I am very lucky in my journey as a Wedding Celebrant because I get to meet so many amazing people on my way. In my little series of interviews I would like to highlight those who have made a real impact on me and have produced great work that compliments my own.
My latest interview is with a stunning, young and vibrant wedding musician I have had the pleasure of meeting at several different wedding ceremonies here in Perth. May I introduce:
Jennifer Le of Riverside Ensembles.
I thought it very fitting to meet Jen in a funky café in the heart of the very hip Mount Lawley.
As I step through the door, I am greeted by the lovely, young and fresh Jen Le, a young woman bursting with energy and enthusiasm. Already I am excited to hear all about her business and dreams for the future.
Jen Le is a violinist and has been making music for most of her life. She is brimming with passion for her craft and the mastermind behind the creation of Riverside Ensembles.
"The right music played at the right time, creates the right feeling on the day and memories for a lifetime." Jen Le
As with any wedding vendor we both immediately launch into the usual wedding speak until our coffee is delivered. It's not long before I realise that the percussion in the background is not quite to my liking as the clatter of the cutlery, crash of the crockery and the rattle of the pans are a fairly out of tune symphony! However, we get down to business despite this distraction!
What is Riverside Ensembles?
Riverside Ensembles is a collective of professional musicians. Our approach is fresh and modern and our music is of the highest quality. We take great pride in being able to create the perfect ambience for any function; be it a wedding, a small private function, or a large corporate event.
Why did you form your own quartet?
I was playing and working for other quartets but I wanted to do more. I wanted to break the stereotype of classical musicians being pretentious. I wanted to show that we could be fresh and modern but elegant too – the best of all worlds!
So, Riverside Ensembles was born.
My aim is, and always has been, to offer wedding couples a more up-to-date repertoire coupled with excellent client service and a better price.
I believe that live music is truly special and I want it to be affordable and available to more people. I don't believe that having a modest budget should mean you have to miss out on the magic of live music at your wedding! If a bride and groom can tell me how much they have to spend then I can almost always design an ensemble to compliment their budget. This gives more couples from all types of backgrounds the opportunity to hire us.
Whilst weddings are the mainstay of Riverside Ensembles, we have also been lucky to have been engaged by a wide variety of other clients; covering intimate proposals to high-end corporate events.
What is your musical background?
I had quite an unconventional path to my musical career. I started playing the violin at 8 years old, which is actually quite late for a string player.
I went to a small Catholic High School and was the only music student there, so there was no band or orchestra at the school. I was invited back to the school to teach violin after I graduated.
I also took lessons privately for over ten years, studying with Richard Price and later, Tzvi Friedl.
Playing in an ensemble is quite different to playing on your own and my orchestral experience comes from years of playing youth orchestras. I started in a junior string orchestra at first and in 2012 progressed to the principal Western Australian Youth Orchestra (WAYO).
I was part of the Orchestra when we went on tour last year to Singapore and Japan, which was definitely a highlight. I will be forever grateful for the some truly priceless experiences with WAYO.
I have my favourites, what are your favourite pieces to play at a wedding?
How long is a piece of string?
Oh my (groan)! There are so many! I guess I like to play the less well-known tunes; for example, the theme song to “Game of Thrones. It's such a great orchestral score and it's perfect for what we do.
I also love Guns & Roses, Metallica, Queen and Michael Jackson.
Music should bring people together and the easiest way to draw their attention is to play songs they can recognise. But, it's always nice to surprise our audiences with our versatility by playing the likes of “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk.
A personal favourite is “Heaven” (Bryan Adams) covered by DJ Sammy – it’s a very electronic remix and surprisingly it translates very well for string quartet.
My favourites are constantly changing but I am also in love with Ed Sheeran at the moment; his songs make great wedding choices.
The list goes on…….
And your most requested music?
Hands down it is “Canon in D” for the classical lover or any of the romantic classics like “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perry, or “At Last” by Etta James. For “Old School’ classics anything from The Beatles or Michael Jackson.
What you enjoy most about performing at a wedding?
I love that every event is a happy occasion and that each wedding is a completely new experience. Each couple comes from a different background and the variety in their choice of music reflects that.
I love to watch the Groom’s face as the Bride walks in – seeing that raw emotion is so beautiful and special. I also like listening to anecdotes from Celebrants during the ceremony and hearing the couple’s love story reminds me of how much of a privilege it is to be part of such a significant occasion.
At face value, our job as wedding musicians can appear quite simple but there is a tremendous responsibility that comes with performing at a wedding. You only get one shot at it... so you can never take any chances! Hence the extensive preparation prior to every wedding and why I choose to work, exclusively, with only the best musicians in Perth.
What if a Bride and Groom request a piece of music you haven’t played before?
That's no problem at all!
With enough notice I will do everything I can to create a magical and meaningful piece of music for to the couple being wed.
I would normally start by find a standard score for the music they have selected and then I re-write it specifically for our ensemble. This re-writing process can take a number of hours, depending on the piece.
Being highly proficient musicians, all of our ensemble are excellent sight readers, so once the score is written it takes almost no time at all for them to learn and perfect it.
That piece of music is then added to our already very extensive library.
How many musicians make up Riverside Ensembles?
Riverside Ensembles is a group of 18 musicians (and counting!) and the make-up of the specific ensembles depends on the requirements of the client. We have rotating rosters. All our musicians are highly qualified having acquired either a Bachelor of Music or attained an equivalent level of performance. They're also very experienced and have been playing their instrument between 10 to 20 years each.
The team are as follows:-
- Violins: Stuart, Jasmine, Runa, Louise, Megan, Freya, Jen
- Violas: Cristina, Theodore
- Cellos: David, Josephine, Jeremy, Darsha
- Harp: Eliza
- Flutes: Jonty, Jen C
- Piano: Joseph, David
What do you do to relax?
I start every day with a good cup of tea or coffee – it’s my own little ritual and the only thing that is the same every single day. I also do Pilates because I have shoulder problems (due to playing violin) but I enjoy doing this as it forces me to ‘unplug.’ I try to catch up with family and close friends regularly and if I have the time, I love to indulge in a bath.
Anything else you would like to share?
Absolutely! I am so delighted to tell you that we have just been announced as the winners of “Best Ceremony Music” in Western Australia in the most recent Australian Bridal Industry Academy (ABIA) awards, with a score of 99.68 out of a possible 100. This award really reflects our professionalism, skills and commitment to our craft. It also just shows that age is just a number!
Lastly, I would like to add that I love the difference great music can make at a wedding. Following the big day guests won’t remember every little detail – but they will remember how they felt. The right piece of music played at the right time can create or support the right feeling on the day and leave memories for years to come.
Would you like to hear live music at your wedding?
If you would like to meet Jen to discuss booking Riverside Ensembles to perform at your wedding, her contact details are as follows:
Jen Le - Riverside Ensembles
Tel: 0435 117 372
Images and video courtesy of Riverside Ensembles