Ask the Expert – Q&A with Harpistry by Sarah Hall
by Corrie McGee November 14
We’re all about simplifying the search for wedding vendors that will make your wedding day a one-of-a-kind celebration of your love story. This is why we’ve asked Sarah of Harpistry by Sarah Hall to share insights on how her unique instrument can make your event sound as magical as it feels! From Debussy to Denver, or from a mountain top marriage to nuptials on the lake, Sarah loves using her elegant, yet versatile instrument to make a couple’s dream sound come to life no matter what their style is!
Photo // Taylor Nicole Photography
What makes a wedding harpist unique?
Great question! While our mothers and grandmothers were probably married in their family church and the church organist played the traditional bridal march, we have so many choices today! We can have our weddings just about anywhere, from an amazing event venue in the country, a beautiful downtown hotel, on the beach or even on a mountaintop!
Harps are perfect solo instruments for weddings wherever they are held! Like an organ, we play the whole range of notes that would take several instruments to get the same sound from. And the sound is fuller than any other single instrument that is portable.
And harps are quite portable! While there are some places I wouldn’t attempt to take my concert grand, with proper planning I can play almost anywhere. And my small harp, which I carry in a special harp backpack, I could easily take up to a mountain top ceremony or on a boat on a lake!
Both my concert grand and small harp are acoustic. The sound carries well, but I do have pickups installed on both so they can be plugged into an amp for bigger spaces or outdoors if needed. I also use a battery-powered amplifier, so I do not need to be near a power source.
While I’m commonly contracted to play as a soloist, I also play in a duo or trio as well! And honestly harps are fairly rare compared to other instruments, so that makes them special and unique!
What are your most popular songs?
Traditional pieces tend to be Ave Maria, Jesu Joy of Mans Desiring or Canon in D. These pieces have been used for years because they are so beautiful and timeless. One of my favorites is actually Bach’s Arioso.
For contemporary music, it has really varied in the last few years. I do get requests for songs like All of Me by John Legend, A Thousand Years or Labrinth’s Beneath Your Beautiful. However, the last few years I’ve also had a lot of requests for older songs like What a Wonderful World, Can’t Help Falling in Love and ones by Fleetwood Mac and John Denver.
How does a couple go about selecting songs for their day?
Harpists truly can play just about anything that would be suitable for a wedding ceremony. Every bride and groom are unique, and it’s your day! I get requests all the time for songs that are special for the couple. I once played for a couple who had a Christmas-themed wedding in August and requested I play Christmas music. Others have requested Disney-themed music. It’s your wedding so you should think about what will make your day special to you, and your wedding will be memorable for everyone! You can search for top current wedding ceremony songs if you are stuck for ideas. And you can always look at the wedding page on my website or at my general repertoire list for ideas!
What may couples not know about your services?
We do not normally come to rehearsals. We do however spend a lot of time consulting with you before your wedding once you’ve signed a contract. If you really aren’t certain how a piece will sound, I can usually sightread, record and send it to you. I’ve done this several times and the pieces have ended up being used every time. There are a lot of decisions to be made, and I want to make sure you are excited and confident about the music you chose.
Since I am not at the rehearsal, I do meet with the officiant/wedding planner, prior to the guests’ arrival, and we go over anything that may have come up at the rehearsal. We confirm the music and talk about cueing me if I can not see where the wedding party is entering.
Where is the best place to incorporate a harpist in your wedding?
Traditionally you will use a harpist/soloist during the ceremony, although in recent years, more and more weddings will have the ceremony, cocktails and reception all in one place, so I will play through the cocktail hour or longer.
For the ceremony, I arrive 45 minutes to an hour prior to the ceremony start time. I setup, tune and speak with the officiant/wedding planner, and then I begin playing 30 minutes before the ceremony as your guests arrive. This is normally a variety of soft romantic music of my choice. I will play for the processional, at any time during the ceremony you would like, the recessional and then after as your guests are leaving.
For weddings that take place in a church/house of worship, I often play there and then move to the cocktail/reception before and during dinner with the DJ taking over once the meal/speeches are over for the dance.
A very special thank you to Sarah from Harpistry by Sarah Hall for sharing her insights and ideas! For more information on how she should make your wedding a one-of-a-kind experience, you can contact her directly through her Brides of Austin vendor profile.