St Martin-in-the-field choir hits the high note

Renowned music venue St Martin-in-the-Fields’ incredible choir, St Martin’s Voices, is now available to book for concerts and events.

The venue has a rich musical legacy from performances by Handel and Mozart to current day concerts and the venue has been at the forefront of music-making in London for centuries.

Formed in 2014, St Martin’s Voices now perform regularly in concerts and events both in the UK and internationally, including a recent tour to the southern US states, and represent the next step in St Martin’s musical journey.

For further information on booking St Martin’s Voices to sing for a Christmas dinner or reception at St Martin’s email events@smitf.org

How to plan live music at outdoor events

By Susan Heaton-Wright at Viva Live Music

Spring is now upon us and plenty of events are being organised for the summer. If live music is something you’re considering, here are 7 top tips to consider to ensure the venue is suitable and prepared and your musicians are well looked after:

1. Rain. Living in the United Kingdom, we are used to a variety of weather, even in the summer and it is wise and sensible to have a ‘plan B’ in place, in case it suddenly rains. In the case of musicians, there are health and safety issues when they are using electrical equipment and rain. If you insist they play outside, there must be cover of the equipment and instruments to avoid accidents. Also, many stringed instruments (e.g. violins, harps) will be damaged by rain, even a drop. Since these are very valuable, no string player will want to risk their instrument being damaged, so if in any doubt about the weather, provide temporary cover as a precaution. A good music company like Viva Live Music will advise you about this before the event.

2. Sunshine. Of course we want sunshine at your event! However, for some instrumentalists, this is a hazard. String instruments, in particular, could be damaged by direct sunlight and understandably musicians get jumpy if they are asked to play outside in sunshine. Provide a canopy or gazebo for the musicians to be seated under, or shade, then they’ll be happy. For bands, direct sunlight could cause hazard to their equipment, so do discuss this with the band before the event and if necessary provide shade or a gazebo.

3. Temperatures. If it is really hot, your musicians could wilt in heat; make sure you provide them with plenty of water and soft drinks! If it is cold, some musicians will struggle to keep their fingers moving after a period of time and instruments are more difficult to keep in tune. If necessary allow them to wear gloves and warmer clothing and provide a warm place for them to thaw out between their sets!

4. Access to power. Jazz bands, bands, dancers and singers require power. Make sure there is access to power sockets and have a discussion with your entertainment prior to the event and include this in your planning schedule. A good music company like Viva Live Music will highlight this requirement early on in the negotiation. Remember that any power provision must reach health and safety standards.

5. Noise levels. Some venues and localities have noise restrictions; either they are decibel level restrictions or timing restrictions. Some venues have a meter that measures decibel levels. It cuts off the power when music goes over this level. There is a venue in Hertfordshire that allows DJs and discos, but not ANY instrument, including a harp or string quartet, which are definitely quieter! So it is worthwhile checking what restrictions, if any, there are when planning. Ensure you inform the musicians and entertainers before the event to warn them.

6. Acoustics. Sound bounces on walls, but gets lost in a big field unless you have very powerful sound systems to enhance the sound. If you place an acoustic string quartet in the middle of a field, their beautiful sound is likely to be lost. Within a small space, such as a courtyard, any sound, including guests speaking, will be amplified. This is important if there are noise restrictions. An acoustic instrument like an accordion will sound louder than in a larger space. Take advice from your entertainment provider and if necessary place entertainment in a good spot to make the most of their music.

7. Wind. Wind plays havoc on sound! If you have been to an outdoor concert when there is strong wind, it sometimes affects the sound and quality of the music and entertainment. For musicians who have music, they always worry their music will blow away. If you can, put musicians in a sheltered place. They will provide clips for their music, but any shelter helps!

For bands and entertainment requiring sound systems, speak to the sound engineers so they have contingency plans in place to alter speaker locations if necessary.

We hope you have a great time organising your event and will use live music entertainment outside as part of your event! To discuss options for live entertainment, please talk to Viva Live Music.

