We have many years experience of playing for all kinds of events, and these notes are based on that experience in the hope that they will help us to help you make your event a success.
A few words about Barn Dances/Ceilidhs/Twmpaths/English Country Dance
All the terms above mean largely the same thing (confusing, I know, but different titles have been coined over the years for what’s basically the same thing).
We play energetic music from (mostly) the English and Irish traditions (with the occasional Scots, Welsh, Canadian or American tune as well). Most of our dances come from England –the rest come from Scotland, Wales, Ireland and America. Some of the dances are old; others are of recent composition but draw upon tradition. We put great emphasis on the event being fun for participants.
The dances nearly always work to a set pattern which is given by the "Caller". Until the early 20th century people usually knew their local repertoire of dances (this is still sometimes the case in Scotland). The caller makes prior knowledge unnecessary as s/he runs quickly through each dance before the music starts, demonstrating, if necessary, how the moves of the dance go. The caller is also responsible for picking the most suitable dances for any particular audience – what’s suitable for novices and what’s suitable for “experts” can vary a great deal.
The usual format for an event is for dancing to take up three or four hours, usually in two halves, with a thirty or forty-five minute interval at some point (the interval gives the audience a rest and a chance to socialise; it also gives the musicians a break). If you are serving food during the evening this is usually the best time to do so. The exact timing of the interval is usually agreed on the night. If requested, we can bring a CD player should you require background music during the interval etc. If you want us to play a particular CD of yours then let us know.
English country dancing/barn dancing requires a fair amount of room. No dance floor is likely to be too large. The dances often require the dancers to make a large circle, squares or “sets” of up to eight couples in two lines (men in one line, women in the other). There is a fair bit of movement around the floor required and it’s usual to have several sets dancing at the same time. Some venues lay out very small dance-floors surrounded by tables and chairs (usually intended to accommodate a few people dancing to a disco). It may be necessary therefore to ask the venue to move more tables and other obstructions out of the way than they usually would.
We occasionally find that the dance floor has been strewn with straw. Unfortunately this practice is unsafe as dancers can slip on the straw, with a consequent risk of injury.
Sometimes we find ourselves sharing a booking with a disco. It’s our experience that mixing a barn dance band with a disco requires a bit of careful programme planning. We would suggest that the disco, should you wish to hire one, only starts after the end of the barn dance. We’d particularly welcome a few minutes grace after the end of our performance before the disco starts (or at least, before lights are dimmed) to make it easier for us to dismantle equipment.
Helping us to help you make your event a success
Like all bands we use public address amplification as it means we can be heard clearly throughout the venue and means we’re not straining instruments, muscles or voices. We therefore require a safe supply of electricity, with at least two 13 Amp sockets, ideally within 20 feet (6 metres) of where the band is to play.
We also need space to set up two loudspeakers just in front and to the side of the place the band is to perform. These require a few square feet of space each, so please be aware of this if you wish to put tables, chairs etc. close to the “stage”. It’s also worth considering that those seating directly in front of speakers can find it a bit noisy.
We prefer to use a stage, if possible. If there is no stage available, we would appreciate a minimum performance area of 20 feet (6 metres) width by 10 feet (3 metres) depth.
If the venue is a barn or outbuilding, it is important that the stage or performance area is dry and fully protected from the weather.
As we have to sit down to play, we require five chairs on the stage/performance area.
Setting up and dismantling
We can set up equipment and carry out a soundcheck in under an hour, but we’d prefer to avoid a rush – it helps us get it right. The soundcheck stage of setting up, which is essential to get the best possible sound quality and balance of instruments, takes some time and involves running the amplifiers at a higher volume than will be used during the performance so there may also be some “feedback” (loud howling noises) during the sound-check. It may be advisable to consider whether or not to have the audience present at this time. As we need to be able to hear the instruments clearly to do this, we can’t soundcheck with other music being played in the room.
It takes us some time to dismantle, pack up and remove equipment, so we will need access to the venue after the performance ends.
For many kinds of entertainment the band is lit by stage lights or similar, while the audience is seated in a much lower level of lighting. For barn/country dancing however it is best to set the level of light so that the audience can easily see and find their way about the dance floor without running the risk of accidents.
If you have any concerns or questions please do not hesitate to contact us.
Phone Jason on 01782 813401 or 07778 913528 or email firstname.lastname@example.org