A traditional Scottish Ceilidh Band that can provide either a fun Scottish Ceilidh for non-expert dancers or a formal Scottish Country Dance or Reeling event for experienced dancers. Tell us which you want when you book, so that we can tailor music, dances and caller to suit - ceilidh dances like Strip the Willow and Gay Gordons which everyone can enjoy, or the likes of Reel of 51s, Eightsome Reel for the experts.
The Ceilidh Idealach Scottish Ceilidh Band plays in a number of line-ups for weddings, parties, Burns & New Year events throughout the ‘3 Counties’ (Worcestershire, Herefordshire & Gloucestershire) and the West Midlands, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, North Somerset and South and Central Wales.;
We’ve got more than 20 years of experience of doing Scottish ceilidh events, and these are the sorts of things that people have said about us.
A SCOTTISH CEILIDS / SCOTTISH COUNTRY DANCES AND REELING EVENTS
Ceilidh Idealach is a Scottish ceilidh band which can provide a ceilidh event full of fun for young and old alike, offering an evening of dancing for everyone with lots of laughs, a happy, relaxed and sociable atmosphere, and a distinctive Scottish flavour. Whatever type of event or mood you are hoping for, we have expert and experienced musicians to provide the music for you - and don’t worry if you've never done this before, because there’s also a caller to guide you through the dances and tell you everything you need to know.
Scottish Country Dance and Reeling Events
If you are a dance club or other group of experienced Scottish Dancers, then we are happy to play music from our extensive Scottish Dance Repertoire, including Strathspeys, or we can add tunes to our repertoire specifically for you (provided you give us sufficient advanced warning for us to find the music). One of our callers has a wide repertoire of the more complex dances, but often a Scottish Dance Club will know the dances without their being called, or one of their number will call (using our microphone if needed).
Ceilidh Idealach is a Scottish ceilidh band which provides something for everyone but with a very distinctive Scottish feel. Usually the band includes a caller and we provide music for people to dance to, but we can also offer a band without a caller and just play Scottish music for people to listen to.
We have a large range of traditional Scottish folk music available to us and we play a range of well-known Scottish favourites for people to dance to, along with a selection of other Scottish tunes to listen to including reels, strathspeys and tunes from the Shetlands. However, if you would prefer to have a little more variety in the event, we are also able to include a little bit of folk music from other traditions such as Irish, English, Welsh and American. We can cater for all types of ceilidh events and groups ranging from large to small numbers, and different types of event including wedding receptions and all sorts of parties and special seasonal occasions - especially Burns Night, the traditional Scottish celebration towards the end of January.
Whatever type of music you choose, whether it is exclusively Scottish or with a mixture of other folk music, we always choose our dances so that they are accessible to everybody whether they are experts or complete beginners. This means a happy and inclusive event where no one is left out and everybody can be part of the fun.
(If you really want your event to incorporate more of a mixture of music and dance from around the British Isles, then you might want to think about booking our Ringerike band which is less specific to a particular tradition and provides more of a variety of Scottish, Irish, English and American music and dances.)
Scottish dance music draws upon a long history of traditional culture from north of the border, and Scotland is very well known all around the world for its distinctive style of folk music. Music is essential to Scottish culture, and it is quite common in Scotland for traditional music to be performed at events of all types including parties, festivals, weddings and civic events. However, Scottish music also enjoys huge popularity all round the world with many different types of dance including Highland dancing and country dancing. The Ceilidh Idealach Scottish ceilidh band uses some of the best-known ceilidh dances from Scotland including the Gay Gordons (perhaps to the well-known tune of “Scotland the Brave”), the Dashing White Sergeant, the Highland Barn Dance and many other dances using traditional tunes which include Scottish reels, marches and strathspeys, and we often our events with the all-time Scottish ceilidh favourite of Strip the Willow.
