Over the years we have done many of these, and we really enjoy doing them.
We’ve performed in private sitting rooms and in all the great ballrooms of the best London hotels. We’ve sung in the Dartmouth Bandstand and on the roof of a Devon folly. We’ve sung Sew on a Sequin to 10,000 happy homosexuals at Gay Pride.
We’ve performed on a Kenyan beach, and Russell and I did a very peculiar gig in Palma, Majorca, singing from a palazzo balcony to a largely German-speaking audience of speed-boat fanatics seated about 300 metres away.
So we’ll go anywhere, anytime. However, there’s always a good way of doing a private gig and and a lousy one, and we thought it might be useful if we gave some indications of our requirements and reccommendations.
The main problem we encounter is that few people realise that there is much more to putting us on than people ever realise - which is a compliment, because it makes me realise that we’ve made it look simpler than it is.
If you’re planning a party at home, it’s important that the guests are comfortable but that they can also see us. If there are more than 60-70 people in the room, the sightlines can become a problem because the minute the pianist sits down, he/she disappears from the view of people at the back.
Lighting and Sound Equipment
Lighting and sound equipment can usually be hired from the same firm. It is best to get some kind of professional lighting, two large lamps on a bar x 2 will do the trick in a large drawing room or marquee, because it looks rather dismal without some kind of light. Basically, if the guests can’t see our lips move, they won’t hear the words.
Every room has different accoustic requirements and a site visit will decide what these are. However, it’s a good rule of thumb to say that if there are more than 80 people in the room, we will probably need sound equipment plus someone competent to operate the sound. This is because once you get 3 people singing, you can’t just turn on the system and hope it works, you have to have someone to balance the voices and work out the best way of micing each voice. We can recommend companies who do this job extremely well.
Marquees and hotel ballrooms
It’s best to provide a small stage or podium, which will mean that everyone gets a good view. We will either do a site visit or work from a ground plan to advise on the best place to put the stage.
We will work with an upright if the stage is very confined, though they can look a bit naff, especially the little cocktail pianos. Larger upright pianos, however, usually make for sightline difficulties, because they frequently hide the pianist from about a quarter of the guests. We prefer a grand - a 5’ 6” grand is fine, a 5’ will do if that is genuinely all you can fit - but anything smaller won’t be good enough. Sadly, we don’t work with electric pianos.
We have a very good relationship with a piano hire company, and are happy to advise.
Over the years, our experience has taught us that a 35-45 minute spot is quite enough. After all, the audience has come for a party, not for a show. If we are performing at a formal sit-down dinner, the best moment is to go on once the coffee has been served. The audience is warmed up but not too rowdy!
This can be difficult as the sound disappears on the slightest puff of wind and we can’t be heard at a distance of further than three feet (true). Thus, we can’t do it without good sound equipment.
If you feel that you would like us to sing at your party, conference or works do, please do call our agent, Gavin Barker, on 020 7499 4777 or visit his website www.gavinbarkerassociates.co.uk