Symphony of selection

by Elizabeth Conner

Blue Moon Swing moves a wedding crowd.

Music is the soul of a wedding, the glue that holds the pieces together -- the flowers and the flounce, the cake and the coffee, the dress and the "I do's."

Yet finding just the right choice of music isn't that easy: If you check the Humboldt County Yellow Pages under musicians, you'll find only six listings. The church or hall you're using may provide some leads, but what if your wedding is outdoors or at home?

And while you may have your heart set on a string quartet for the ceremony and a big dance band for the reception, cost may well limit your dreams.

The first thing most pairs planning their nuptials consider is music for the ceremony. A soloist can often strike just the right chord, can usually play an outdoor wedding and will cost less than a combo.

If you want piano or organ music, Dotty Flesher (822-3543) plays traditional wedding fare, processionals and recessionals, ballads and love songs. Dotty has a sliding scale between $50-$100 and has a keyboard for outdoor ceremonies.

Kenna Reed (443-0949) performs Christian, classical or contemporary music on the harp for $75-$100. For a Celtic harp, call Howdy Emerson (677-0384) who plays during ceremonies or receptions and can offer a Celtic wedding march for about $250.

If it's acoustic guitar you want to serenade you down the aisle, Dave Trabue (442-2617) plays folk, pop or special requests for about $100. (He also joins mandolin player Sean Bohannon on occasion, at a rate of $150 to $200.)

"Despite its unruly reputation, the accordion can be a very beautiful instrument for a wedding ceremony," according to the Accordion Man (839-4080). He can play anything from ethnic folk to Bach and Chopin, indoors or out, and charges $60 for the first hour and $50/hour after that.

Marla Joy (445-2106) plays any style flute, but especially likes classical Baroque, Celtic and jazz. The rate is about $75 an hour. (She also performs as a duo with Mike Conboy on guitar, for $125 an hour.)

If you want a quartet for your ceremony, try Good Company. The foursome (formerly a threesome called the Alder Trio) plays the traditional music of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany and has been a wedding favorite in Humboldt County for almost 10 years.

"We'll play traditional wedding processionals or whatever the couple wants. And we can sing a capella, accompanied or not at all," said Ann Marie Woolley (445-8451). Aside from the ceremonial music, they can perform English and Celtic country rounds for dancing. The cost: $300-$500.

Another source for solo musicians or informal duos, trios or quartets is the Humboldt Symphony.

Once you've settled on the music for the rituals and toasts, now it's time to pick the beat that can move both your 10-year-old sister and your 70-year-old grandmother. Professional DJs cost about half the price of a full band and can switch from preceremony background music to the wedding march to foot-stomping dance tunes in a flash. But if you want live dancing music, here's a sampling of local groups from moderately priced to high end.

The Delphinium Blue Trio performs danceable folk, country and rock featuring strong vocal harmonies and acoustic guitar. The trio charges about $500 and can also play during the ceremony. Contact Rachel Howe

(825-8467) for more information.

Blue Moon Swing puts its own "acoustic, electric swing" spin on songs from artists such as Eric Clapton, the Beatles and Bonnie Raitt. The group can perform with or without a drummer. Talk to Claudia Ariss (826-0636) and plan to pay about $500.

If you want to dance to a Cajun or Zydeco beat, call Marla Joy (445-2106) and book the Bayou Swamis. It gets the audience involved by teaching the one-step, two-step, the waltz and line dances while they are playing and cost about $500.

The Arcata Horn Band is made up of eight local musicians who play dance music of the '20s, '30s and '40s. Brooks Otis (822-8354) can book the swing group which charges between $500-$700.

For vintage rock and roll, and rhythm and blues, try Buddy Brown and the Houndogs. The four-person band has offered dance music for wedding revelers of all ages for more than a decade. Call Buddy, AKA Richard Duggins (668-5320), and count on spending between $500-$750.

The Heebee Geebies play dance rock and roll from the '50s through the modern era. The band charges between $600 and $1,000 for weddings. Call Dave Perrier at 444-9031 for more information.

If your crowd craves country, here are some good choices in this genre.

The Roadmasters have been playing contemporary and old-time country music for 20 years in Humboldt County. The group will play at your wedding for about $500. Cheryl Eastteam (442-4052) can give you more information.

Country Fever is another band that performs classical and contemporary country tunes. Call Leah Dunn (443-0176) to book the group, which charges about $600 for four hours. Still Kicking offers modern country music with a twist for about $500. Contact Dave Trabue (442-2617) to learn more.

If you and your partner want a bluegrass flavor, try the Compost Mountain Boys. It plays traditional and contemporary bluegrass, including a few original tunes. Contact Sean Bohannon (443-7611) to book the Boys, which feature twin fiddles and cost $300-$400.

At the high end of local groups is the Jewish Wedding Band. The nine-person group performs what it terms "Jewish Catskills Revival. We play a huge range of music with an emphasis on putting on a show and having a great time," says band-member Joseph Byrd. "Our lead singer, Naomi Steinberg, likes to lead people in Jewish dances, whether they're Jewish or not."

Steinberg is also a rabbi and can perform the ceremony as part of the package, if desired. For bookings, call Benie Bennett (839-4080) and plan to pay about $1,400.

If none of the choices are in tune with your needs, you could always do what John Gullam and Denise Fitzgerald did for their July 6 wedding: invite the Humboldt State University Marching Lumberjacks. John said, "We like their style of music and, well, they're our friends."


Elizabeth Conner is a writer and non-profit management consultant who can plan just about any type of event -- including weddings.

The first step: Where will the wedding be?

Beyond dishes and sheets

Comments on this story? E-mail the Journal:

The North Coast Journal Table of Contents