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Wedding Fees


gazman
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Is it reasonable for an organist to charge an extra fee to rehearse with a young instrumentalist who is expecting the organist to accompany him in several pieces he is playing at a wedding? The instrumentalist is unable to make any time before or after rehearsals and services at the church which have been offered and wants the organist to attend a separate rehearsal. The rehearsal will probably entail some coaching too. The instrumentalist is a young offspring of one of the choir who thinks that the organist is unreasonable to expect the bridal party to pay an additional fee, as does the Vicar.

 

The fee paid to the organist for weddings is slightly below the RSCM recommended minimum too.

 

Your opinion is sought again, please, folks! :P

 

Thanks! :(

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It is not unreasonable in the slightest to charge a supplementary fee in these circumstances. We have a leaftlet which is given out to couples with guidance for wedding music in which it clearly states that the organist will charge an additional fee if a separate rehearsal is needed in advance with a soloist.

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Guest Patrick Coleman

The question of good will is relevant here. But only you are in a position to judge the level of good will from the other side (wedding party, soloist/family &c) and the level of good will due from yourself.

 

I know that my organists will have taken this into consideration, and that they would only charge extra if they were (i) being used; (ii) being taken for granted (iii) Seriously out of pocket. So if they did charge, I would support them 100%.

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The question of good will is relevant here. But only you are in a position to judge the level of good will from the other side (wedding party, soloist/family &c) and the level of good will due from yourself.

I don't see it quite like that. From my point of view one is providing a professional service for which a fee is quoted based upon a reasonable anticipation of the amount of work, and time, involved to fulfil that commitment. Accompanying a guest soloist can involve a considerable amount of additional work. Private practice, possible some hours, may be required to learn the accompaniment, then an additional private rehearsal session in the church may have to be booked, and this for many of us will involve a return journey, possibly of some miles, from home. This is likely to at least double the amount of work involved, probably more than double....

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Is it reasonable for an organist to charge an extra fee to rehearse with a young instrumentalist who is expecting the organist to accompany him in several pieces he is playing at a wedding?

An extra fee for such a rehearsal would be the norm in the States (as frequent discussions on other lists have shown).

 

Douglas.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
I don't see it quite like that. From my point of view one is providing a professional service for which a fee is quoted based upon a reasonable anticipation of the amount of work, and time, involved to fulfil that commitment. Accompanying a guest soloist can involve a considerable amount of additional work. Private practice, possible some hours, may be required to learn the accompaniment, then an additional private rehearsal session in the church may have to be booked, and this for many of us will involve a return journey, possibly of some miles, from home. This is likely to at least double the amount of work involved, probably more than double....

 

If your relationship with the Church is as a service provider, that's fine. Most organists in my experience have a more complex view of their role, which is why the situation is not necessarily as cut and dried as simply charging for time spent.

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So HG explains to the vicar very politely that he is a professional musician to whom time is money and that he has to earn a living. The vicar explains very politely that the organist is a servant of God and therefore should be willing to give freely of his skills as an act of love. Both deeply and genuinely held views. How does one resolve this?

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Guest Patrick Coleman
So HG explains to the vicar very politely that he is a professional musician to whom time is money and that he has to earn a living. The vicar explains very politely that the organist is a servant of God and therefore should be willing to give freely of his skills as an act of love. Both deeply and genuinely held views. How does one resolve this?

 

Through both of them having a sensitivity to the needs of the situation. As I said, only HG knows whether it's appropriate in this situation to extend good will or not. If the relationship is one of mutual respect, then it will work. Again as I said, I trust my organists to know when to charge and when not to. I can't answer for HG's vicar, and I won't be drawn into a face-off between the service provider and the ministry models because we all should know that things aren't as clear-cut. I try hard to make sure the organist can make a decent living. He tries hard to grow goodwill in the choir and congregation. With inevitable exceptions, we win both ways.

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Through both of them having a sensitivity to the needs of the situation. As I said, only HG knows whether it's appropriate in this situation to extend good will or not. If the relationship is one of mutual respect, then it will work. Again as I said, I trust my organists to know when to charge and when not to. I can't answer for HG's vicar, and I won't be drawn into a face-off between the service provider and the ministry models because we all should know that things aren't as clear-cut. I try hard to make sure the organist can make a decent living. He tries hard to grow goodwill in the choir and congregation. With inevitable exceptions, we win both ways.

 

If the instrumentalist won't come to a rehearsal at a time convenient to HG then there must be a charge, payable by the wedding couple.

 

(It's possible, of course, that the relationship between an organist and a choir member could be such that an organist might wish to make an exception.)

 

Couples pay huge amounts for weddings and organists should not be taken advantage of.

 

Stephen Barber

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So HG explains to the vicar very politely that he is a professional musician to whom time is money and that he has to earn a living. The vicar explains very politely that the organist is a servant of God and therefore should be willing to give freely of his skills as an act of love. Both deeply and genuinely held views. How does one resolve this?

