for posting samples is Instagram, followed closely by Facebook. I do however, have plans for 2020 to start a YouTube channel and also a Sound Cloud where potential clients will be able to listen to more of my work. Clients can always request a recording if they would like a memento of my performance, which I’m happy to create for them. I am hoping to produce my first EP/Demo CD in the near future.
Lots of people listen to music to relax, what is your music of choice?
Again, this is a tough one to answer, and can vary depending on my mood. I enjoy listening to the Electric Light Orchestra, Paul Carrack, Ozzy Osbourne, not to mention a vast array of classical music. Some of my favourite composers include Brahms, Rachmaninoff and Bach. I particularly enjoy listening to different people’s interpretations on the Bach Cello Suites. Every cellist seems to bring something a little different to the table when they perform them, so I like to take in as many variations as possible for inspiration.
You mentioned you learned other instruments in your childhood, do you play them now?
I play the saxophone a lot in soul bands, big bands and theatre productions/musicals and I also play the clarinet. I’ve had the pleasure of performing these instruments in many types of ensembles through the years including several concert bands, which have even given me the opportunity to perform abroad in Germany and Belgium.
What should people consider when choosing to book a musician for their wedding or event?
The most important factor to consider first is where and for how long you want a musician to perform on your big day. It’s also a good idea to remember that, where ever you decide you want your musician to sit/stand, they need to have plenty of space for themselves and their equipment, and try not to have anyone sat too close if it’s during the wedding breakfast.
Apart from the UK where have you enjoyed playing?
I would really like to perform in Amsterdam at some point. It’s already a city close to my heart, as it's such a welcoming place. The diversity of the people there is amazing, so many people from all over the world interacting in one place. And the city itself is so beautiful, I really don't understand where the stigma around it has come from.
I would love to perform in France too, I've met and performed alongside French musicians and they have told me it’s a great place for live music, not to mention I'd really like to see the Eiffel Tower. I've performed in Germany and Belgium before, and I'd definitely love to go back. And again, like Amsterdam, the people were very welcoming and supportive.