Christmas & New Year Ceilidhs & Barn Dances

With so many things to organise for Christmas, it can be daunting to try and get a band booked for your party. The same applies to New Year celebrations, though there often tends to be a Scottish theme band that is required. There are many types of band that you could have, including pop bands, a barn dance or ceilidh (Kaylee), a jazz band, or even perhaps a string quartet if you are considering something like a formal dinner party.

 

There are many different types of event that you could be thinking of. If you are looking at a work “do” for the company where you work, then you are more likely to have a wider range of age groups and tastes that you need to consider. On the other hand, if you are thinking about a party for just your own friends it is more likely that they will be of a similar age to you and perhaps have similar musical tastes.

 

The next question you will have to answer is where might you find a band to meet your needs. It is not often that you need to hire a band so you may not be familiar with what you need to do and what you need to think about. It is possible, of course, that you already know someone who is part of a band, and this is great news if it turns out to be the sort of band that you need, but if you want a wider selection of music that you can choose from then it is better to use an agency who will have more choices for you.

 

It is of course possible to try out specific bands that you can find by searching on the internet but it is more probable that this will take you a very long time. Each band works in a different way, so for example some deal with emails straight away whilst others can take a very long time to get back to you. Some bands will give you a proper contract but to be honest most won't do this. If you enquire with an agency, their responses are often very much quicker and the information for all the bands comes in a standard format which means it’s easier for you to choose between them. You are also likely to get a proper contract, which means that you can be much more confident that everything will go smoothly and the band will actually arrive at your event.

 

Here are some frequently asked questions about Christmas parties, the sorts of things that often we get talking about and that we find out about when we read things on the internet.

 

What is the difference between Christmas barn dance bands and Christmas ceilidh bands?

Ceilidh bands and barn dance bands are, essentially, pretty much the same thing. “Ceilidh”, sometimes called “Kaylee” or “Kayleigh”, is a name given to bands from the Celtic tradition, whereas bands in the English and American traditions are often called barn dance bands. In each case the dance will involve folk music with everybody getting involved in easy dances, being taught by somebody called a caller. There are some differences due to the different types of music, for example Scottish music is different from English and Irish, and American music is also different, because although there is much Irish and Scottish influence it is also combined with influences of European and other styles of music which make it interesting to play.

 

Ceilidh or barn dance bands are one of the best types of band for events you might have at Christmas with a large number of people. This is because it is easy for everyone to be involved in the dancing all the way through the evening and it is not necessary to know the people who are there. You can come with a partner, and of course many people do, but you can also just turn up on your own and join in. In my band we have had groups as small as 20 but on one or two occasions we have had nearly 300 people in the hall which of course has meant we have needed a lot of sets for the dancing. Admittedly, of course, not everyone is dancing at the same time, and some at any one time are taking a rest between the dances.

 

Nobody has to dance all the time. A few people will not want to dance and will just listen to music most of the evening and perhaps just have a go at one or two dances. Other people, perhaps with more energy, will dance for most of the evening and just take an occasional rest to get their breath back or have a drink. But unlike most discos, it is not so noisy that you can't hear what people say and that means that while the music is playing you can have conversations. Some bands will, at Christmas events, play Christmas carols that you can dance to, which makes a nice change. Many tunes such as “Good Christian Men Rejoice” and “I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In” lend themselves well to ceilidh dancing. The whole event is a good opportunity for people to get into the Christmas mood with costumes, decorations and of course seasonal food.

 

It is great to have a barn dance or ceilidh at Christmas where people are going to be in a good and festive mood and will want to be involved in dancing. If the event is a corporate or company one and if there is not such a happy atmosphere in the company then things may not go quite so well and there is a danger that people will feel embarrassed about dancing. However in a company where relations between management and staff are good, then it can be a very good way of being together with the chance for employees and perhaps their partners to get to meet one another.

 

Is a jazz band suitable for a Christmas event?

 

Although it is of course people possible for people to dance to a jazz band just like in the old days, it is more often a band playing music that people can listen to. So a jazz band can be perfect for the type of situation with people eating and a Christmas meal with entertainment in the background.

 

It is important to make sure that the jazz band fits the atmosphere that you want for your event. Perhaps you are looking for a very upbeat and celebratory feeling for your Christmas event, or maybe you are looking for more of a lounge music feel. You also need to consider what size the room is. A large jazz band can make a lot of noise and in a small venue this could be rather overwhelming. Perhaps you would want to think about having a much smaller band such as a duo or trio - however if you are expecting to have a large number of people who are in the Christmas mood and making a lot of noise then a larger band may be more what you need.

 

Is a pop band suitable for a Christmas event?

 

Yes, a pop band may well be suitable for a Christmas event but you do have to be careful that you are not expecting to have background music. Pop bands are much more “in your face” and they don't tend to work very well in the background. People will want to get up and dance and it is unlikely that things will work if they are going to just be sitting down. Pop bands also tend to be pretty loud and so there is less opportunity for people to chat to one another. If there is going to be a meal, and then the band will play afterwards so that everybody can get onto the floor and dance the night away, then that can be a good recipe for a good Christmas party. On the other hand, if you are expecting to have a gentler type of event where people can talk and be sociable then that's going to be more difficult unless you have a separate room.