Your London Christmas party venue guide

Fancy dress parties, indulgent feasts, pop-up supper clubs, intimate private dinners, glamorous costume balls, live gigs – festive shindigs come in all shapes and sizes, particularly in London where you’re literally swamped with destinations offering all sorts of weird and wonderful party packages. Here’s our round-up of some of the best places to make your Christmas snap, crackle and pop, whether it’s a work party or a memorable function for your most valued clients. Simply click the links below to read each feature…

Good, old-fashioned nostalgia: 1920s & 1940s

VIP gigs and the edible Sugar Palace

Your own private members club

Lights, camera, exhibition!

A classic Christmas knees-up

Christmas with a conscience

Roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and carols

Intimate, private dining celebrations

Work hard, play hard

Christmas party venues: Good, old-fashioned nostalgia: 1920s & 1940s

Smoking hot jazz and timeless Tom Collins gin cocktails meet authentic props within a rich wood-carved backdrop as 45 Millbank teams up with Seasoned Events and Fisher Productions to present The Walnut Supper Club, a unique party package inspired by booming 1920s America.

All-inclusive packages include exclusive hire of 45 Millbank, props and styling, vintage cocktail on arrival, either a three-course dinner or luncheon, or a bowl food reception, together with a 4.5-hour unlimited drinks package including beer and house wine, event lighting, DJ, music system and dance floor. Rates start at £50pp and are available with or without catering. Call 020 7514 8514 or email 45millbank@chelsea.arts.ac.uk for more information.

Continuing the glitz in roaring 1920s style is Kent House Knightsbridge, a glamorous townhouse bordering Hyde Park. Imagine you’re Downton Abbey’s Lady Rosamund Painswick as you sip exquisite cocktails and nibble on British-themed canapés at the piano bar in the Marble Hall, before you climb the majestic Grand Staircase to the Sanctuary, beautifully lit by the flickering hues of candelabra dressing the long-table banquet.

After supper, let your kiss curls bounce to the sounds of a top class DJ as the party continues in the bar and lounge. Prices start from £125pp, with capacity for 300 standing. To enquire call 020 7591 3838 or email events@kenthouseknightsbridge.org.

Over at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), the Downton Abbey theme continues within the surrounds of this leading surgical institution. Dine by candle light with an elegant three-course luncheon or supper featuring traditional Christmas fare.

Locations range from the stunning oak panelled Edward Lumley Dining Hall to the prestigious Council Chamber, where visitors are watched over by magnificent oil canvases, including a portrait by Reynolds of the distinguished surgical anatomist John Hunter. Suitable for groups of 10 to 250, prices start at £65 per person. Contact Christmas events planner Charlotte Edwards on 020 7869 6714 or email cedwards@rcseng.ac.uk.

Jive your way 1940s style into the secret wartime bunker that sheltered Sir Winston Churchill and his government during the Blitz and explore the underground maze of rooms at Churchill War Rooms that once buzzed with round-the-clock planning and plotting, strategies and secrets. Indulge in a sumptuous festive dinner, washed down with Pol Roger Champagne, Churchill’s favourite tipple, before swinging the night away to the nostalgic big band and scat jazz sounds of resident 1940s style four-piece band The Sweethearts.

Book places on a shared party night and enjoy a free round of drinks, or book and pay a deposit on your own exclusive event before 31 August and receive an exclusive Churchill Christmas Hamper. To discuss Christmas at Churchill War Rooms, call 020 3116 4469 or email cwr@sodexo.com.

More Christmas party venue options:

VIP gigs and the edible Sugar Palace

Your own private members club

Lights, camera, exhibition!

A classic Christmas knees-up

Christmas with a conscience

Roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and carols

Intimate, private dining celebrations

Work hard, play hard

Christmas party venues: VIP gigs and the edible Sugar Palace

8 Northumberland Avenue is pushing the boat out this year with two creative themes that will see you clock-watching until the silly season. This Christmas, The Old Billiard Room will transform into an enchanting fairy-tale playground. Think ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’s Kingdom of Sweets meets the White Witch’s Castle’.