 

HG should ask the vicar to pick up twice as much of everything next time he goes to Sainsbury's, and inform the checkout that he is only going to pay half the bill. An individual organist with rent and bills to pay and mouths to feed has the right to be considered as a commercial business just as much as any other. One doubts very much that the 'appy couple would request a hot buffet but refuse to pay someone to cook it. Consider the actual time and skill involved in being a wedding car driver - was the purchase of a car really that much more expensive than umpteen years of organ lessons, hours of practice and exam fees? - and it is hard to see how people routinely pay 800-900 for that, but begrudge 100-150 for musicians to fulfil their requests.

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

I believe that few people who are not regular church-goers, consider the 'frills' the most important part of the day. It is as if that they see the start as being Stag/Hen night and concluding with Honeymoon preceded by Reception. As for the Vows and Church (if they are to be made there), it is mostly a colour-co-ordinated intermission. In all my years, I can perhaps only count on one hand how many couples (or one or the other) has been a member of the congregation.

Therefore, few realise the financial implications of this part of the day when they start planning. I do think that if a church is fully staffed a paper giving all as a total - music, flowers and bells as well as the Fees - should be provided. When families have some singers to lead, it adds and makes things more pertinent. When challenged about having singers, I used to say to couples that a sung Service with Hymns without singers is like having a Wedding Breakfast without waiters - but "by all means, serve yourselves", I would add. "The choice is yours." It's a matter of simple friendly, and gentle education! It was surprising how often the penny would drop.

All best wishes,

Nigel

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In response to your important question, I can only say what I would do, in fact just what I have been doing for many years.

I say that I will be at the church well before time on the day. If their soloist seriously requires more preparation than this, I point out that extra trips to the church will take time and could I be reimbursed? I used to quote £15 per hour including travelling time, but these days there seems no need to go into this sort of detail.

 

In many years of saying this, whether we are a cheapskate nation or whatever, I cannot remember a situation where anyone has ever pursued the extra time option! Of course, one can sometimes take pity on someone who has been inveigled into it, but if the desired soloist is any good, a warm-up on the day should surely be sufficient.

 

As an automatic reflex nowadays (while they're on the phone asking for things from me) I remind them that on the day I will need a copy for myself, and it will have to be a legal copy and in the right key. Accompanist or soloist, if they ask for a piece I haven't got, I virtually always tell them that I'm happy to play it, but they have to supply a copy of this themselves. I've learned from the inertia selling technique. If something's an effort for them, there's not a lot of chance that they'll get around to doing it and will happily settle for something I suggest! I assure you, this one works. ....of course, there was that one memorable occasion where part of the sound-track from Star Wars had been acquired by fax from the USA and had to be ceremonially destroyed after the wedding! I thought this was a good idea; if only all undesirable repertoire could be ceremonially destroyed. The perfect answer to ghastly requests is always 'I'm sorry, I don't have a copy' but it has to sound credible when I say it.

 

 

As to whether an organist should be paid because

1. it's a vocation and

2. you're doing it for God

I refer them to the greatest authority of all, who said unequivocally

'a labourer is worthy of his hire'.

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I would certainly require a fee - unless I were donating my services for "goodwill" purposes - and it wouldn't occur for weddings anyway, I've completely given up playing for those.

 

However, and I feel this strongly, the question of goodwill should be settled at the outset, and it's my business whether I feel it's appropriate to donate my services. (Having said that, I do often donate such services as they are, but make sure it's clearly understood at the outset.) "Commitment-creep" is a bane.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
I would certainly require a fee - unless I were donating my services for "goodwill" purposes - and it wouldn't occur for weddings anyway, I've completely given up playing for those.

 

However, and I feel this strongly, the question of goodwill should be settled at the outset, and it's my business whether I feel it's appropriate to donate my services. (Having said that, I do often donate such services as they are, but make sure it's clearly understood at the outset.) "Commitment-creep" is a bane.

 

Absolutely agree.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
As far as I know, I didn't see any entries for "goodwill" reductions on my mortgage, gas, electricity, or water statements this year.

 

Nor does it pay for the diesel needed for me to attend churches for wedding rehearsals.

 

End of.

 

Then I hope you never need goodwill from anyone else. There is a reasoned argument here, which I have tried to put in a balanced way. I still think that only HG can know whether or not he is right to charge in the circumstances he outlined. And I repeat that I know I can trust my organists to charge or not in an appropriate fashion. That trust is what makes it possible for us to work together.

 

I would have a far different relationship with an organist who saw her/himself as simply as a service provider. I appreciate that some clergy seem to drive musicians down that road, as I also appreciate the need for musicians to earn a fair wage (as I have repeatedly suggested above) but I would beg musicians not to drive clergy into a corner over issues like this.

 

If you're really a fashion accessory at a wedding, then charge accordingly. But don't assume you are always no more than that, and if you can't ever think flexibly, don't expect others to deal flexibly with you!

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Ummm ... this is just my opinion but, I think you may have confused yourself.

 

You are not proposing to charge for rehearsing the instrumentalist. Unless I have misunderstood what you wrote, you were quite prepared to rehearse the instrumentalist "before or after rehearsals and services at the church," without any extra fee.

