Wedding musicians Rock My Reception and their take on a recent wedding in Middlesex….
If ever you get invited to a wedding one of the first things you’ll notice is the wide age range of guests. Some people occasionally choose to have a child-free wedding, though generally, children are considered an integral part of the wedding party. At the other end of the scale are the grandparents who can sometimes be into their 80’s or even 90’s. For a wedding band such as Rock My Reception, it is our responsibility to cater for all ages, but what songs do you choose for the octogenarian guests?
Last week we had the pleasure of playing an evening reception at the Grims Dyke Hotel in Middlesex. A grand building once owned by dramatist W.S. Gilbert. The guest age range here spanned from early 30’s to early 80’s. We began by playing as guests drifted in and out to get their post-dinner drinks. As many of the guests were a similar age to us we started off by playing the usual indie classics like ‘There She Goes’-by the La’s and ‘Sally Cinnamon’ by The Stone Roses. After half an hour many of these guests had gone to the bar in the adjacent room and we were left with about ten elderly couples. Now, quite often, people of a more senior age prefer to stay seated and take in the ambience from the comfort of their chairs, occasionally taking a sip of their drink. However, these particular guests were an exception: They wanted to party! Because of their apparent age demographic, we wanted to get the song choice right for them- mainly keeping within the 1940’s to 1960’s range. Buddy Holly is always a good bet and translates well for acoustic bands. Tennessee Ernie Ford’s 1956 hit ‘Sixteen Tons’ is another classic, almost guaranteed to anybody of advancing years tapping their feet. Another song we’ve recently started playing is Joe Brown’s 1962 hit ‘A picture of you’. It’s an upbeat pop song about a boy who pines for a girl who he took a photo of, but sadly doesn’t know her name or where she lives. ‘Between the devil and the deep blue sea’ is a song originally recorded by Cab Calloway in 1931, since recorded by many artists such as Frank Sinatra and George Harrison. It’s probably the earliest song we know in our repertoire and always a fun song to play for Rock My Reception with its jazzy chords.
Talking of Frank Sinatra, there’s another artist who goes down well with the elder generation, as does Elvis, to which we play ‘Thats Life’ and ‘Viva Las Vegas’. Both songs working to keep everyone on the dance floor. It’s also a good idea to have a few numbers from musicals under your belt- ’till there was you’ from The Music Man and Rogers and Hammerstein’s ‘You’ll never walk alone’ from the 1945 musical Carousel are good examples.
We must have kept the elder guests dancing for a good 45 minutes until the younger guests began to return to the hall, where we reverted back to more modern material. What is particularly enjoyable about playing in an acoustic wedding band is the intimacy and the immediate reaction from your guests. People often ask us ‘Do you play from a setlist?’, but the honest answer is we don’t. After years of playing in You Say We Play and then weddings in rock my reception, by playing so many gigs over the years we have a whole backlog of songs we have learned and you get to know the type of audience who’ll appreciate which particular songs.
The biggest pay-off is definitely when guests of advancing years come up to you, thanking you for playing songs that have made them get up and dance, perhaps taking them back to when they were teenagers in love. It’s when an old gentleman comes up to you saying, “By golly lad- you know some songs!”, you know that you’re doing your job right!