A glittering silver and white colour scheme perfects a dazzling winter wonderland complete with edible trees, giant lollipops and a candy-man DJ. Nibble on whimsical spinning table centres and enter the dungeon sweet shop if you dare. But beware, The White Witch will be casting a spell over the evening and once guests have entered The Sugar Palace, they may never want to leave.

Alternatively, invite your guests to ‘Rock the Ballroom’ in a show-stopping, live gig extravaganza in the spectacular Victorian Ballroom, boasting soaring columns, dazzling arches and intricate ceilings dressed with vintage chandeliers. Guests will believe they’re watching top artists perform live on stage at their very own private gig thanks to ground-breaking 3D holographic technology developed by Musion – as famously seen during Coachella 2012, when Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg resurrected the late rapper Tupac Shakur as an on-stage hologram.

Package prices for both themes start at £70pp. Book early to avoid disappointment by calling 020 3263 1011 or emailing events@8northumberland.co.uk.

More Christmas party venue options:

Good, old-fashioned nostalgia: 1920s & 1940s

Your own private members club

Lights, camera, exhibition!

A classic Christmas knees-up

Christmas with a conscience

Roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and carols

Intimate, private dining celebrations

Work hard, play hard

 

Christmas party venues: Christmas with a conscience

Grade II listed 41 Portland Place, in London’s medical quarter, assigns a portion of the profits generated through venue hire to fund research activities run by the Academy of Medical Sciences. Christmas time brings the opportunity to support this initiative with a range of private banqueting options for up to 90 guests.

Choose from a festive buffet at £45pp or a more lavish VIP banquet at £65pp, which includes a Prosecco and canapé reception, a three-course dinner and half a bottle of house wine per guest. To enquire, call 020 3176 2177 or email ali@41portlandplace.com.

Seasonal socialisers who raise a glass of mulled wine at St Martin-in-the-Fields Christmas events this year can feel a warm and gratifying glow in the knowledge that all profits support the work of The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields, which provides vital services to thousands of homeless people every year, and the Vicar’s Relief Fund, which makes over 2000 crisis grants each year to people in extreme financial difficulty.

Investigate party options in the 18th century underground Crypt, with its atmospheric lighting and brick vaulted ceilings. It’s the perfect space for a grand dinner for up to 200 or to party with up to 350 people until the early hours of the morning. It also has its own live music license and late night license until 2.00am and the Trafalgar Square location means guests have easy access to late night public transport. To enquire, call 020 7766 1165 or email events@smitf.org.

More London Christmas party venue options:

Good, old-fashioned nostalgia: 1920s & 1940s

VIP gigs and the edible Sugar Palace

Your own private members club

Lights, camera, exhibition!

A classic Christmas knees-up

Roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and carols

Intimate, private dining celebrations

Work hard, play hard

Christmas party venues: A classic Christmas knees-up

Sometimes simple is best and the classic, warm and cosy Christmas around an open fire, with a slap-up turkey and all the trimmings, is a tradition best preserved.

At No.4 Hamilton Place you’re guaranteed a feast fit for a king or queen, with a superb ‘Regal Christmas’ spread within the luxury surrounds of this Edwardian town house featuring Louis XVI gilt cornicing, chandeliers, bow windows and a magnificent baroque staircase.

Enjoy a seated dinner, or opt for a more informal ‘grazing’ menu with unlimited house wine, beer and soft drinks, before throwing some royal shapes on the dancefloor. With crowns, coronets and tiaras in abundance, No.4 Hamilton Place offers the ultimate in majestically themed experiences for 50 to 300 partygoers. Regal Christmas lunches start at £54pp, bowl food and grazing menus at £74pp and seated dinners at £90pp. Call 020 7670 4314 or email christmas@4hp.org.uk.

An elegant luncheon or dinner awaits within the Georgian surrounds of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, in Mayfair, with two private dining rooms perfect for groups of 20 to 70 guests. Make your Christmas twinkle with a sparkling wine and canapé reception, followed by a three-course meal with half a bottle of wine per person. Exclusive room hire prices start from £470 for lunch and £500 for dinner, with catering priced at £67.50 per person. All Christmas bookings made and confirmed before 31st August will receive 10% off when quoting ‘TWC Christmas treat’.

