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 [email protected]

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.

Army & Navy Club to host talk on Britain’s war time songs

Join The Army & Navy Club at an interactive talk by Oskar Cox-Jenson, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Music Department of King’s College London, on Wednesday 3 June. Oskar’s talk will explore the songs and battle ballads as sung by British soldiers marching on Paris, by romantic poets in London Parlours and, most importantly, by ordinary men and women in Britain’s streets, homes and pubs.

The Waterloo Singers, a group of folk musicians and historians specialising in the music of the Napoleonic Wars, will accompany Oskar during the talk, which promises to bring to life the Waterloo songs in all its grisly tragedy and raw emotion – be it treason, pride, love or hatred.

The talk will commence promptly at 18.00 at the Army & Navy Club (36 Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5JN). Please allow approximately one hour for the talk.

There is no charge to attend the event, however tickets must be pre-booked by contacting Elana Kruger by emailing [email protected] by Monday 1st June 2015.

Michael Jackson hologram tech available at 8 Northumberland Ave

A hologram of Michael Jackson graced the stage of the 2014 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday 18 May, when the late King of Pop ghost-walked the moon walk in a performance of newly released single ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ from his posthumous album ‘Xscape’. It’s an album made up of unreleased material remixed by artists such as Timbaland.

The digital projection mirrored many of the pop icon’s signature moves and was accompanied on stage by a troupe of real-life dancers. It was an act that captivated viewers around the world, using technology previously seen in the ‘resurrection’ of rapper Tupac Shakur at Coachella 2012 and deceased rappers Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Eazy-E in 2013. The Westminster Collection also used it to bring tourism expert Tracy Halliwell to the stage at Destination Westminster 2013 venue showcase.

Event bookers can replicate similarly mind-boggling marvels at central London event venue 8 Northumberland Avenue, where the very same holographic technology is available for hire. 8 Northumberland Avenue was the first venue in the UK to partner with Musion, the world leader in 3D holographic technology.

Options for entertainment include an all-singing Frank Sinatra plus a number of other modern day and retro acts. To explore the Ballroom as a setting for your next event, or for information on booking holographic entertainment and performances at your next product launch, party or conference, click here.

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 [email protected].

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: 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 [email protected] 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

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 [email protected].


The Maitre d’ of events

By Susan Heaton Wright, company director, Viva Live Music

We all know how essential it is for an event to be well organised and delivered smoothly. We also know how unforeseen snags; from technical problems, delays in the kitchen and bad weather can create a crisis even at the best planned event. The key to success is ensuring the client isn’t aware of any snags or incidents, prior to, during or after an event.

The analogy of a swan swimming serenely on the water, whilst under water he is paddling frantically is appropriate for any event. What happens behind the scenes may well be a challenge, but the client doesn’t need to see or know about it.

An event is theatre. The audience, the performance, backstage. Yet what happens backstage with all the creativity, troubleshooting and hands on activity could unrest even the calmest of clients. To the untrained eye, backstage at the Royal Opera House or The National Theatre hours before a performance might be perceived as ‘chaos’, nevertheless, the highly skilled and experienced teams of technicians, stage crew, artistes and support staff all know what they are doing and are working to strict time deadlines. They are being co-ordinated by a stage manager, who takes charge of the performance interpreting the director’s vision; working with the different teams to deliver the vision, ensuring the performance is delivered on time and runs smoothly.


For an event the client is the audience who expect a flawless performance; the event manager is the director; the waiting staff, chefs and entertainers create the performance and the venue and technical staff form the discrete team backstage and finally the stage manager who I have renamed the maître d’ of events.

The event manager should be the public face of the event for the client. They should be reacting to anything the client says on the night and then relaying this to the maitre d’ who is then able to liaise with the relevant people. They will also be the person key teams report to so if there is a technical issue or there is a delay in the kitchen he is able to provide a solution; adjusting timings for example, without panicking the client. It is useful if the maitre d’ is also technically minded; an extra pair of hands to move equipment quickly; monitor sound levels or even change a plug at short notice (yes this has happened!) can be extremely helpful. The event manager, who is ‘front of house’ does not need to be hands on with situations such as these but can be kept in touch with proceedings by the maitre d’. They can also relay any requests from the client to the maitre d’ who will act upon them.

