In the beginning, music was live. Before the phonograph was invented in 1877 and recordings became widespread (from about 1900), you had to hear a musician in person to hear music at all.
A more dramatic way of putting this is that music was performed in real-time for thousands of years and only recorded for 100 of them. When it boils down to it, music is essentially something that happens in the moment.
We at FixTheMusic want to encourage those moments to happen more often, particularly in the home. It’s not as expensive as you might think, and it can elevate a simple drinks gathering amongst friends to a night to remember. If you upgrade a dinner party to include live music, the performance may even become the centrepiece of the evening that everyone remembers.
Live music should not be limited to one-off events like weddings, funerals and birthdays ending in zero. It should be enjoyed regularly, and the more innocuous the occasion the better; your guests will arrive unassuming and leave feeling elated!
Last year I hosted a Burns’ Night dinner, Scotland’s unofficial public holiday celebrating the work of poet Robert Burns. The guest list was small – a handful of friends and family – and the food was classic (cock-a-leekie soup, haggis, neeps ’n’ tatties, and homemade trifle).
The highlight was hiring a London-based bagpiper to play outside in the street before the serving of the haggis.
It was a Saturday evening around 7:45pm when the bagpiper kicked off with Scotland the Brave.
Had it been a weekday or a later hour, our neighbours may have been less kind. As it happened the reedy tones and the uplifting medley caught the attention of many in the street, and one by one windows were thrown open to catch the tune.
Someone shouted ‘encore’ and the bagpiper duly obliged with a delightful uptempo folk number which gathered applause from both sides of the street.
We then invited him upstairs to play the Scottish smallpipes in our living room.
If the thought of enduring bagpipes indoors fills you with dread, think again.
The Smallpipes are a beautifully mellow instrument, well suited to indoor playing and background music, and the intimacy of hearing the instrument up-close, along with an explanation of how it works, made for a great break between our starter and main course.
Sure, you can be your own DJ and searching Spotify or YouTube for your favourite songs has never been easier, but it’s not quite the same as making personal requests when a musician is performing live in the flesh.
Have a look at some of our most popular UK party bands performing live...
A Burns supper is usually held around 25th January, and is just one of many dates worth putting in the diary alongside those of the saints (e.g. Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day), traditional English public holidays like May Day (morris dancing anyone?) and a whole host of festivals from around the world including Germany’s Oktoberfest and Mexico’s Day of the Dead.
There are musicians to suit all these occasions from solo violinist, brought in to serenade during a marriage proposal, to Spanish guitarists who specialise in Mariachi songs and repertoire.
But it’s not just official dates that can be celebrated with music. The point we’re making here is that your favourite music is always worth celebrating.
Try hiring a saxophonist or trumpet player to perform some jazz standards, or an acoustic guitarist or pianist to cover pop classics either in the background or accompanying a drunken singalong. A laptop playlist is all very well but it’s not the real thing. Why settle for a mud hut when you can bring the Empire State Building into your living room?
Submit an enquiry on FixTheMusic and we’ll help you find a superb local musician to transform your social gathering.
If you're planning your own dinner party, do you have any ideas for the live music or entertainment for the evening? Tell us in the comments section below!
— Myles recently completed his PhD in Music at the University of Cambridge, where he also manages commercial bookings for the recording studio in the Faculty of Music's Centre for Music & Science. Alongside FixTheMusic, Myles runs Eastwood Records, a London-based sound recording company.