Booking a band for your Christmas party

Booking a band for your Christmas party can be daunting. What kind of band should I have, should it be a pop band, a barn dance band or jazz band or even perhaps a String Quartet if the music is for a formal dinner.

You have to decide what kind of event you want.  If it's a company do, then you probably have a wide range of age groups to cater for. If it's a party for just your friends, they are likely to be of a similar age and have similar taste in music.

Then there’s the whole question of where do you find a band? Hiring a band is something that you rarely do. Perhaps you know somebody who plays in a band. This can be great if it's the right kind of band for you, but if you want a wide selection of music to choose from coming to an agency like Midsummer Music is often the best solution.

You can go to individual bands that you find on the Internet, but this is likely to take you an awfully long time because each band has its own way of working, some answer emails quickly, some can take several weeks, some issue formal contracts, most don’t. When sending an enquiry to an agency, responses are often much quicker and all the bands are offered in a standard format so you can select between them. You'll also get a contract, so that you can have confidence that the band will turn up on your date. (We get flooded with people coming to us telling us that they've been let down by their band at the last minute, and can we find them another band by the weekend. By then it’s often too late to help.)

I could go on talking about Christmas parties for pages, but maybe the best thing Is to share with you some typical questions we get, some of things we come across in conversation and in reading what people write on the Internet.


Question: Christmas barn dance bands for Hire and Christmas ceilidh bands for hire seem to be popular, but what is the difference

Answer: Ceilidh and barn dances are really much the same thing, one is the Celtic name the other is the English and American name for I danced to folk music where everybody gets involved in doing dances at a really easy to learn, and are taught by a person referred to as the caller. I can be different because of the music, for example,  Scottish is very different from English and American is again different, because although it includes a lot of Scottish and Irish influence it is also mixed in with eastern European French and other styles of music which makes it extremely interesting and sometimes very difficult to play.

It one of the best types of band for Christmas events that have a large number of people, because everybody can get get involved in dancing, you don't have to know the people who are there beforehand, or you can come with a partner, or be on your own and just join in. I think the smallest ceilidh I have played for had 14 people half of whom were Korean and didn't speak English, the other half were American who spoke a different kind of English!  the most I think I play Calling a ceilidh the barn dance is getting on for 300 people, which makes an awful lot of sets, although not everyone dances at the same time, some are recovering their breath from the previous dancers.

You don't have to dance all the time. Some people will listen to music most the evening and do just wanted to dances, other people will dance most of the time and just take a rest to get a breather. But all the time it's possible to hear what people say, so you can have conversations, (not something that is possible with most discos!). Many bands will play Christmas carols that you can dance too, which makes a nice change. It’s a great opportunity for everybody to dress up in silly hats, reindeer antlers, Santa hat and Tinsel. The band will often dress up to match the Christmas mood.  The whole atmosphere of a barn dance and ceilidh is light hearted, perfect for Christmas.

A barn dance where you think that people are going to be in a festive mood and want to get up and do something is great. It might not be quite so good for a corporate event if there's not a jolly atmosphere in the company, and people may feel embarrassed at dancing, but for a company where there is a good attitude between the staff and the management then it is a brilliant bonding exercise with the chance for employees and their wives and husbands who don't work at the company, get to meet each other.


Is a jazz band suitable for a Christmas event

Although people can and dance to a Jazz Band, as everyone did in  the Big Band era,  it is more often played as music to listen to. If you are thinking of having a cabaret type situation, with people eating and drinking a Christmas meal, then the jazz band is an ideal form of music.

Suit the jazz band to the kind of atmosphere you are wanting to create, is it a smoking Lounge jazz type that you want or is it a very upbeat and celebratory feeling for your Christmas event? What size of room will there be play in. A large jazz band can be very loud, and maybe overpowering in a small venue. Here you might consider the jazz duo. Have you got a lot of people making a din laughing, talking and shouting as they look forward to a Christmas holiday. If so,  then a larger jazz band will certainly be able to hold its own.


Is a pop band suitable for a Christmas event

Well, certainly the answer is Yes. Provided of course that you're not expecting it to be background music. Pop bands are full on Entertainment. People have to get up and dance, they can't sit down and not be moved  by the music, and often they can’t chat to each other either. It does tend to take over the evening,  so where you have had a meal perhaps and then the band starts up and everybody gets on to the dance floor for the rest of the night, it can be a great Christmas celebration. If you’re anticipating a more gentle event, with people chatting and socialising, unless you have a separate room for this, it can bring talk to an end.

Of course another option is to have something like a barn dance in the earlier part of the evening, perhaps with a Christmas buffet all barbecue in the middle, followed by party band or disco for those who want to carry on into the wee small hours.  


Is a String Quartet suitable for a Christmas?

