The Midsummer Music Agency grew up in and around Malvern close to the Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire border. The cities of Gloucester, Worcester and Hereford host the famous Three Choirs Festival. This is a look back over some of the bookings we have done for weddings and parties in the county to the immediate South of our offices. The links above, show just a few of the venues that we have played at in Gloucestershire in recent times, but the full list would take many more pages.
However, we are not restricted to these counties, as we are a national agency able to provide virtually any kind of music, be it jazz, classical, ceilidh or barn dance or pop, all the way from the tip of Cornwall to the north of Scotland. So let's look at just a sample of the bookings we've done in other counties.
Let's first look at music in Hampshire, as it's the county where my wife was born and brought up in and where one of my sons has moved to live and work. This means that I know the area well. It's a county with a strong musical background, in part because of the military naval connections, and officer's mess events, and in part because of the many grand houses and stately homes throughout Hampshire, which in their heyday would have hosted music and dance to entertain the rich and now fill the role of prestigious wedding venue. And of course being a rural county, with many small communities and churches, the folk tradition is also strong.
Going back to the days of sail, naval galleons would have had the ships fiddler, in part to entertain the crew, but in part to give rhythm and focus whilst turning the capstan to weigh anchor or do other tasks that required heavy-duty man powered winch. It is said that the fiddler often sat cross legged in the centre of the capstan, but whether that's true I don't know. I can't imagine sitting on the capstan being turned round and round, on-board a ship that is rolling and heaving, without being violently sick all over my instrument. The officer class would have had their music as well, because they were mostly from wealthy families. This would have been all along the lines of classical music played by a string quartet rather than the folk music of the ratings.
The history of music in the Navy, more specifically with the Royal Marines, goes back to 1767 and the formation of the Royal Marines divisional bands for the Royal dockyards of Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth. One tends to think of military brass bands and marches, and although all naval musicians would play in the military bands they were, in modern times, all expert musicians in the genre's of jazz and pop music, and I have had the honour of playing with a number of military trained musicians in classical ensembles and folk bands.
And of course there are the wedding venues in the New Forest national park and surrounding towns, where a ceilidh or a string quartet equally fit the ambience and a jazz band or function band isn't going to disturb anyone but the horses.
Moving on now to Berkshire, which I'm also familiar with, as Reading University was where I graduated. This isn't just Berkshire it is the Royal County of Berkshire no less. Windsor Castle is in the county, and once again, as with all wealthy families and in particular the Royal Court, this would have been a place for music. Many of the famous composers of history had royalty as their patrons, and classic FM would have been out of business by now if this hadn't been the case. If you look at the repertoire of our string quartets, and many of the pieces of music that are used for the wedding recessional, signing the register, and as the bride and groom leave, were written for Royal occasions. The Music for the Royal Fireworks, by Handel, is just one obvious example of many.Whilst at Reading University I played in a classical chamber Orchestra and in a ceilidh and barn dance band, as a way of earning money, but more of that in the pages that are linked to from here. I was also involved with pop music, running a disco with a friend, which we hired out for the formal balls and other events around the university. A key part of this extravaganza was a psychedelic like machine that I built, way before such things became common, that filtered out the music into three different frequencies and pulsated red, green and blue lights in time with music. This is in the days before the cheap disco kit that
We move now to Hertfordshire, Party & Wedding band bookings in Hertfordshire, a county I know well from my schooldays. It was in those days are very musical county, had the chance to learn a musical instrument at junior school, which in hindsight was remarkably fortuitous, as I wouldn't have moved into the business I'm in now and wouldn't be playing in a string quartet, a ceilidh band and barn dance band. Life would have been very different. The junior school they would never have dreamt that one day I might be hired to play for weddings and parties, it was a big enough ordeal playing in the junior school concert. Not even when I went to secondary school, and played in the county's orchestra, and gave many concerts and recitals in school and in local venues with friends of mine, and I play anything for a party or a wedding, it was always formal concerts and recitals.
Moving round London and to the East one gets to Essex, and the Roman settlement at Colchester. Perhaps it's the old hands and long history of the area and access to the coast seems to attract classical musicians to the county, particularly string quartet players who regularly hired to play for weddings. Jumping to the other side of London, you get to Surrey with its large population, so a lot of people having birthday parties and getting married. As well as music groups that are based in the county, people are thinking of booking live music for their event also have the choice of a large number of jazz bands and string quartet restaurant in London, because of the classical music and jazz scene, but have access to the many excellent ceilidh bands and barn dance bands that tend to live on the south coast to the south.
We move on to another of the counties that parts onto the London blob and benefits from the high-density of jazz and classical ensembles that are based in the area, so there are a great many bands Hired for venues around Marlow & Woburn, Buckinghamshire. Being a long thin county, part of it close the bands from Northamptonshire in Cambridgeshire there are always a lot of Weddings and Parties around the high population densities of the new town of Milton Keynes & the Aylesbury. Heading north-west we get to the Roman city of Chester and close by Ellesmere Port, in Cheshire. Between the two is Derbyshire, which is a mix of heavy industry in the railway town of Derby, which is also host to Rolls-Royce Aero engines, all in close proximity to the lonely splendour of the Peak District.
Heading south on gets to Birmingham & Tamworth, West Midlands. There is naturally a high density of musicians in the Birmingham area as a result of the Birmingham Conservatoire and the city of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra will give regular concerts in the magnificent and relatively new Birmingham Symphony Hall. Is certainly very different from the first concert I ever went to in Birmingham which were in what I think was the town hall, a very inferior venue, though it was delightful as it had a balcony with settees on it, so if one sneaked past the officials on dutyBook, you could have a very comfortable and enjoyable comfortable sitting in a big upholstered armchair. One has to be careful when hiring bands in this area, to note the location of the band and the performance venue, and the time of day, because with all roadworks on the motorways in the centre of Birmingham that have been going on for some years, travel can be virtually impossible certain times of the day, but hopefully in time it will improve.
Sidmouth, Devon, is the location for what was the Sidmouth International folk Festival. Delightful seaside town, with high red cliffs, with Cliff and beach walks though you have to be careful of the tide and the fact that some of the cliff near Sidmouth has collapsed on the footpath has been diverted. So needless to say, it is a folk music and ceilidh band area. Bands Hired for venues around Brixham & Plymouth, Devon tend to come from the county itself, as it not surrounded by numerous other counties, as is typically the case in the West Midlands. We get a lot of band bookings for Weddings and Parties around Brighton & the Arundel, Sussex and around Lews & Horsham, as it is a relatively wealthy area, but with a lot of magnificent venues.
Live band that are hired for weddings and parties in Somerset, turned again to be local to the county as Exmoor can be something of a geological barrier to travel. Bristol is something of a musical centre, with a great many string quartets, jazz bands and barn dance bands in the town itself, the musical connection presumably coming from a mixture of the fact that is been a trading port for many years, so that there are four violin shops in one street, close to Bath with its pump rooms and assembly rooms, are still having small towns like Ilminster. Booked bands for Weddings & Parties around Canterbury, Kent. Being the seat of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, there's always been a strong musical influence from the church in this county, and many parties and weddings taking place due to the large number of people living around areas such as Cranbrook & Tunbridge Wells.
Band bookings for Weddings and Parties around Liverpool & Bradford, Lancashire tend to draw on the musical expertise that radiates out from the Royal College of Music in Manchester. It tends to be something of a cracker to the popular wedding venues in the Lake District like Windermere so the Manchester influence reduces. Wiltshire is a county that I never get my head round, though often drive through it and to gigs in and around Swindon. Other than the commercial centre of Swindon, it tends to be very rural small towns like Marlborough & Salisbury dotted through the Wiltshire countryside. You would have thought that bands for Weddings & Parties around Cambridge, would have come from the many talented musicians at Cambridge University, this tends not to be the case, perhaps they are all working too hard for their degrees and PhD? Cambridge tends to keep to itself, so we also have bands Hired for venues around Spalding & St Neots, Cambridgeshire.
The same applies to bands his Bands that are hired for weddings and parties around Oxford & Wallingford in Oxfordshire. One would have thought there would have been ample musicians from the University, and indeed one of the members of my own ceilidh band read music at Oxford University, but perhaps it is similar to Cambridge University in that they all seem to be too occupied to actually get out and perform. Warwickshire is another county of extremes, with huge industrial and commercial towns like Rugby & and small rural towns such as Alcester. And then there are world-famous centres such as Stratford-upon-Avon that draws visitors from around the world, some of who's weddings we play for.
Manchester is a musical city, with the Royal Northern College and the Halle Orchestra based there. So although it is a huge industrial and commercial conurbation, there are lots of excellent jazz bands, string quartets and other ensembles available for the weddings and parties take place. In comparison to London though, with its multiple symphony orchestras and the Royal Academy of music and the Royal College of music plus others, is somewhat smaller. Many musicians feel that London is The Place to Be, especially for classical musicians, but in terms of performing for weddings and parties, then all parts of the country are similarly important.
Musically, Northamptonshire and Norfolk are getting far enough away for the musical influences of London to rely on their homegrown ceilidh bands, string quartets and jazz bands, without importing them from London. When we get to Northumberland, then it is so distant from areas of significant population density, that bands often have to travel quite some distance to events around the county. This can be hard work in the winter when the weather is bad, but is a delightful bonus in the summer and spring.
Musically, Leicestershire is one side of Birmingham, with the Birmingham Conservatoire and Symphony Hall, and Shropshire is on the other. So the counties benefit from barn dance band and string quartets resident in the counties, but can draw on the jazz bands and barn dance bands that reside in the more densely populated Birmingham area of the West Midlands.
At the extremes of the country, Dorset is a relatively small county, but with a lot of musical activity because of Bournemouth and Weymouth and the attractiveness of the area for weddings, and Yorkshire is an absolutely huge county, with the three main parts of North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire having completely different characteristics, traditions and population densities.