Chihuly Nights are go!

As many of you will know, the Chihuly Nights events at Kew Gardens are well and truly under way – and what wonderful evenings they’ve been so far!

The fabulous ambient background to Dale Chihuly’s breathtaking installations in the Temperate House, created by musicians from The Hermes Experiment, needs to be experienced to be believed.

In the Pavilion Restaurant, diners have loved the atmospheric sounds of the sitar, clarinet, guitar and drum loops. Our friendly musicians are more than happy to chat with visitors, some of whom have even been brave enough to add their own contributions to the ever-evolving musical backdrop!

If you haven’t yet experienced Chihuly Nights for yourself, the event runs every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening until 26 October.

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We’re on the home stretch and the dress rehearsal was fabulous!

Last week we had a wonderful evening at RBG Kew, rehearsing the music for the Chihuly Nights events.

It was thrilling to finally hear Nico Muhly’s work, “The Theme” in the spaces it was written for, including the magnificent Temperate House. We were joined by musicians from The Hermes Experiment and I think you’ll agree, the music sounds amazing in the unique acoustic.

We’re also providing music and live musicians in the Pavilion Restaurant, to accompany your coffee and cake or meal stop during the evening, including Jonathan on sitar and Damien on guitar – an unusual, but effective combination!

It was also the first time most of us had seen Dale Chihuly’s beautiful installations. They are simply breathtaking, and really are reflections on nature. If you haven’t been to the exhibition yet, it’s on until 27 October, with Chihuly Nights taking place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 15 August until 26 October.

As I think you’ll see from the gallery below, as well as working hard, we all had fun! All the musicians are friendly, approachable and knowledgeable, so don’t forget, if you come to one of the Chihuly Nights and have any questions about the music, feel free to chat to the musicians!

...That’s a wrap! The recording of the Kew soundscape

As you can imagine, even though the composers have finished writing the music for Chihuly Nights at RBG Kew, there’s still lots more to be done on the soundtrack before it’s ready for its premier. So last week saw the recording of the vocals.

We got twelve of the country’s finest young singers into a studio in Hackney, with the session directed by James McVinnie, who was involved in the composition itself, and then edited and knitted together the contributions from our other three composers Nico Muhly, Alex Mills and Josephine Stephenson.

Since the aim of the music is to create an ambient background to Dale Chihuly’s stunning artworks, we wanted to create a slow moving, organic sound which would accompany the artworks at the Chihuly Nights events, without distracting attention from them. As you will hear on this brief compilation of videos taken during the morning, Jamie had a vision for each section of the recording to make them flow, but be distinctly different.

As ever, it was an intense session, but lots of fun too! Huge thanks to our wonderful singers, and of course to Jamie, for making it all run smoothly.

We then had to edit and master all the instrumental and vocal recordings into three soundtracks to be played at the events: one purely instrumental version, one vocal version, and finally a combination of vocal and instrumental. We have had a sneak preview (or is that pre-hear?!) and it’s sounding amazing – we can’t wait to hear it in the cathedral-like Temperate House – the effect will be magical!

Like us on Facebook to be among the first to hear some snippets!

Our Kew project is getting more exciting by the day!

Last week we told you about our exciting project to devise a soundscape to accompany visitors’ experience of Chihuly’s magnificent glass artworks at the Chihuly Nights events at RBG Kew (Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 15 August until 26 October). We already knew that Nico Muhly and Alasdair Malloy were going to be heavily involved, but now we can confirm the rest of the exciting line-up of composers and performers!

Nico has written “The Theme”, and three very talented, young British composers – Alex Mills, Josephine Stephenson and James McVinnie, have worked it into an ever-changing, organic soundscape, over which live musicians will improvise. Jamie, who is also one of the UK’s top organists, has created a positively cathedral-like sound for the track which will play in the magnificent Temperate House.

Live musicians in the Temperate House include Alasdair Malloy, the UK’s only glass harmonica player, Jamie himself playing keyboards, and the very talented musicians of The Hermes Experiment. Each musician will bring a very different approach to the live element of the project, and it means that, should you visit on more than one evening, the music will not be the same!

We will also have live musicians in the Pavilion Restaurant, to accompany your coffee and cake or meal stop during the evening. The lynch pin around which the other musicians will rotate is our great friend, and guitarist Damien. Damien also works as a session musician, and has worked with the likes of Sting, Katie Melua, VV Brown and Skunk Anansie, at shows at Wembley Area, and even the X Factor Final! We have an international line-up to work alongside Damien, including Japanese percussionist Kōbō, who has recorded with Usher, and acclaimed sitar player Jonathan, who regularly composes works for The London Philharmonic Orchestra.

