A ceilidh (pronounced ‘kay-lee’) is a traditional dancing event of Irish (or sometimes Scottish) origin, led by a Celtic band. Put aside your preconceived notions about folk music – ceilidhs are some of the best fun you can have on two feet, and a perfect choice for weddings, parties, barn dances, fundraisers and any event where you want to get everyone up and dancing.
Ceilidh bands bring together a mix of fiddle, flute, tin whistle, accordion, bodhrán and hammered dulcimer to play jigs, reels, hornpipes, slides and polkas, often with a ‘caller’ to tell your guests how to perform each dance. No one needs to be an expert at a ceilidh, and they’re a great icebreaker where people can throw away their inhibitions.
A ceilidh band is the perfect choice to guarantee a memorable event. You can find a great selection of ceilidh and Irish bands to hire at Headliner, and here are some key questions to ask yourselves when organising your party:
1. What are the venue restrictions?
When it comes to booking an Irish band, you should make sure your venue is fit for purpose and that you’re aware of any issues that might come into play on the night. Firstly, be sure your intended space is big enough to accommodate a ceilidh in full swing or you’re on to a non-starter! Then it’s time to quiz the venue on any factors that will or could affect your band. Parking spaces, changing rooms, narrow access points, broken lifts – the more you know, the easier it will be to avoid any issues and prepare your ceilidh band for anything out of the ordinary.
If your venue is near a residential area, the venue may include a sound limiter1 to comply with noise laws, so it’s always worth your while to ask whether they have one.
2. What travel costs are involved?
Ceilidh band hire is likely to be more than just a matter of paying a flat booking fee. Getting the Celtic band to the venue can be at least as complicated as the performance itself, especially if a lot of musicians are involved – factoring in multiple vehicles, petrol, parking costs, time on the road and – if it’s a really late one – overnight accommodation.
Be sure to factor travel costs into your budget and bear in mind that the closer the ceilidh band is based to your venue, the easier and cheaper it is likely to be for everyone involved.
3. Are your timings realistic?
You don’t want to have to shell out more on your ceilidh band than you have to, and they certainly won’t want to be left waiting around for longer than they need to be. Discuss realistic timings with the Irish band you book, allowing for setup time and sound checks and avoiding leaving them waiting around for your event to get going. And if you do run over time, you will incur extra costs that you might not have factored in.
At the same time, remember that a certain amount of flexibility is always a good idea. Try to factor in some extra wiggle room so that your ceilidh doesn’t have to end just as your parents are finally drunk enough to join in with the dancing. No one wants that.
4. Do you need a caller?
Many ceilidh bands will offer a flexible lineup, and dependent on the size and budget of your event, you may want to go with anything from a three-piece band up. Most importantly, you’ll want to decide whether you need a caller – and unless you’re expecting your guests to all be Celtic dancing experts, the answer will probably be ‘yes’.
5. Are your band fed and watered?
You’ve hired your ceilidh band and got them settled in – now you can forget about them and focus on your guests, right? Well, not quite. Your band has basic needs, and to get the best out of them, you should make sure those needs are met. Make sure they have food and drink, and factor in sufficient breaks for them (making sure they know the way to the toilet and, if needs be, the smoking area while you’re at it). As for outrageous rider demands like flowers and puppies, you can meet or reject those at your own discretion!
6. Have you agreed on a setlist?
The Irish band you hire will do everything they can to accommodate your musical requests, but the name of the game is that unsexy word ‘compromise’. You might have a picture of your head of your dream setlist, but your ceilidh band are the experts on the best crowd-pleasers. If they suggest that a night of nothing but Riverdance may not be the best choice, you’d be wise to listen. Talk through your requests and hammer out a setlist that everyone is happy with.
7. Have you read the small print?
Last-minute surprise fees are liable to ruin your evening, so make sure you’ve checked out the terms and conditions of your contract with the band. As with your venue, the more you know in advance, the smoother things are likely to run.
1. Sound limiters are attached to the power supply and usually appear as a box with traffic lights on that respond to the decibels your band is putting out. Too long in the red and they will temporarily cut the power. This can seriously damage any electrical instruments your ceilidh band is rocking, as well as killing the mood.↩