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The Expert Guide To Hiring An Orchestra

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This guide is to help you plan and prepare so you get the most out of any performance with our orchestra. It covers common questions from the obvious ‘how much is it to hire an orchestra?’ through common questions such as ‘what size of orchestra do I need?’ and ‘what repertoire is suitable for my event?’ to the purely practical including ‘how much parking should I arrange?’

We have done it all from major Last Night of The Proms concerts to more intimate performances.

Close up of violin players within an orchestra

What You Need To Know About Hiring An Orchestra?

Orchestras lend a sense of opulence to any occasion, allowing you and your guests to feel special, valued, entertained and inspired. There’s something about an orchestral performance, in all its glory, guaranteed to create a phenomenal atmosphere.

If you’re not sure how to hire musicians for events, here’s a handy list of things to consider.

The Size Of An Orchestra

You’re no doubt familiar with three-piece bands, quartets and so on. Orchestras too, come in various shapes and sizes. The packages available here vary from ten to over fifty highly skilled classical musicians.

How to choose? We suggested there are three things to consider.

Space - musicians need room to play. It is useful to know the dimensions of any performance area before contacting an orchestra.

Sound - what do you want to hear? The full, rich deep orchestral sound you want will need more players. Alternatively, a simple song arrangement may need fewer players.

Budget - the cost to hire an orchestra is usually calculated based on the number of musicians required, distance travelled to the event and time.

What Events and Occasions Are Orchestra Suited To?

Orchestras are excellent additions to a variety of event types. You can hire orchestras such as the English National Philharmonic Orchestra for a range of performances, concerts or even recording sessions.

Some typical reasons to hire an orchestra include:

Wedding - live classical music is a wonderful addition to everyone’s special day.

Dancing - who could resist the invitation to Waltz themselves or watching professionals take to the floor with live accompaniment?

Singing - many orchestras have singers (soloists) who perform regularly with them making it easy to book a package.

Concerts - if you’re an event promoter, have a theatre, concert hall or even outdoor space, you can book an orchestra directly to entertain your audience.

Corporate Event - do you have something to celebrate in business? An orchestra performance will certainly make an impression.

Outdoor Event - bringing your outdoor festival event to a close with an orchestral performance is sure to get it remembered.

Special Occasion - marking a national holiday, anniversary or other major events with music is always extra special.

One thing to note is national events can have an impact on availability. The Queen’s upcoming Platinum Jubilee this summer is likely to keep orchestras busy, so if you are marking a specific event, early planning is recommended.

Orchestra Repertoire

Repertoire refers to the music orchestras know and can play for you. Most orchestras are incredibly versatile and, given enough notice, respond positively to requests to add new material. If the music you want playing is still protected by copyright laws and additional fees will be payable. There might be an additional fee to cover the orchestra arranging the music to suit them too.

Can the orchestra play my favourite song?

Of course! Ensembles will often be happy to add new pieces to their repertoire, and if they can’t find an arrangement, they will often tailor one themselves for your event. This may add an additional fee to your booking (as mentioned above) but is well worth the extra expense to hear your favourite song played by a real orchestra, especially for you.

Can the orchestra take requests on the day?

Due to the size of most orchestras, they will almost always need to know about particular pieces or songs you would like played in advance. That said, many will have a repertoire list they will provide you with so that you can specify if there is any material in particular from the list that you’d like to hear.

Orchestras will also often be able to offer some flexibility in terms of what they play if you have agreed on a theme—for example, if you have discussed show tunes as your chosen genre, they may be able to offer requests within that category.

Set Up And Equipment

An orchestra’s biggest requirement is space. To hire an orchestra costs more than a traditional band, so it is more important to check you have the room they need.

As a minimum, the UK The Musicians’ Union suggests a space of around 1.5 square metres for each musician. You can see a full philharmonic orchestra of 50 players needs 75 square meters - roughly a tenth the size of an international football pitch.

In the space, an orchestra will require the following:

  • A suitable armless chair for each musician

  • A conductor’s podium or raised platform

  • Enough power sockets - usually one per musician for any required lighting or amplification.

  • Music stands if the orchestra cannot supply its own.

  • It is vital to speak to the orchestra management about more detailed requirements to avoid disappointment.

Other Things To Consider

Cello playing plucking the strings of her instrument

The orchestra’s comfort

Musicians require sufficient dressing or changing room space at the venue. Bottled water and light snacks are generally required. Meals are not normally expected unless it’s the performance is specifically over lunch or dinner.

Parking and logistics

As well as up to 60 people, orchestras come with a lot of baggage including large items such as harps, timpani drums and double basses. Adequate parking and loading areas are a must.

Preparation and soundchecks

Orchestras will be able to tell you how much time they need to set themselves up, prepare and check all is well with the acoustics of your venue. This should be factored into your event or performance schedule.

Dress code

Black tie is considered standard for orchestras - and musicians generally have a range of formal wear to hand but don’t let that limit your choices. Discuss how you want everyone to look when booking and most orchestras will help.

We have managed and performed at countless events and has learned the secrets of planning spectacular performances. His main lesson is to ask lots of questions so you know what to expect.

How Much Does It Cost To Hire An Orchestra?

Orchestra costs vary depending on the following factors

  • Musician hourly rate

  • Conductor hourly rate

  • Soloist / Singer hourly rate

  • Administration costs

  • Music expenses - including hiring sheet music, arrangement fees and performance rights

  • Transport and travel costs

  • Equipment hire costs

Experienced and high-quality musicians will typically have relatively high rates, compared with up and coming talent. Music expenses are likely to be higher if you have very specific requirements. Transport and travel costs will increase with distance.

The good news is that orchestras should be able to fit their service to your budget, whether that’s for a huge classical no-expense-spared classical spectacular or a smaller, more intimate but no less entertaining alternative.

Hiring Lee Bradley and The English National Philharmonic Orchestra.

Tenor singer, Lee Bradley performing in front of an orchestra on stage

Golden Tenor, Lee Bradley and The English National Philharmonic Orchestra are fast becoming one of the most popular combinations in all of opera and classical music.

Whatever your event, the team can provide you with amazing performances from the Magic of Movies and Musicals, through a populist cross-over repertoire to the full pomp and majesty of the Last Night of The Proms. What’s more, Lee is flexible, meaning he can entertain on his own or bring sixty-five friends along with him to impress.

As an expert in the practicalities and logistics of hiring orchestras too, we can talk you through the options and create a package that’s just right whether it’s an outdoor festival, intimate corporate event or any other special occasion. Contact him to find out more.



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