If you visit one of these exciting evenings, feel free to chat to the musicians - they’ll be glad talk to you, so if you have any burning questions, now is the time to ask! And if you’d like to add your voice contribution to the overall performance, visit Damien in the Pavilion Restaurant: he will have a loop pedal which records short extracts of sound, which he can layer over the main track.

We look forward to seeing you there, and watch this space for more news soon!

Guest Artists at RBG Kew Gardens

We’re thrilled to have been awarded a very exciting contract!

Have you seen the press coverage and billboard adverts for the wonderful exhibition of Dale Chihuly's beautiful glass artworks at Kew Gardens - Chihuly: Reflections on nature?

A highlight of the exhibition (which runs until 27 October 2019) is a series of evening events called Chihuly Nights, where you can experience the majesty of Chihuly’s forms and colours, beautifully illuminated under the evening sky.

Kew Gardens have asked us to devise a unique soundscape to accompany visitors’ experience of these events. We’re collaborating with internationally-acclaimed composer Nico Muhly to create an ever-changing musical backdrop to complement Chihuly’s art.

Our ambient recorded soundscape will be augmented by a varied line-up of our favourite musicians, playing live in the Temperate House and the newly-opened Pavilion restaurant. The line-up will include Alasdair Malloy - the UK’s only glass harmonica player. What better instrument to provide a musical background to Chihuly’s glass sculptures?

Some musicians will also offer Chihuly Nights visitors the opportunity to add their own sounds to the composition, making for a truly immersive experience.

We’re very excited about the project and we can’t wait to experience these wonderful works of art in such an atmospheric setting. We hope you'll have the opportunity to visit the exhibition, and if you do come along to a Chihuly Nights evening, please say hello - we'd love to see you!

When “bespoke” really means “bespoke”!

This time last year, we embarked on a project to provide music at a beautiful wedding at Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire.

We were contacted by our friends Bryony and Penny at The Entourage Collection on behalf of their clients who were getting married in front of 300 family and friends in a glass marquee, with drinks in the House, followed by dinner back in the marquee.

The brief was to provide a string ensemble for the ceremony, musicians to lead the guests into dinner with music audible to all guests as they moved, and a jazz band to accompany dinner.

This brief presented us with lots of exciting possibilities, and also lots of issues to consider, such as:

  1. 300 people will make a lot of noise and take a loooong time to get from the house into the marquee!
  2. there are three distinct areas to cover – the house, the area between the house and the marquee, and the marquee…
  3. …which is ENORMOUS
  4. how do we ensure that guests don’t get an ‘overlap’ of music as they move?

In the end, the solution was remarkably simple, in a complicated kind of way…!

Three string quartets played together as a mini orchestra for the ceremony, and then one quartet played in the House, one on the ‘walkway’ outside, and one in the marquee. Each quartet was hooked up to the PA system, with in-ear monitoring, and playing the same music in the three areas!

The sound guys from Ross Co were amazing and as you can imagine, the musicians had great fun during rehearsal, making sure that the sound was working properly! Here’s a video of the rehearsals – bear in mind that it was a freezing cold day in late October…!

The orchestra sounded wonderful when all three quartets played together, and here are a couple of clips from before the ceremony (Allegro from Brandenburg Concerto no 3 by JS Bach), and as the bride and groom left (Wedding March, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream by F Mendlessohn).

We were all bowled over by the amazing flowers, designed by Woodbrown, and well fed and watered throughout the event by Last Supper (not a dry, curly sandwich in sight!). And of course, the fantastic marquee from PBI Event Architecture was just fabulous! It’s always a pleasure to work with such talented people to bring an event to life, and to realise the vision of the client and event designers.

Multi-cultural music for our multi-cultural business world

It is increasingly common that event organisers wish to celebrate the cultural heritage of their company, or to demonstrate their company’s sphere of business, through the entertainment provided at company events. We are regularly approached by event planners for whom something “off the shelf” just won’t work and so we design entertainment to cater to their specific requirements.