Usually our ceilidh band members get to the venue something like 45 minutes before the scheduled start of the event, which gives us time to set up our equipment and carry out a soundcheck. (You can spot who we are when we arrive because, for the male members of the band at least, we’ll be wearing Scottish tartan ties!) The soundcheck is the way we make sure everything is working properly and that we have a proper balance of sound and at the optimum volume level - considering how big the room is and how many people are expected. It's no problem if there are people in the room at the same time as we are setting up, or even for guests to be arriving in the hall whilst we’re doing so. We are able to carry out our setting up without making a noise or a fuss and without needing our hirer to give us any particular help. (The only time when we make significant noise is to actually do the soundcheck, but that only takes five minutes or so immediately before we’re ready to start the dancing. To make sure everything is balanced up properly we might play through a couple of tunes like “Busta House” or “Haste to the Wedding”.) The only things we need for our setting up are a sturdy table behind the place where are the band will be playing, usually on the stage or at one end of the room, so that we can put our equipment on it (such as an amplifier and mixer), and a standard 13-amp electrical supply socket not too far away from the table - although we do bring extension leads with us in case we need them. If the venue has a stage area, which usually is the case if the venue is a village hall, then that can be quite helpful. It means that all of the dancers can see the band clearly and from a safety point of view it rules out any possibility that dancers will bump into the band or their equipment during the ceilidh. However, a stage certainly isn't necessary to what we do, and as often as not we just use whatever area there is at one end of the room, bearing in mind the amount of space that will be needed for the dancers.
Very occasionally we do find that the venue management have set up a temporary wooden floor for dancing on top of a carpet in the room. This particularly happens in venues which are hotels and may be accustomed to providing space for disco dancing. This works really well for discos but unfortunately not for Scottish ceilidh dancing. If people are going to be dancing around the room rather than just on one spot, then the edges of the wooden floor end up being a hazard that people could trip over, and we find that ceilidhs are much better and safer without the extra flooring.
There is some more information about how we set up, and some useful advice on ways in which you can save money by avoiding the need for setting up early, here.
Quite often we start with a Scottish circle dance that can involve as many people as want to dance. Sometimes at wedding receptions it is a good idea for the bride and groom to dance in the middle of the circle which means that everyone can see them and celebrate their marriage. For many couples that is a less intimidating prospect than the more individual first dance which some people like to do. After our first dance, we usually carry on with a number of other easy dances which are suitable for everyone to try, which might include set dances in which each dancer faces their partner making two straight rows down the room. There are always full and clear instructions from our caller so that nobody has to know about anything in advance. Everyone is able to get involved immediately, and nobody needs to worry about knowing what they need to do.
When we’ve done two or three dances it is quite often the case that people who have been dancing would like a short break to have a little rest or go to top up their drinks - although we do hope that they will return to dancing very soon! So what we do at that point is play one or two Scottish tunes for people to listen to. Perhaps we might play one or two slower tunes, such as Scottish waltzes, which means that even though the caller isn’t needing to be involved, people can dance in a more traditional style. Sometimes this has some appeal for older guests.
Usually in our ceilidh events we have our first set of dances, perhaps also incorporating a little music to listen to, for roughly one and a quarter hours. Then the band takes a short break lasting about 30 minutes and during the break quite often food is served while we take a breather and use our PA equipment to play a selection of recorded Scottish folk tunes to provide background music.
In the second half of our evening, when the break has finished, we will include a range of other Scottish tunes and dances from our repertoire. Sometimes the caller will decide to move up to some slightly more complex dances - although frankly all of our dances are fairly straightforward and suitable for everybody to get involved in, and of course the caller’s job is to make sure that at all times the dancers know what to do. Towards the end of the evening’s dancing, after another hour and a quarter or so, we will always include one or two easy Scottish dances which can readily involve any number of people. We hope that that gives the opportunity for everyone to dance at the end of the evening and nobody has to sit out the last dances.
At the very end of the evening the band packs up their instruments and all of their PA equipment, and if we get a move on, this usually takes us about twenty minutes. Then everyone can go home (fortunately, no-one is travelling quite as far afield as Scotland!), hopefully with happy memories of an energetic but also relaxed, enjoyable and sociable evening.
The outline above would be our normal programme but of course not every event follows this scheme - it all depends what sort of thing you’re looking for. The exact plan of each event depends on the number of people, the mix of ages, the kind of venue and size of the room, and how much time you want to spend. Our normal Scottish ceilidh evening would be three hours including a break but sometimes, especially if hirers are wanting to combine some ceilidh dancing with other activities such as a disco at the end of the evening, then we are only needed for two or 2½ hours instead of three. Or sometimes the break for food might happen at a different time - it all depends on the programme for the rest of the day, and sometimes what fits in best with the catering arrangements at the venue. Sometimes people want to serve food at the beginning of the event before there is any dancing, and if that is the case then sometimes we might play for a shorter time and/or take a shorter band break in the middle of the event – sometimes, for example, at traditional Burns Night events in January, a meal is served at the start of the evening, along with the traditional rituals such as piping in the haggis, the Selkirk Grace, and Burns’ Address to the Haggis. It all comes down to exactly what you want and how your Scottish ceilidh event will work most effectively. We will always do our very best to find out what is the most appropriate arrangement for you and liaise with you to make sure that what we provide is meeting your needs.