An example of an event that has successfully used a “maître d” was an outdoor themed afternoon celebrating the Independence Day (4th July) with a barbeque, live band, cheerleading displays, a brass band, and children’s entertainers. Everyone was signed in by the maitre d’, who was liaising with the catering; co-ordinating timings of the entertainers and overseeing the technical set ups basically ‘running the show’.

Given his technical background, he was able to step in when there was a problem with the sound system. He had a contingency plan for bad weather and when it rained, he reacted quickly, moving the entertainers and guests into a banqueting hall inside where he had already set up a small sound system – just in case. The event manager, who was not technically minded, was able to liaise directly with the client, and reassure him that everything was running smoothly.

Having a maitre d’ or stage manager meant that the event could be managed ‘backstage’ whilst maintaining a professional, high quality event ‘front of house’. For many clients, this is what they want and the addition of a maitre d’ is an invaluable and inexpensive addition to an events team.

Imagine The Event

By Adam Sternberg, Sternberg Clarke

You’re being carried out of the venue on the shoulders of your guests; they’re chanting your name their faces beaming, a pregnant woman comes up to you and promises to name her unborn child after you, your client gives you a long, slightly awkward hug and whispers ‘we should do this more often’ into your ear (you’re unsure if the client means the event or the hug.) You’re shown into a taxi that takes you home, the attendees behind you wave as they shrink away in the rear view mirror. In hushed reverent tones, the taxi driver asks “What do you do” to which you reply “I supply entertainment for events.”

Now work backwards from there. “How did I get here? What did I do right?”

As suppliers of entertainment, we’re responsible for a large part of the ‘feel’ of an event and whilst we’ve not got anything to do with seating plans or the choice of wine glasses, we know that setting (and maintaining) the tone is crucial when it comes to choosing acts. It all comes back to that all important question “What do you want your guests to take away from this event?” It could be an idea, it could be a feeling, it could be a memory it could be a small branded bag with a selection of soaps – but when you know what it is you want your event to achieve, everything else starts to fall into place.

Spelbound performing for Santander

How do you reward your best employees whilst reinforcing the idea of teamwork? You could give them a gold watch with the word “TEAM” inscribed on the wrist strap. Or you could be clever about it. We recently booked Spelbound for a performance in Madrid as part of Santander’s Retail Recognition incentive for their best performers. Watching the troupe perform individual feats of strength and balance whilst working as part of a synchronized unit the message was clear – it’s possible for individuals to do incredible things as part of a larger unit.

Ernst and Young

In certain cases, understanding parts of the event that we’re not involved with is vital to the success of the entertainment. For Ernst & Young our brief was to provide bespoke entertainment which complimented a photography exhibition by John Stezaker at the Whitechapel Gallery. Here, the exhibition was the main draw but the challenge was finding entertainment that enhanced the experience without distracting from the photographs themselves. Living statues, ribbon dancers and crystal ball manipulators on plinths, all costumed and styled to suit the black white and yellow colour theme. With subtle but contemporary makeup and styling provided for all catering staff, we transformed the event into a work of art in itself, picking up on the “two halves” theme of the company with pairs of plinths and strolling musical duos improvising over ambient DJ music.

Glee Flashmob for a 30th Birthday Party

The message doesn’t always have to be corporate. At a recent 30th birthday party, we organized a Glee themed flashmob to burst into a meticulously choreographed song and dance routine at the start of the event. This immediately creates an air of unpredictability for the rest of the event, an electric atmosphere where anything could happen… and it pretty much did – we followed up the flashmob with an Abba tribute, flame jugglers and acrobalancers. By using high impact acts at the right time and charting the high points and lulls in an evening, you can keep people engaged all night – what a way to welcome in your 30s!