Church House Conference Centre, nestled alongside Westminster Abbey in the exclusive Dean’s Yard, promises you’ll simply have a wonderful Christmas time with its excellent value sparkling wine reception and three-course yuletide dinner menu. The event deal incorporates half a bottle of wine, table decorations and crackers, a 4.5-hour beer, wine and soft drinks package, disco, DJ and lighting all for £75 per person, with options available for 50 to 350 guests. For receptions, capacity is available for up to 550. Call 020 7390 1590 or email sales@churchhouseconf.co.uk to enquire.

More Christmas party venue options:

Good, old-fashioned nostalgia: 1920s & 1940s

VIP gigs and the edible Sugar Palace

Your own private members club

Lights, camera, exhibition!

Christmas with a conscience

Roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and carols

Intimate, private dining celebrations

Work hard, play hard

Christmas party venues: Lights, camera, exhibition!

London Film Museum, Covent Garden’s newest events space, welcomes guests to get festive in its cellar rooms and main gallery, where up to 450 guests can mingle amongst the Lights, Camera, London! exhibition. It’s the first exhibition since the Museum of London’s pioneering ‘London on Film’, showing how London has been the setting of films for over a century.

Using extracts and stills, together with rare costumes and props, Lights, Camera, London! captures the capital’s diverse communities and its working life, including the once-famous markets, which can now only be seen on film. London’s leading role in music and fashion during the Sixties is also celebrated, alongside the writers whose careers it made, from Shakespeare to Dickens and Wilde.

Heroic images of London’s survival during World War II contrast with apocalyptic fantasies of the city being destroyed, while ‘Gaslight’ and ‘Underworld’ sections evoke the most popular images of the Victorian city, with its sinister secrets and the long tradition of London criminals and the detectives who pursue them.

This unique package starts from £95pp and includes private venue hire, a Prosecco drinks reception, a three-course dinner package or canapés and bowl food, unlimited beer, wine and soft drinks, plus exclusive access via Covent Garden Piazza and full access to the exhibition. Contact rob@lfmevents.com or call 0207 202 7042 for more details.

More Christmas party venue options:

Good, old-fashioned nostalgia: 1920s & 1940s

VIP gigs and the edible Sugar Palace

Your own private members club

A classic Christmas knees-up

Christmas with a conscience

Roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and carols

Intimate, private dining celebrations

Work hard, play hard

Christmas party venues: Your own private members club

Many people may not know that Mayfair private members club The Lansdowne Club can be hired for private and corporate events. The Grand Ballroom is magnificent with its Art Deco styling, vaulted ceilings and minstrel galleries and this Christmas the club opens its doors to reveal an all-inclusive party package for a very affordable £110 per person. Available for parties of 50-150, this rate includes ballroom hire, arrival drinks, an extravagant three-course meal with wine, plus unlimited drinks from the bar and a superb DJ.

Some key December dates remain available if you’re quick. Call 020 7318 6117 or email lucymannering@lansdowneclub.com and quote ‘XMAS13TWC’ to receive a 10% discount.

If a glamorous and classy black and gold themed sparkling wine reception whets your whistle, the Victory Services Club, near Marble Arch station, is a fabulous option. Dine amongst glittering Christmas trees with three courses, plus mini mince pies, for just £53 per person, before hitting the dance floor to the sounds of the club DJ. For further details, call 020 7616 8354 or email events@vsc.co.uk.

More Christmas party venue options:

Good, old-fashioned nostalgia: 1920s & 1940s

VIP gigs and the edible Sugar Palace

Lights, camera, exhibition!

A classic Christmas knees-up

Christmas with a conscience

Roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and carols

Intimate, private dining celebrations

Work hard, play hard

 

How to work with professional musicians

By Susan Heaton Wright, managing director, Viva Live Music

Event planners have frequently revealed to me that one of their biggest fears is that the entertainers won’t show up, that they’ll behave badly or will disappoint. This saddens me because great live entertainment enhances an event making it truly memorable for guests.

