-Running A Ceilidh-

Why do I need a caller?

What’s the difference between a Barn Dance and a Ceilidh (pronounced kaylee)?

What music do I need?

What instruments are used?

The Venue?

Do I need to get amplification and how loud is it?

The Evening?

How early do we need to book?

Why do I need a caller?

A caller is there to arrange a balanced program, to demonstrate or teach the dances as well as prompt call, and to tell the band what rhythms to play. Also to coordinate anything that you may wish to happen during the evening, be it speeches, raffle or call the guests up for food, in fact he acts as a Master of Ceremonies.

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What’s the difference between a Barn Dance and a Ceilidh (pronounced kaylee)?

Not a lot! Although some would say that a Ceilidh should include song spots whereas others would say that it uses more lively music, usually jigs and polkas. The main purpose of either is enjoyment.

Robin likes to include a good variety of rhythms, jigs; reels; waltzes as well as polkas and hornpipes, also a variety of formations – Set dances; couples; long set and circles, sometimes even with 2 partners.

An evening can be slightly themed with an emphasis on perhaps Scottish or American and will usually include English, Welsh, Irish or Continental dances but none of these include “Line Dancing” and none of them are “Country and Western”

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What music do I need?

A live band helps to create a good atmosphere and it does not really matter how many musicians are there. What matters is that they can produce a good lively and danceable sound. All the bands that Robin uses do that.

There is however a choice with costs in mind, some bands may contain four or more musicians (at least one has 12) which are usually slightly dearer.

It is also possible to get Duos of even a Solo instrument. But these need to be chosen with care. As an alternative, if numbers or funds are low, then Robin will bring recorded music. He actually uses computers with a wide selections of bands available.

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What instruments are used?

The most usual are an accordion or concertina; fiddle, guitar or banjo and some bands include drums whilst some of the larger or noisier use brass instruments.

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The Venue

Over the years we have run ceilidhs in a variety of venues including castles; hotels; village halls; barns; marquees as well as outside. Wherever it is held please bear in mind one or two points.

The band needs to be on a dry level base with no risk of rain; falling off the trailer or being trampled by the dancers, all of which we have had.

Barns are very atmospheric but they are also very dusty and if they have concrete floors they are very hard on the dancers’ feet and legs. If this is a fund raiser please check with your local council to make sure that you are covered for dancing in the premises.

If in a marquee, put the band at the top of any slope (Then the dancers go away from not on top of the band). Make sure that any floor covering is extremely well fixed, we don’t want anyone tripping over the joins.

Also please the electricity must be 100% safe and properly earthed.

Consider that it may get cold later in the evening, think of musicians fingers.

Once again if a fund raiser check legalities.

Whatever the room there would also be adequate lighting the caller needs to see the dancers, to help if necessary, and some bands like to be able to see their music.

An ideal venue would be large enough for the dancing and sitting out, bearing in mind we need much more room than a disco, with plenty of room to gallop etc. Often the nearer to square the better.

This room would preferably contain all of interest, where there is a separate bar or lounge it is often difficult for the caller to communicate with the other rooms and there can be a loss of atmosphere.

If you are also booking a disco please ensure that there is room for both band and disco to set up.

Occasionally we run the entire evening on a small square in the hotel dining room this can be very difficult and also risky if dancers go “over the edge” it is much preferable to have a slightly larger area on the carpet.

Regardless of the room you have we can work something out to make things buzz.

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Do I need to get amplification and how loud is it?

No, all bands provide their own.

The volume level is usually much lower that of discos or a pop band. This gives guests a chance to talk as well as dance. Should you want a bigger sound or louder band this can usually be arranged.

Robin uses a radio microphone and has a second one for your use for speeches or running the raffle.

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The Evening

Please tell the caller before the start if you have any special wishes; time of interval; finishing time; guest spots.

Usually we run two dances then a short break for the dancers to collapse, get a drink and recover during which the bands often play something, then two more etc. Normally we would like an interval during which refreshments or raffles can take place to save losing dancing time.

Please consider whether you can offer the band refreshments.

Don’t forget that if you have not done so already the band and caller will need paying. It is much nicer if you offer before they have to ask and please don’t let “the man with the money” go home early (It has happened).

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How early do we need to book?

If you want a particular date or band contact your caller at least 6-12 months in advance but if you are more flexible perhaps for a village social then 3 months may be early enough.

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