Nothing gets people up and dancing like a ceilidh band. A ceilidh is a traditional dance night where everyone joins in, regardless of age or ability, and it's a great way to meet lots of people in a fun, informal way.
A professional Irish band, Scottish dancing band or English ceilidh band is the driving force behind all this fun and laughter, not just providing the music but also teaching everyone how to do the dances. And just in case people forget when the dance starts, the 'caller' will be giving instructions as you go, so you always know what's coming next! No experience is required, and the caller will make sure they play fast dances and slower ones so you have time to catch your breath.
What Is A Ceilidh?
Ceilidh (pronounced ‘kay-lee’) is a Scottish Gaelic word but is very close to the Irish word célidhe, so you'll enjoy a real mixture of Scottish, Irish and English folk music to dance to. (That's why they are also often referred to as Scottish bands or as Irish bands.) Most ceilidh bands feature a minimum of two players (fiddle and accordion) plus a caller, but most have more players, adding in guitar, drums (which may be a full kit or a more traditional handheld Irish drum called a bodhran), guitar, keyboards and flute or traditional whistles.
The dances are all based on simple steps and formation, usually a square, circle or two long lines that stretch down the room. Ceilidh dances have quaint names like Strip the Willow, The Oxo Reel, La Rouse, The Circassian Circle, Cumberland Square 8, Dashing White Sergeant, The Gay Gordons, Eightsome Reel, and Canadian Barn Dance, which reveal their origins, but don’t think they are all dainty and slow - ceilidh dances can be fast and furious too!
There's also a new generation of ceilidh bands who take the traditional tunes and mix' em up for a more modern, fresh and highly energetic sound that blends rock, funk and folk into an irresistible party sound. And for those who love the energy of barn dances and hoedowns, book an American dance band for authentic sounds and dance moves, perfect for Western themed evenings or family parties. (Keep your eyes peeled, partner, for our blog about barn dance bands, coming soon.)
Ready To Dance?
With so much (potential) energy involved, they will usually start their first set of dances about an hour after people have eaten, to make sure your guests are not jigging about on a full stomach! Your band can therefore arrive as you finish your meal, and setup while people mingle. They will usually play background music from a laptop or iPod once they have set up their PA system until they start playing.
They will also need to do a sound check to ensure everyone can hear the music and the caller, who usually uses a handheld microphone so they can wander amongst the dancers and make sure everyone has got the right idea!
Call To Action!
Once your band gets started, the caller will teach everyone the dance in under 5 minutes. Then, everyone dances together for 5-10 minutes depending on how many guests you have. On average, a room full of 100 guests will hear and enjoy a ceilidh band with their normal PA setup, but if you have more guests or a very large room, ask the band to bring a more powerful PA. (They won't crank it up too loud, never fear!)
After an hour, your band will take a break, and most of your guests will head straight for the bar and a refreshing drink, or outside for a sit-down and a cool down! Don't worry if your party, wedding or corporate event includes people of varying ages; ceilidh dances are designed so that you can pretty much take them at your own pace. For example, the young and fit can gallop down the lines, but older folk walk more sedately, and even if Great-Grandma doesn't want to get up and dance herself, she'll very much enjoy watching everyone else having such fun together.
After a suitable break, they will start up again, perhaps playing a couple of tunes without dancing to ease people back into the mood. Most bands then gradually pick up the pace to a rousing finale, or if preferred, a gentle waltz to finish with so everyone relaxes into the next phase of the evening. As they pack up, the band can again play background music if required, but remember this will only last until they pack up their PA system!
Ceilidh Bands; Great Fun, Great Value
For sheer enjoyment and entertainment, a ceilidh dance band is terrific value for money. Most bands require very little in the way of equipment provided by you, as they bring their own, and setup times are usually quite short compared to function bands. However, any professional band does need a good space to perform in, and might want a raised stage to keep them clear of the end of the line of dancers. Apart from that, you only need provide some chairs and perhaps a table - ask your band or your Alive Network event co-ordinator for their requirements. Of course, they will need access to a 13 amp socket or two as well, for their PA system, and for any lights they may use.
Do remember that while you are having fun, they are working hard, so as with all live entertainers, always offer your band a full meal (not sandwiches) and plenty of soft drinks, free of charge.
How To Book Your Ceilidh Band
You’ll find lots of ceilidh bands here at Alive Network to choose from; simply click on the link in the left hand column and browse each band’s Profile to hear demo tracks, view their dance and song repertoire and, in most cases, watch a video too. From the young energy of Gypsy Rogues and Rabscallion to the highly experienced players of The Black Velvet Band and Scottish ceilidh band Last Dram, there’s always good music to dance to from Alive Network!