Last Summer, we worked with a couple who were to marry in Tuscany and were fans of World music. The groom was Jewish, and whilst the bride wanted to enter the ceremony to Pachelbel’s Canon, she didn’t want a string quartet. Oh, and they wanted to dance to folk and contemporary tunes, and some traditional Jewish Horas too - this was a brief for David, our Director, to really get his teeth into!

Based on the bride’s request for Pachelbel and Western classical music during the ceremony, he started with a string duo and added a sitar for an authentic Indian sound. To help with the contemporary and folk side of the request, he added a guitar for its harmonic foundation, and finally percussion in the form of Indian tabla and various Japanese instruments.

The result was Synergy Six. As you will see, they performed repertoire as varied as John Legend’s “All of me”, Verdi’s “Libiamo” and Jewish traditional pieces such as “Hava nagila”.

This ensemble is perfect for events reflecting multi-culturalism within companies and their business, and the ensemble are keen to investigate the relationship between other musical cultures. They went down a storm, and the musicians loved working together in such an unusual ensemble, and we think you’ll agree, their sound is a wonderful cultural mix.

For more information about Synergy Six or to discuss your specific requirements, please give us a call, or drop us an email.

Let’s get this party started!

We’re getting to the time of year when thoughts are turning to Christmas parties, and whilst the venue might be booked, the poor frazzled person dealing with it (as well as their ‘proper’ job!) may only just be getting round to thinking about the entertainment.

And therein lies the £64 million question…Band or DJ?

Here are some things to think about when making this important decision!

It’s hard to beat the atmosphere generated by great live music, therefore a band is the obvious choice. Having said this, booking a DJ means that you get to hear the original versions of the songs everyone loves to dance to, plus you can have a much greater input into the playlist for the evening.

You should consider the number of guests you’re expecting - if your party is relatively small, a DJ could well be a better option for you.

If you have a long evening of dancing planned, you might consider a band and a DJ, as a band will charge pro rata for performing longer than their standard set time, so hiring both might actually be more cost-effective for a long playing time.

If the performance area available isn’t huge, DJs are normally pretty compact, whereas bands can take up rather more space, and can get a little upset when asked to shoe-horn themselves into a corner.

Finally, of course, there’s the cost. A good DJ will cost about as much as a very mediocre band and a good band will cost three to four times as much as a good DJ. In our experience, there’s no such thing as a good, cheap DJ or band: they’re either good OR cheap: never both.

Entertaining Foreign Clients

At Guest Artists we do a lot of work with Destination Management Companies. DMC’s, like us, are experts in arranging events, but whereas we stick to the entertainment side, they – poor things – have to look after EVERYTHING for large groups visiting the UK.

And when we say EVERYTHING, we mean every minute of every day and evening – from meeting and greeting the delegates at the airport and sorting their hotel and restaurant reservations, to organising every last element of both the business and social aspects of the trip – which could be anything from providing personalised flip charts to arranging a unique behind-the-scenes tour at a West End show.

When our friends at Wedgewood Britain were asked to arrange a quintessentially British experience for a group of Russian business people, they knew that the music and entertainment had to be diverse, and so called in the collective brains of our three offices.

Together we decided on two evenings of entertainment, the first of which was a “traditional British pub evening”. Although this was, indeed, based in a pub – the excellent Butcher’s Hook & Cleaver in Smithfield – this was a very unusual “traditional” pub evening. When we go to the pub, we aren’t normally greeted by a bagpiper, and it’s pretty rare for someone to draw a caricature of us whilst there too – and still less to invite us to take part in highland dancing. But this wasn’t a normal evening, and our Russian guests enjoyed all this and more – including a tutored beer tasting with a beer sommelier from Fuller’s Brewery.

Their final evening in London needed a more formal approach. Hosted at the lovely Middle Temple (one of our favourite venues) we felt a nod to the pomp and ceremony for which Britain is universally known was in order, so to the delight of the guests, a beefeater greeted them as they arrived. A jazz trio accompanied their reception on the lawn and rounded off a happy - and sunny - few days in London!

We put together a little video (below) of the entertainment they enjoyed – we think you’ll agree that the piper and the beefeater were the highlights!

As always, it was a pleasure working with Vanessa and her colleagues at Wedgewood Britain. They certainly deserved a couple of days off after such a busy time in the sweltering heat that was early July…

Guest Artists does Michael Jackson

David and Emma had a fun evening at The National Portrait Gallery at the end of September, running the entertainment at a private viewing of the Michael Jackson – On the wall exhibition.

Having worked with the NPG earlier in the summer, we were delighted when they approached us to co-host this event and to provide the entertainment. The evening: to demonstrate the Gallery’s innovative and unusual event spaces, and showcase suppliers. The brief: to provide an eye-catching opener, followed by engaging background music.

As you can imagine, this was an exciting brief, with the potential to do some unusual things! The end result was one of our amazing DJs, Flash Mob Dancers (above) and a strolling band, entertaining guests and turning them into a percussion section!

As you can see from the video, everyone had great fun and the cheer that followed the dancers’ performance was magnificent! The evening was mouth-wateringly catered by Alison Price & Company, the fabulous flowers were courtesy of Hayford & Rhodes and Fisher Productions worked their wizardry with the sound and light, and all in the beautiful spaces of the National Portrait Gallery.

We look forward to working with you all again soon!

Guest Artists does Top Gear!

There are many days in our working calendar that stand out for us as a team. We thought it may be interesting to share with you some of the (sometimes, in retrospect, hilarious) hiccups we encounter, and the lengths we go to, to ensure our clients receive the very best service we can deliver.

Here’s what happened when David, our Director, spent a rather hectic 24 hours running the music for a very elegant wedding in Europe.

The Runaway Priest…

For a start, the priest told me that he didn't like to hang about. He wasn't joking, sounding at times like the auctioneer on Storage Hunters (only with an Irish accent) - but to be fair, omitting the opening hymn altogether and then sending the bridal party out during the final hymn did give him a head start in his record-breaking attempt. The congregation must have wondered what this thing noted on the order of service as "recessional" was all about...

Frankly I'm not convinced he had even read the order of service at all - my suspicions being particularly raised when at one point he announced: "Let us proclaim the mystery of faith in bold type"...

Combining this with a request given just before the service for an extra (unrehearsed, of course...) "special piece" for the bridesmaids to enter to - they were sent down the aisle individually at 5 yard intervals by the wedding coordinator - made for a service more challenging than was strictly necessary.

But that was the easy bit…re-wind to the middle of the night before the wedding…

A flight cancelled late the previous night had led to a merry, early hours game of find-a-flight-going-within-200-miles-of-where-we're-going-before-anyone-else-finds-the-same-flight, to say nothing of a £2.5k bill - and this only once I'd explained to the nice Barclays lady in Newcastle that my desire to spend £2.5k on flights at 2am was entirely genuine. Having done that it was then simply a question of contacting the performers (it’s the early hours of the morning remember), to get them all to change their plans and get to Gatwick rather than City for their early morning flight. Easy peasy.

Even this would have been fine except the replacement flight was then delayed on the tarmac, meaning that there was a fair chance that my esteemed colleagues wouldn't actually make the service at all anyway.

What to do? What would Jeremy Clarkson do? Hire a helicopter to meet the flight, of course. But the helicopter only seated six - and seven needed transporting.

So the day morphed into a "GA does Top Gear". Who would win over a 200-mile trip? A fast Mercedes going straight to the venue or a helicopter flying to its base about 30mins drive from the venue, plus car from there to the gig. (If you're interested, it was the helicopter by about 20 minutes). But all musicians made the service.

All in a day’s (and night’s) work

Once the service ended, all was disappointingly plain sailing!

But none of it would have been possible without the assistance, good grace and forbearance (and, of course, excellent performances) from our amazing musicians! I might perhaps have got a teensy bit shouty at some points, for which I apologise, but you were all stars!

This wedding was under a strict confidentiality agreement, so we’re unable to share much more detail with you – but we wanted to share the logistics of what can happen with some of our client projects. We absolutely love the work we do, are passionate about music, and work with an amazing group of artists – which makes our jobs that much easier.

Guest Artists are on the Blog!

It has been said, many times, that we should start a blog to record the life and times of Guest Artists, and try to pass on our wealth of knowledge after 25 years in the business. As musicians and event managers, we regularly experience situations that just wouldn’t happen to anyone else, and are daily in the privileged position of advising people about the music for their Big Day, organising spectacular entertainment for events large and small, and also giving comfort through music, after the passing of a loved one.

Through this blog we aim to: pass on tips for organising the music and entertainment for your event, be it large or small, private or corporate; take you backstage to show you the build up to some of our bigger events; and of course, share the “you won’t believe what just happened…” moments.

We hope you’ll join us on our journey into the world of blogging, and if there are specific topics you’d like us to cover, please let us know!

Guest Artists x