Where we play
Most of our band members live in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, although many of us are either born-and-bred Scottish or are proud of our Scottish ancestry. Over the years we’ve played for a huge number of Scottish ceilidh events all around the “Three Counties” of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire and in the adjacent County areas. Typically we’re happy to travel anything up to 90 minutes’ drive from our bases in Malvern and Ledbury, but we have been known to go further afield sometimes, with gigs as far away as Oxford, Telford, Bosworth, Abergavenny and towns south of Bristol. (Sadly, we don’t get as far as Scotland though!) The venues we’ve played in are many and varied ranging from tiny village halls, function rooms in pubs, and sometimes (in the summer) marquees in gardens, right through to very large hotels and corporate venues. Sometimes we have actually done barn dances in real agricultural barns, although from bitter experience we know that, rather like Scotland, they can be very chilly in the winter months. There are links here giving details of venues that we have played in for Scottish ceilidhs in Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Warwickshire, the West Midlands, North Somerset, and South and Central Wales.
Despite the huge range and variety of venue types, for our Scottish ceilidhs there is one fairly obvious thing that is common to them all - there needs to be enough room for people to dance as well as some room for the band to set up their equipment and play. If the room for the event is too big for the number of dancers then usually we can cope with that fine, although occasionally if there is a very small number of people in a very large hall there is a bit of a feeling of “rattling around”. However, it can certainly create difficulties if it’s the other way round and a large number of invited people has to fit into a very small space. It’s usually a good idea to have a bar available in the same room as the ceilidh dance is taking place and it’s helpful to have some tables and seats so that people can sit and watch or have a chat. We do sometimes find that if the location of the bar is a long way away from the dancing, and possibly in a different room, there is a danger that people gravitate towards the bar and get settled there, forgetting to come back for more dancing, and sometimes that means that towards the end of the evening, or even earlier on, the number of dancers is reduced somewhat.
Ideally at the venue there will be a suitable place for the band to park or car(s) so that we can quickly and easily carry the equipment into the room without fuss and set up and play. Sometimes this means opening a back or side door so that the band doesn't have to disturb whatever else is going on in the hall at the time. However, with that said, obviously it’s not always possible to achieve this and we always manage to carry our equipment into the venue and get set up by whatever means we can.
Sometimes we get asked to play outside in the open air, especially for events which take place in the summer. Very occasionally this can be possible provided suitable arrangements can be made for the band and their instruments and equipment to be covered and sheltered and provided there is a suitable power supply. However, this is never realistic except in the summer, and even during the summer months in Britain it is impossible and unwise to assume that the weather will be suitable. Our honest opinion is that in general, playing for a ceilidh outside is not usually a good idea for a number of reasons. More information on this is given here on. outdoor ceilidh and barn dances.
Everybody in the band is a trained musician with years of experience of Scottish ceilidh music. However, all of us also have a much wider musical background which means that as professional musicians and teachers we can offer considerable versatility and we are able to give you a number of different combinations of instruments and musicians - depending on what your particular Scottish ceilidh event involves and where it is located.
We can offer a number of different Scottish ceilidh band lineups to accommodate different needs, which may depend on your budget, how big the venue is, the number of guests, and the style of event that you are hoping for. Most commonly our ceilidh bands incorporate either three or four players and usually that includes a caller, although we can also provide bands to play background music with no dancing and no caller. For example, this might be background for a drinks reception, a meal, or a reception at a wedding.
When we provide a three-piece band with a caller, then normally there will be an instrument which takes the lead and plays the tune, such as a fiddle (violin), and at least one instrument to provide rhythm such as guitar. The fiddle has been a popular instrument in Scotland since at least the 17th century not only in classical music but also in Scottish traditional music. Occasionally, instead of (or as well as) one of these we might use an accordion which has the dual function of providing both tune and rhythm. Historically the accordion is a relatively recent instrument in use in Scottish music, having begun its existence in Italy. Although Victorian period Scottish bands often had fiddle, accordion, piano and bass, the fiddle was the standard melody instrument before that. It is a popular instrument for dance music in Scotland and often features in Scottish dance bands, sometimes in combination with fiddle and other instruments.