 

You are proposing to charge an additional fee because the instrumentalist cannot make any of the several rehearsal times you have offered. The additional fee, therefore, is so the rehearsal can be held at the instrumentalist's convenience (and your inconvenience) rather than the other way around. If that means you have to give up earning money elsewhere in order to attend the rehearsal and, or, that you incur additional costs then there is a good case to be made for compensation.

 

But I think Patrick is right about being flexible. You know what weddings and funerals a like. Some are a doddle and others are a bit more complicated. I expect you have a fee for weddings and something similar for funerals. I don't suppose you volunteer to refund any of it where there is relatively little work involved.

 

So the key here, I think, is to make sure your fees are set at a level that takes account of the variable nature of the demands placed on you. Then you can stop worrying about individual cases.

 

Of course if the appropriate fee is not 'setable' then you might question whether you want to be doing it at all.

 

Best wishes

 

J

 

 

Is it reasonable for an organist to charge an extra fee to rehearse with a young instrumentalist who is expecting the organist to accompany him in several pieces he is playing at a wedding? The instrumentalist is unable to make any time before or after rehearsals and services at the church which have been offered and wants the organist to attend a separate rehearsal. The rehearsal will probably entail some coaching too. The instrumentalist is a young offspring of one of the choir who thinks that the organist is unreasonable to expect the bridal party to pay an additional fee, as does the Vicar.

 

The fee paid to the organist for weddings is slightly below the RSCM recommended minimum too.

 

Your opinion is sought again, please, folks! :)

 

Thanks! :)

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I have a general rule that I always provide music free of charge at weddings and funerals involving past or present choristers of mine. For example, had it not been postponed because of heavy snow, I was going to play free of charge this morning for the cremation of the father-in-law of one of my long-serving choristers. For anyone else I would need to consider the matter very seriously (but not inflexibly) and certainly would not give my services free of charge if I was asked to do so. The offer would have to come from me (and occasionally has done so).

 

So far as rehearsals are concerned, I have never had a problem. The local crematoria (where I do a lot of playing) make an additional charge (for them and the organist) if a soloist needs a rehearsal there.

 

I think Patrick summarises the situation well.

 

Malcolm

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... I would need to consider the matter very seriously (but not inflexibly) and certainly would not give my services free of charge if I was asked to do so. The offer would have to come from me...

 

I think you've hit on a key point here. Problems often occur when organists feel that someone else is making these decisions for them, especially if that someone else isn't necessarily 100% supportive for the rest of the time. :)

 

Two instances spring to mind: one a few years ago was when asked to play for the funeral of a baby at a church about 17 miles away which I'd never been to before. After discussing the details the very last thing the incumbant mentioned was that "as a church it is our policy not to charge for funerals of infants, so there won't be a fee..." At the time, as a student, the only reason I'd get into my on-its-last-legs-mini, drive to and through the city, out the other side, park, etc to play for the funeral was to help balance my bank account. I plucked up courage to negotiate £5 for travel expense, and played the funeral, which was quite traumatic the parents being understandably devastated. I felt the incumbant didn't really approve of the £5 request as the "... ah, but this will be coming out of our rather stretched church funds." etc, comments were freely flowing. My point: If it is a church policy which affects fees/payments then the church should pick up the tab and not pass it on to third parties. If as an organist I was a part of that church then, as Patrick suggests, there would be scope for far more flexibility. :)

 

The second instance: I was invited to play for a concert for a choir I'd played for many times before. The treasurer told me that my usual fee would not be payable this time due to depleted choir funds, but I would be getting the same expenses as the players in the small amateur orchestra who were also playing at the concert.

This amounted to a £55 reduction.

Again, if I'd been personally involved with the choir or had friends in it, etc and was aware of their financial situation, I may well have offered a reduced fee.

As things turned out, I said that this was fine but as he was effectively requesting me to make a £55 donation to the choir funds, I'd expect him to personally match it. :huh:

 

Unsurprisingly, the confirmation of that particular concert booking never arrived. :unsure:

 

Either he didn't get it, or... he did! :lol:

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Guest Echo Gamba

I commenced my previous post the day before the funeral of a long standing choir member, whom I obviously didn't know. The vicar and church made no charge, and it was expected that I wouldn't either. I honestly can't remember whether I accepted the situation stoically or not as it was 20 years ago now; what would others have done?

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As Patrick has already suggested, I think I would have taken into account all the surrounding facts. If I had not known the person concerned my initial reaction would have been to insist on a fee, especially if I had been asked to do it free of charge, but there may have been mitigating circumstances. Utimately, every case on its own merits but you can't be seen to favour some people and not others.

 

Macolm

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I commenced my previous post the day before the funeral of a long standing choir member, whom I obviously didn't know. The vicar and church made no charge, and it was expected that I wouldn't either. I honestly can't remember whether I accepted the situation stoically or not as it was 20 years ago now; what would others have done?

I would have played free of charge, if only to retain the goodwill of the choir with whom I would still have to work.

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