Costumed Actors for Landis + Gyr

Sometimes an event can lay down the gauntlet to your guests – after a conference for Energy Metering where experts Landis + Gyr shared the ideas behind a new Smart Metering grid, we provided authentically costumed actors playing historical figures central to the discovery and harnessing of electricity at the Science Museum. The actors performed three short scenes (written specially for the event) intended not only to entertain, but also inspire the guests to use new technology and social media to innovate in their field. Mixing in a little tongue in cheek humour and a touch of flattery, the scenes challenged Landis + Gyr to try new things, take risks and take their place alongside the likes of Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin.

By having a clear idea of the goals of the event, it’s possible to connect with your guests to a far greater degree than all of the speeches and slideshows you can throw at them.

Choosing the Right Music for your Event

By Susan Heaton Wright, company director, Viva Live Music


Selecting the right sort of live music for an event is just as vital a decision as the venue, catering style and time of day. Live music creates an ambience and memorable atmosphere if correctly chosen. So here are some top tips for ensuring you choose the right music for your event:

Type of event: If you are organising a reception with a ‘networking’ element to it, or a dinner where socialising is a key factor, loud music isn’t going to work. On the other hand, after dinner entertainment where guests want to dance will require a band playing louder music.

Venue: The size of the venue is crucial. A harpist playing in a large hall with high ceilings is likely to get lost. Likewise, a large band playing in a small room is going to be overpowering, with the sound being ‘muddied’. Choose the size of your musical ensemble and instruments based on the size of your room. Also, if you have a space with two or more rooms, you will need to consider where to locate the musicians.

Size of the event: A small event with 20 guests is unlikely to require as loud background music as a larger event, however, it is down to personal taste as to whether a large band is required later on.

Theme of the event: There are plenty of musical styles that theme an event just as much as dressing a venue or the catering on offer. A steel band or a Scottish Piper serenading guests creates an impact as people arrive. Flamenco musicians and dancers or a jazz band, for after dinner entertainment will enhance an event creating a dun and lively vibe. When you are researching a themed event, consider music as well as the food; it makes a huge difference.

Time of day: A day time event usually involves an element of networking with guests wishing to speak to and meet new people. Loud music doesn’t work in these situations. As the evening progresses, guests relax and with the formalities aside, may consider dancing. More often than not, the volume and energy of the music will increase as the evening draws on.

Acoustic of the venue: Some venues are louder than others. Rooms with plenty of fabric and wood absorb sound better than venues with hard or metal surfaces – where sound tends to echo more. The latter is more of a challenge because people’s voices will also echo.

Location: If the event is outside, you will need to consider where to place the musicians. Musicians that play valuable instruments will need to keep them out of direct sunlight and rain. Acoustic instruments such as string quartets and harps will need to be situated next to a wall, so that the sound will carry.

Volume of music and restrictions: A number of venues have restrictions on the level of volume. It is worthwhile checking this when choosing the venue as some venues allow recorded music but not live music.

Space available: If there is limited space, you will be restricted in the size of ensemble you choose. Some instruments can be relatively close to each other and take up less space than others. Calculate the area available and ask the musicians if they can perform within that area.

Instruments available: Maximise the use of resources on offer, if there is a Steinway Grand piano available at the venue, it seems a shame not to use it. Pianists could play classical/crossover music, or a jazz pianist would be thrilled to perform.

Age groups: Generally, as we get older, we appreciate loud music less and music taste will vary between different age groups. We always recommend discussing the music with the musicians and to agree a range of musical styles before the event to suit different tastes. A dance band may well offer music from the 1960s through to today’s chart hits to cover a range of musical preferences.

Live music or more specifically the right music makes a huge difference to the success of an event. Make sure you ask your music supplier the right questions. Ask yourself what role you wish the musicians to play at the event and remember to take the above points in to account.