If you're having a fairly formal Christmas dinner, perhaps for a company Christmas banquet in civilised surroundings, then a string quartet, harpist or classical guitarist is ideal. It provides gentle background music that isn't intrusive, creates a civilised ambience and avoids any awkward silences.

Most string quartets will have a Christmas repertoire of carols and some film music like the music to the Snowman cartoon and arrangements pieces like White Christmas,Chestnuts Roasting by an Open Fire and other ‘evergreens’. They can also change the atmosphere through the evening, some quartets moving onto arrangements of pop music later on. When booking a string quartet always make sure they play the kind of repertoire you are visualising. All string quartets will play classical and baroque music and music from the shows, but not all will play up-to-date pop music arrangements.


Where do I find a band for my Christmas party

Agencies like Midsummer Music are not the only place to find music groups for your Christmas party, but is probably the most convenient and most secure way to do it, and you will get lots of choice.


Hiring a band for my Christmas family celebration

Family Christmas celebrations tend to be smaller events, often in the local village hall, where cost is often more of a consideration.  Dancing to a Barn Dance Band is probably the lowest cost evenings entertainment when you consider how much pure fun you get for it,  whereas party bands because of their Heavier more expensive equipment, Tend To Be double the  price. At the end of the day it's what you enjoy and what you can afford.


How much does a band cost for a Christmas party

Bands prices vary tremendously depending on the style of music, the part of the country they are in and how far they have to travel. If you book early, you have a bigger choice of band and are likely to find one local to you with very little or no travel costs. If you leave the booking to the last minute, then the chances are there won't be any suitable bands very close to you so you have to start paying travel expenses.

Always send an enquiry to the agency defining the kind of music you looking for and saying where your venue will be, so that they can identify from their large database the most suitable vans for you who are still available, and those that give you the best price.

Naturally, bigger groups are more expensive than smaller groups and the smaller groups tend to get booked up very early too. Jazz bands and ceilidh and barn dance bands tend to be similar prices, whereas a Party or function band can be two or three times the price or more. It isn’t that the Covers band is bad value, it is more that the style of music and the equipment used can take up a whole day of the band’s time just for the one performance. Of course there are small duos and trios that will play arrangements of covers that are much cheaper, but again these tends to get booked up well ahead of time.


I’m hiring a band for a Christmas charity event, where can I find a really cheap band

Again it's a matter of planning ahead. Musicians make their living from performing, so they can't reduce the price for a charity event. So if you book well ahead you will be able to have your choice of bands and get the best prices.

We provided bands for many charity events, and often they are the more expensive larger bands who can put on a bigger show and have a wider repertoire that are likely to attract more people to the charity event and hence make more profit for that charity even though the costs are higher. So cost is not always the primary consideration.


Christmas birthday band

If your birthday falls around Christmas time, then you're competing with all the people who are organising their Christmas parties, so again this is a matter of book early. ( the book early theme is getting repetitive, but this is for a very good reason.)



What kind of live music should I have for my wedding near Christmas

I won't ‘book early’ again, because I've just said it regarding a question about Christmas birthdays. However, if you're looking for a String Quartet or harpist. then not booking early should not be such a problem, as the really busy season for this type of music group is April to October.  If you are think you are the kinds of music such as a covers band or a barn dance band, then you will have competition from party organisers.

Also make it clear to the band you book where the you're wanting a Christmas style wedding,or just having a wedding that happens to be at Christmas.  You don't want them bursting into Christmas carols if that's the last thing you want for your wedding.

But if you do want a christmassy Christmas wedding, then this can be quite magical. I've played for numerous Christmas weddings with my string quartet. A quartet playing below a lit Christmas tree in the Great Hall of  a stately home venue is something very special. Sometimes there's been a choir singing Christmas carols as an Interlude to the quartet music. Resisting the smell of mulled wine and Christmas pies and trying to eat Christmas cake while you're playing a violin is quite challenging.  

There is a lot of string quartet repertoire of Christmas music, and it's a delight to get it out and play it. I've occasionally played the Snowman in the middle of summer, because it's such wonderful music, but you get some strange looks! I start to introduce Christmas music into the repertoire  at the beginning of January, and carry on playing Classics like Winter Wonderland and Chestnuts Roasting by an Open Fire right into January.

When we've played for civil ceremonies at venues with Christmas decorations in the room and seasonal music for the entrance of the bride, the signing of the register and the exit of the couple, (processional and recessional)  it creates an atmosphere that can only happen at this one time of the Year.

Playing for a church ceremony can be quite magical too, especially if the choir is singing Christmas carols and Christmas anthems, the church decked out with Holly and mistletoe, and snow on the ground outside. (This is where you hope that the church has a good heating system!)

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