What is an orchestra?
An orchestra is a group of musicians made up of strings, woodwind, brass and percussion instruments. With roots in classical music, orchestras will usually perform classical pieces but will also often be heard performing the latest soundtracks and accompanying the latest pop hits. If you want a really impactful and impressive sound at an event, there is nothing quite like it.
What types of orchestra are there?
Orchestras range in size starting from a 15 or 20 piece string orchestra through to a 100 piece symphony orchestra. The size you need will depend on the repertoire you need performed, the instrumentation your composer or orchestrator has in mind, or the size of the venue or space you are working in. There are a wide variety of options available.
Some typical orchestra types are:
Typically a smaller orchestra of around 20 players usually including strings and woodwind but combinations vary.
A string orchestra, or string ensemble, is comprised of only the string instruments such as violins, violas, cellos and double basses. Other instruments can be added such as piano or solo instrument for a concert.
The largest of the forms, the full symphony orchestra usually comprises all of the instrument families but can range hugely in size depending on what the composer has in mind. A typical size could be around 100 musicians. There is a piece which exists for 429 musicians (Berlioz, Requiem) so your imagination is the limit!
Sometimes confused with an orchestra, a string quartet is a selection of 4 string players who perform together for weddings, events and concerts. It’s a nice option if you need a smaller or less expensive option but want that traditional classical sound made by string instruments.
Which events are orchestras suitable for?
Orchestras can perform at any event where there is ample room for the musicians. Here is a guide to the amount of space different line-ups will require:
- 65-75 piece orchestra: 12m x 12m (or 144 sq metres)
- 25-30 piece orchestra: 7m x 8m (or 56-60 sq metres)
- 15-25 piece orchestra: 5m x 7m (or 35-50 sq metres)
You are likely to find orchestras performing at events such as concerts, wedding ceremonies, awards ceremonies and large corporate events. We’ve even seen one of our orchestras Giardino Strings perform for someone’s proposal at Waterloo Station in London
Our groups have performed at:
- Awards ceremonies
- Corporate functions
- Charity events
What music can orchestras play?
Orchestras can play almost anything! As long as there is sheet music for the musicians to play from, it is possible. This means they can cover everything from classical works to musical theatre, pop covers and film music.
Orchestras generally have a library of repertoire they can draw from to take most requests, they can also hire the score and parts to larger works they may not own or have access to. This is usually the case for any modern works still in copyright - film music can be particularly expensive due to the licensing costs and number of parties involved.
If you have a particular piece in mind which isn’t available, most orchestras will work with an orchestrator who can arrange the music for the group but it will usually involve an additional fee.
Whether you would like background music as the soundtrack for your event, or this is the central feature, they’ll have music to match.
How much does it cost to hire an orchestra?
Each group will set its own rates and it will depend on the level of the orchestra. All of our orchestras are comprised of classically trained musicians, however reputation and years of experience can make a significant difference to cost.
For example, some of our orchestras are made up of recently graduated students or professionally trained musicians who may also have other non-musical jobs. On the opposite side you’ll find many of our orchestras have been together for a number of years with a significant following and reputation which they uphold. These musicians are also professionally trained but also working full time in the field so extremely specialised at what they do.
As a guideline, a fee of around £250 per musician is usually suitable for orchestral performances which involved a small amount of preparation time from the orchestra (i.e. a rehearsal before the event) but it can vary depending on the type of event and what is involved. Here’s an idea of how much various orchestras may cost to hire:
Typical orchestra prices:
|20 piece orchestra||£6000|
|50 piece orchestra||£12500|
|100 piece orchestra||£25000|
The cost of an orchestra will vary depending on the type of work involved, preparation required, location of the musicians and your event, waiting times for musicians and any other factors.
Time of year can also impact prices, as the demands for entertainment change throughout the year. For example, summer (peak wedding season) tends to be a busy time for orchestras and December will be busy with festival concerts and programmes.
To get an accurate and tailored quote, you can contact our specialist Orchestral Bookings Team at [email protected].
Set up details
How much space does an orchestra need?
This will depend on the type of orchestra booked and instruments required, but as a guideline, a 20 piece orchestra will need approximately 5mx7m. If you have a unique space or idea, such as performing in the round, the orchestra will be happy to accommodate this and find a layout that works for the repertoire in mind and your event.
How long does an orchestra need to set up?
An orchestra is likely to require a short rehearsal in the venue to get a sense of the acoustic so they can adjust their playing accordingly.
The set up time for an orchestra is minimal as they are acoustic, and so no plugged in amplification is required, however it can take significant time for all the chairs and music stands to be laid out accordingly, so allowing around an hour to set up the seating is advisable for a large orchestra.
How long can an orchestra play for?
Orchestra performances very hugely in length. Generally the longest pieces for orchestra are around 2 hours, which is a very long time for the players to be performing in one stretch. At most corporate or concert events, the playing time is likely to be 45 minutes at a time with breaks.
What equipment do I need to provide for an orchestra?
There is no electrical equipment needed for an orchestra as all the instruments are acoustic, so you’ll just need to allow plenty of space and enough chairs for all of the players. Chairs without arms are best, in case players need to move their arms to play their instrument.
Can an orchestra play outside?
Orchestras can play outside if needed, but given the space required it can be tricky to arrange appropriate shelter from the rain and sun which is required. Orchestras generally don't play outside in the colder months because the low temperatures and changing humidity can cause damage to instruments, however each case is unique so checking in advance is always advisable.
Can an orchestra take song requests?
Absolutely! Where the music doesn’t exist, or isn’t available for hire, this will add an additional fee to your booking as an orchestrator will need to rearrange the parts for the orchestra you’ve booked. In our experience, it is worth the expense to have the exact song you’ve imagined!
Do remember to make these requests as early as possible. The more instruments there are, the more time and skill it takes to arrange the parts, so to ensure it’s properly arranged and rehearsed, it is always advised to make requests well in advance.
Booking an Orchestra band on Encore
Does Encore have any orchestras in my area?
At Encore we have over 40,000 professional musicians on our books, so we pride ourselves on being able to find you local musicians, wherever you are in the UK. Finding an orchestra is often a more tailored request than our other instrument types, so why not call our friendly and professional team who are experts in orchestra hire. You can also give us a call on 020 3111 1480 Monday-Friday 10am-6pm, and we’ll be happy to help!
How far in advance should I book?
We advise booking as soon as possible, especially if you have special musical requests, but we handle last-minute musician bookings all the time at Encore and can easily find an orchestra at short notice.
If you're looking for an orchestra for an event within the next few weeks, get in touch with our team! [email protected].
How do I handle contracts and payment?
The easiest way to handle contracts and payment is to book through Encore. Our bookings process is extremely straightforward, and once you have confirmed a booking with your chosen quartet, contracts and payments will be handled painlessly and effortlessly by our secure payment system.
You can learn more about the Encore booking process here or email [email protected].
Can you recommend me a great orchestra for my event?
The best way to make sure you find the best group for your event to match your event is to complete our enquiry form or speak to our team. You’ll then receive quotes and recordings from available Encore musicians near you and we’ll ensure it’s tailored to your exact requirements.