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We continue to put together short music programs! This has proved to be a lot of fun, especially when there are several people involved in the process. We've developed and presented an Irish play list and a Polka play list. Each program will ran for about an hour or so.
We worked with a caller to present contradance sets, with great success! Knowing the caller, and what dances they will use helps in selecting tunes... jigs, reels, slower tempo vs driving tunes... when it all works together it's a rewarding experience for all involved.
The latest music program is an hour of French/Canadian and Old-Time music. It's fun to see how many tunes we know, and how to work them into sets that are easy to play and fun to listen to.
Considerations in assembling a music program are many.
Know your audience, as well as the organizers. It pays to be prepared and to present a program that is appropriate. If there are sound issues or space limitations, you want to know before you get there. Find out if there is enough electrical service and check out the lighting. Schedule according to band members' availability, verify the date, and finalize any contractual agreements in writing.
A cohesive sound sets the tone, for the musicians as well as the audience. Choosing tunes from a particular genre, or style can help to create a mood, and tagging onto a holiday or special event can help direct the choice of music also. Though not necessary to dress in theme, it can be a fun way to set the mood especially for a holiday event.
Selecting tunes that are fun for the musicians to play is key. If the musicians are having fun playing, that energy will come through the instruments and everyone has fun! Choosing a tune that is appropriate might be necessary, but if it's not a favorite tune, consider using it in a medly full of other things that you DO like. If you have a signature piece, work it into the program.
Playability keeps things rolling along smoothly. Think about how tunes flow from one to another, especially in medleys or sets. Changing key can either build interest or create chaos, and it's up to the musicians to practice the transitions so they're seamless and lean more toward the former. Play to your audience! It can make a difference if you're playing for children, mixed ages, or special interest groups. With fiddle tunes, remember that the tune names mean nothing to the audience so they'll not likely acknowledge that you're playing I Buried My Wife at a wedding... but it might make a difference to the musicians!
Overall listening appeal can be enhanced by structuring your performance. Think of it as taking your audience on a journey. Start with something fairly easy to play... this serves as a warm up for the musicians as well as a sound check. This also helps your audience settle in by getting a feel for what they're going to be hearing. Present tunes that are familiar to the audience next, to capture their interest and get their toes tapping along. Midway through your program you might consider slowing things down slightly, offering a ballad or slow air. After this is a great time to pick up the tempo with some of your more complicated tunes that have high energy. Save your favorite high energy tunes for the end of your program... these will be the pieces that you know well and pour yourself into playing. This leaves your audience wanting more. Whether or not you do an encore is personal preference.
Practice, practice, practice. Practice the individual tunes as well as the program! Know where the tricky spots are and work them out before you get to the stage! Determine what special techniques each band member will present, and know how to back each other up. Be prepared with some jokes and short stories to fill in between sets.
And have fun. As amateur musicians, the tendency can be to get stressed about playing in front of folks. Choose events that are community oriented to start... the pressure from the audience is a lot less than booking a gig at a concert hall where all eyes and ears are on you! Mental preparation is important, too. Entertaining people sounds a lot less stressful than performing for an audience. Seating that has the musicians arranged facing toward one another is less tense than everyone facing out toward the audience. Acknowledge pre-show jitters with your band, you'll probably all be experiencing this at some level. Sharing your feelings helps put things in perspective.
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