As well as this, the caller is almost always a musician who is able to play another instrument as well (although not necessarily whilst they are calling!), so in those cases it is likely that the band would also include a flute or whistle and/or a bass guitar as well as the main lead and rhythm instruments. The whistle (“tin whistle”, “penny whistle” or “flageolet”) has been used in Scottish folk music since at least the 19th Century and has become increasingly popular in recent decades, influenced by its enduring popularity in Irish folk music. In a typical band for a Scottish ceilidh event we might have a three-piece band featuring fiddle, guitar and bass or fiddle, guitar and flute/whistle, which in each case would include a caller.
If we are providing a three-piece Scottish ceilidh band for music to listen to rather than for dancing and so there is no caller, then typically we would provide a similar combination of instruments - so for example fiddle and guitar along with flute/whistle or bass.
Sometimes we provide a slightly larger four-piece Scottish ceilidh band with a caller. This gives a little bit more variety to the sound that we are able to make, and generally it means that we are able to have two melody instruments such as fiddle and flute/whistle and also two rhythm instruments such as guitar and bass. Again, one of these instrumentalists is able to operate as the caller for the event.
Occasionally we do provide a five-piece Scottish ceilidh band which means that there is a 4-piece band of instrumental players plus a separate caller. This means that all of the band member instrumentalists are able to be playing at all times, so that we are able to give a fuller and more varied sound, but we still have the caller able to lead all of the dances.
An evening with Ceilidh Idealach usually starts with at least one circle dance, putting everyone in a large circle all around the hall. On some occasions if there is a large number of people, in a room which is big enough, then we will have two circles - one outer circle which is larger, and a smaller circle inside, with everybody standing beside their partner and facing in towards the centre. Traditionally, if partners are man-and-woman and are standing together then it is normal for the woman to stand on the right-hand side of her partner. However we do try to include everyone in our dances and so we don’t assume that partners are necessarily man-and-woman couples. (In fact we don't need to assume that partners for the dance have even met each other before!) The caller will clearly explain everything that everyone needs to do, wherever they are standing in the circle. Circle dancing is thought to be one of the oldest dancing traditions and brings a real sense of community spirit to many different cultures all over the world. It's a really good way to begin a Scottish ceilidh event because there is the opportunity for everyone to get involved. Everybody has an equal place in the dance, and because of the circle arrangement everyone can see everyone else who is dancing.
Set dancing is a term which sometimes is used to refer to a particular style of Irish or Scottish dancing, but in our Scottish ceilidh events we tend to use the expression to refer to any dance in which there are two rows of people facing one another down the room. Traditionally you would expect this to be a row of men facing a row of women, so that each person faces their partner across the room - although again in recent and somewhat less traditional times, we would certainly not be assuming that everybody is necessarily in a man-woman couple.
Hornpipes are another type of ceilidh dance which originated from Scotland, as well as Ireland and England, and are often thought to be dances carried out traditionally by sailors. In their traditional form they were sometimes performed by a single person but for Scottish ceilidh dancing, hornpipes are danced with one row of dancers facing another in sets.
The Ceilidh Idealach Scottish ceilidh band uses many of the most well-known Scottish traditional dance tunes, including these:
Cock o’the North
The Dashing White Sergeant
De’il Amang the Tailors
Haste to the Wedding
A Hundred Pipers
The Jig of Slurs
The Mason’s Apron
The Rose Tree
Scotland the Brave
Why do we call ourselves a Scottish Ceilidh band and not a Scottish Barn Dance Band? Read Ceilidh & Barn Dance to answer this, but there is a lot to the Scottish Ceilidh Tradition beyond the obvious Burns Night. There are many Traditional kinds of Scottish fold dance music only some of which we would call for, as some Scottish dances are very formal and complex and falls outside the practical Scottish Ceillidhing tradition that most people could enjoy. But if you are a bunch of experts who have learned the complicated dances, we would be happy to play the tunes for you to dance to. Here is some interesting information about Traditional Scottish Ceilidh Bands and a subject dear to my heart (as the fiddle player of the band), Scottish Fiddle makers
We play in the Three Counties and their neighbours. Here is some information about venues and towns we have played at:
Here is some general information to help you organise your event, but there is a lot more made available to you if you book us: