Background Music: More Effective Than You Think

I was shopping at a department store recently.  It was early in the evening, and there were other shoppers around, yet the store had a lonely, end-of-the-night, closing-time atmosphere that seemed to put a damper on things.  Then I realized the customary background music that we’ve all become used to was absent.  Without it, the store seemed to lack vitality and warmth.  Which set me to thinking about a blog post…

“Canned” music is totally inappropriate for a noteworthy social or business event, of course, but the fact remains: music is a key—often subliminal—component in setting the tone in social settings.

Planning a moderate to large-scale event, a client will occasionally suggest dispensing with live music for cocktails or dinner, thinking that since it’s background music no one will “hear” it.  That’s correct, if coming from ceiling speakers in a busy room.  But well-played live music adds a subtle, positive ambience in these social settings—an effect that you may not notice when it’s there, but that you would miss if absent, like my department store visit.

Your guests’ mood will be enhanced by the right live music as they first arrive and throughout the early part of the evening, in the same way that a delightful appetizer primes your palate for the main course to come.  It’s part of the wonderful mystery of music that I posted about previously (click here).  Whether a romantic Cole Porter song or upbeat Jason Mraz tune, played by an elegant string ensemble or a cool jazz trio, music in the early stages of a party plays as important of a part as the rockin’, off-the-hook dance music coming later.

And the presence of “real” performers gives the music a sense of immediacy, even if not elevated on a stage.  Sooner or later, your guests will pass by the musicians, and appreciate the thoughtfulness of their host in providing live music for their enjoyment.

Music doesn’t have to be “in your face” to work its magic—setting the desired mood for what’s to come is one of its many charms.

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Wedding Ceremony Trends: Live Jazz

  A wedding ceremony music trend we’re seeing more of: live jazz!  It’s different, fun and in the right hands totally appropriate.

A jazz trio or quartet is not unusual for cocktail and/or dinner music, but at a venue where the ceremony is the same location as the reception, a jazz group can provide a livelier, uplifting atmosphere to the nuptials, and then seamlessly kick it up a notch for the reception immediately following.

I recently led a jazz quintet (sax, trumpet, keyboard, string bass, drums) for a beautiful wedding at Chicago’s River East Art Center.  The bride and groom had wanted a little bluesier, jazzier, less traditional feel in their music.  Coordinated by our friends at Big City Bride, the pre-ceremony featured mellower jazz and pop tunes like “It Had to Be You” and “I Will”.  The ceremony included “You Are the Best Thing” for the groom, “Something Tells Me I’m into Something Good” (bridal party), and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” for the bride.  Following the ceremony, livelier jazz and pop tunes like “If I Were a Bell” and “Afro Blue” created a celebratory, upbeat vibe for the couple and their guests.

Tasteful song planning was called for here—wild bebop jazz excursions during pre-ceremony would have been too jarring for the guests’ arrival.  I felt we needed to set a respectful (but not dull) tone for the crowd—a few of whom were a little taken aback at first by the sound (and sight) of a jazz quintet at a ceremony.  But we won them over and created the right mood for the proceedings—fun and celebratory, yet acknowledging that this was an important, special day.

Using professional musicians (not students or club players) ensured that the music would have the right tone at the right time—a subject I’ve touched on in my previous blog (click here).  In the hands of pros, live jazz or popular music can allow brides and grooms to more fully express their unique personality and special love for each other, and can be a pleasant surprise for their wedding guests!

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