 

Of course another option is to have a barn dance or ceilidh earlier on in the evening. In that sort of event you might want to consider having some sort of Christmas food served during the interval. Sometimes people organise this sort of party with a pop band or disco later on for people who have more energy and would want to stay on into the night.

Is a string quartet suitable for a Christmas party?

 

String quartets tend not to make so much noise and are usually not amplified in any way. This means that if your event is fairly formal such as a Christmas dinner for a smallish group or perhaps for a small company, then a string quartet or other classical music can work very well for you. They provide background music that is gentle, quiet, pleasant and not intrusive, and this creates an ambiance which is civilised and pleasant.

 

Many string quartets have a repertoire of Christmas music including perhaps some music from relevant films such as “The Snowman” and arrangements of pieces like “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire”, “White Christmas”, and similar tunes. String quartets can provide a different atmosphere through the evening and some quartets will have arrangements of popular tunes that they can provide at a later stage. When you book a string quartet you always need to make sure that they are able to provide the range of repertoire that you are hoping for. All string quartets will play baroque and classical music and probably music from the shows, but not all of them will have access to more modern arrangements of pop music.

 

Where do I find a band for my Christmas party?

 

Music agencies on the internet are not the only place where you may be able to find suitable providers of music for your party. However, agencies are probably the most secure, convenient and quick way to go about it and will certainly give you lots of choice.

 

How can I hire a band for my Christmas family party?

 

Christmas parties for families tend on the whole to be smaller scale events. Cost is often more of an issue for them, and they will tend to use smaller venues such as local village or community halls. Probably the best value entertainment comes from dancing to a barn dance band because there is lots of fun to be had at relatively low cost. Party bands tend to be much more expensive, partly because they are usually larger groups and also because they will have more equipment which they will need to bring to the venue. The most important thing is to work out what you are going to enjoy, what will work for you, and what you can afford.

 

How much should I expect to pay for a band at a Christmas party?

 

The cost of bands varies immensely - it all depends on the type of music you want, the part of the country that you are in, where the band is located, and how far they need to travel. It is always advisable to book early if you can, because that will give you a much wider choice of bands and you are more likely to find one that is nearby therefore reducing travel costs. If you are late in booking, then at the last minute it is more likely that there won't be any bands which are suitable very close to you, so you have to start paying travel expenses.

 

It is always a good idea to send a detailed enquiry to an agency that you might find on the Internet, defining the sort of music that you want and telling them where your venue is so that they can search their database and find the most suitable band for you who are available on your date - and of course those that are likely to give you the best prices.

 

Of course larger groups will cost you more than smaller ones, and the smaller bands tend to get booked up well in advance too. Jazz bands, and ceilidh or barn dance bands, tend to offer similar prices whereas function bands or party bands can be very much more expensive. This is because the style of music and the equipment that they need can take up much more time for the band just for a single performance. Of course there are smaller groups of musicians that can play covers of pop standards and they will naturally be cheaper because they are smaller, but again remember that these can often get booked up well ahead of time.

 

Finding a cheap band for a Christmas charity event

 

Once again the important thing is to plan ahead. Musicians perform in order to make a living so they are unlikely to be able or willing to reduce the price if you are running something in aid of a charity - so the important thing is to book well ahead which gives you a better choice of bands and the best prices. Some bands that we know have played at many charity events, and often they tend to be larger bands who are more expensive with a wider repertoire and able to put on a more extensive show that will attract more people to the event. Of course this means more funds for the charity even though the costs may be greater. It is of course always a balancing act between the cost that you have to put in and the benefit that you (or the charity) get out.

 

Christmas birthday band

 

If your birthday is near to Christmas then you are unlucky in having to compete with everyone who is organising Christmas parties. You may want to think about having your birthday party at a slightly different time to avoid this; parties in January can be a very good way of getting through the cold winter months. But again of course the key thing is to make sure that you book the event early to give yourself the most choice at the best price.

 

Types of music for Christmas weddings

 

Finding some types of music for a Christmas Wedding (see three ways to save money) may not be too difficult because weddings at this time of year are fairly rare. The really busy time for wedding bands is between the spring and the autumn. However if you want a barn dance or ceilidh band then there is likely to be some competition from other event organisers, even at this time of year.

 

It is important to make it clear, when you book a band, if what you want is a Christmas-style wedding rather than just a wedding that happens to be around the festive period - they will need to know whether you want Christmas music or not. Not everybody wants Christmas carols to happen unexpectedly in the middle of a wedding! On the other hand if you do want to have a particularly Christmas feel to your wedding then this can be quite a special and magical thing. String quartets often play for Christmas weddings and can provide a special ambience to an event in a suitable venue. Another group of musicians, such as a choir singing Christmas carols, can be very effective. It can be quite a challenge for musicians to not be distracted by the smell of Christmas food and drink.

 

String quartets are likely to have a substantial repertoire of Christmas music and it is often their pleasure to play it. It is not unknown for quartets to play seasonal tunes like “The Snowman” in the middle of summer. It is lovely music and can sometimes be requested - but it can seem a little strange.

 

Another feature of Christmas events is that sometimes the weather has a special feel to it. There is nothing like playing at an event whilst the snow falls outside - although it does mean that for the band lugging that equipment in and out it can be a cold and wet experience.

 

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