Having been a musician myself, I still have memories of naughty musicians who make my toes curl in shame. However, I believe any problems have been caused by one or more of the following:

  1. Communication
  2. Riders
  3. Alcohol
  4. Fees

1) Communication: A good contract, which states everything you, the client require, is a must. By clearly stating what time you wish the entertainers to arrive, what they should wear, details of the entertainment and the event, when they should be set up by, you reduce any misunderstanding on the night.

When I was a musician, I arrived at an event to be greeted with the outburst: ‘Where is your Tudor costume?’ The agent had not included this information in the contract and in my pre-event telephone call, the client didn’t mention this. There is no way I could have known this information. I was the target of an angry client!

I would always advise putting timings into the contract very clearly. Not all entertainers look at contracts in detail. I would recommend you ask for all the entertainers to be at the venue at a specific time, so you can ‘tick them off’. Also, ask for mobile numbers in case of emergencies and speak to the entertainers before the event to develop a rapport.

It is also absolutely fine to ask entertainers or their representative to adjust volume levels, change music or even timings during the evening. I would recommend you just touch base after each set to keep the rapport going. It is too late to give feedback after the event ends.

2) Riders: The beloved of the tabloid press, world famous artists’ riders are incredible: cream sofas, Jo Malone candles, room for 30 minders – these are the norm for them! However, riders are there to ensure entertainers are able to do their job properly. A chef has requirements to enable him/her to cook and it is the same for entertainers.

Entertainers do need somewhere SAFE to leave their personal belongings and equipment. I have heard many stories of entertainers doing their work and finding their wallets, handbags and clothes stolen from the insecure room in which they had left their belongings.

At Viva Live Music, we always send a reasonable rider: provide a room for the entertainers (it is important as they will want to let off steam when they have performed, but also for changing), soft drinks, refreshments and somewhere secure to leave personal belongings.

Some events also require technical riders, which we confirm in writing and verbally. However, we have had two recent situations where the production company failed to bring any of the equipment confirmed in the contract and detailed rider. Our entertainers were put in an impossible position of potentially performing without vital equipment. The production company sorted it out, but I have no doubt they blamed the musicians when it was their fault.

Feeding entertainers

Some clients ask why entertainers should be fed. If you are asking them to arrive at 6pm to set up and to play until midnight, then take the equipment away, that is a long time. It is tiring and often the venues either don’t have any food to order on the night or it is very expensive. Most venues will provide a ‘Suppliers’ dinner’, which is more basic and cost effective. As a rule, if they are performing for two hours or more, or are required to be at the venue for at least two hours, you should provide them with a snack and soft drinks. If performing for more than two  hours, a hot meal is required.

3) Alcohol: This is never a good idea when performing and I am sure you want to avoid the Blues Brothers’ gig scenario where ‘The fee was $200 but your band drank $300 from the bar.’

We have a policy of no alcohol while performing; the client should provide only soft drinks. However, some clients wish to ‘thank’ the entertainers or make them feel part of the party by having free access to the bar. I always recommend clients to offer drinks after they have finished, a gesture that is very welcomed!

4) Fees: In this age of limited budgets, all event planners are wanting to reduce spending on suppliers. However, there is a fee level threshold that if you go below it, there is no guarantee the entertainers will show up.

We have recently had enquiries for a cover band and DJ/disco for £800 on a Saturday night and an Irish band to play on St Patrick’s Day for £250. In both cases, Viva Live Music wasn’t able to assist because the fee levels were too low for professional musicians.

We use minimum fees as recommended by the Musicians’ Union and Equity as we only use professional performers and if you want reliable, high quality entertainment, you have to pay a reasonable rate for it. Clients don’t necessarily realise that the entertainer isn’t just working for three hours at the venue, but also the time rehearsing, planning the entertainment and his/her years of acquiring expert skills.

A number of clients look on the Internet for the best price, but entertainment isn’t a product and the quality of the entertainers, including their experience and expertise, does cost more. We regularly hear cases of DJs or entertainers having let down a client at short notice. In most cases they were booked at the pub, from the internet, or because they were a friend of a friend.

To discuss your event entertainment and to ensure it is stress free, do give me a call on 0844 576 3015 or email enquiries@vivalivemusic.co.uk.