What Is A Ceilidh?
If you’ve never heard of a ceilidh fear not! A ceilidh usually involves a person called the “caller” explaining a sequence of dance moves to a group of people who then dance along with (often) live music. It’s vital to say that ceilidhs should be FUN!
The experience of being on the dancefloor with friends, family or complete strangers is thrilling and when combined with lovely tunes, enjoyable dances, a slight sense of chaos and (most importantly) a great caller, it makes for a fantastically entertaining experience.
We speak with people all the time that have experienced their very first time and are now brimming with enthusiasm for all things ceilidh!
There is something powerful about the shared musical experience of being together on the dancefloor and in a world where communal experiences are becoming rarer, ceilidhs satisfy a deep rooted desire we all have for interaction.
You can see Ceilidh Tree performing for a number of different ceilidhs in the below video.
- Elspeth Renfrew
Superb! The band were amazing and had such great energy. Never a moment when the dancefloor was empty! - 11 Jul 2019
- Miranda Hurst
Ceilidh Tree were energetic, imaginative and flexible... a lovely acoustic sound, we're delighted we booked you! - 03 Sep 2019
'Ceilidh Tree were energetic, imaginative and flexible... a lovely acoustic sound, we're delighted we booked you!' - Miranda Hurst, Sep 2019
'Ceilidh Tree are such a great band. Really accommodating, friendly and make such a fantastic sound.' - More House, Jul 2019
'Superb! The band were amazing and had such great energy. Never a moment when the dancefloor was empty!' - Elspeth Renfrew, Jul 2019
'The band were great, caller did a fantastic job making sure the tempo didn't drop. Would thoroughly recommend!' - Emma Burrows, Jun 2019
'The band themselves were great - good humour throughout - foot tapping music... recommend them highly' - Alison Derham, Sep 2019
'So many people told us afterwards how much they enjoyed it! Honestly couldn't recommend this band enough!' - Elizabeth Johns, Jun 2019
'The band were excellent - great musicians, professional, clear yet fun with the calls, all-in-all brilliant!' - michael spearman, Jun 2019
'So brilliant! The band were on time, energetic and really brilliant at calling. Would highly recommend!' - Jessica Morris, May 2019
Who Are Ceilidh Tree?
We mainly perform in southern England, but also throughout the UK and sometimes overseas. We are a young(ish) and energetic band passionate about British folk music. We all grew up attending ceilidhs, playing in folk sessions and going to festivals so are very much part of the folk tradition and we like to think this gives us an authentic sound.
What sets Ceilidh Tree ceilidhs apart is our obsession with making ceilidhs fun. Our priority is to ensure dancers are enjoying the experience enough that we cultivate in them a lifelong love of ceilidh dancing! We are an established band that have been performing regularly for almost a decade.
Our trusted collective of musicians and callers gives us flexibility to perform for all sorts of different events. As we are not a fixed line-up, this also gives a safety net in the event that any of the team should fall ill.
Are Ceilidh, Céilí And Barndance The Same?
Whether it’s a Scottish Ceilidh or Irish Céilí, English Barn Dance, Welsh Twmpath or American Barn Dance / Hoedown, all describe the same magic formula of a caller explaining dance moves to a group who then dance along with music.
The content will likely vary depending on the tradition, though there’s lots of overlap between all of the above. A Scottish ceilidh will usually include dances like Strip The Willow, Dashing White Sergeant, Gay Gordons, Military Two Step, Flying Scotsman etc. danced to Scottish reels and marches whilst for an Irish Céilí it’ll often be dances like Siege Of Ennis, Bridge Of Athlone and Waves Of Tory along with traditional Irish jigs and polkas from the band.
Though there is clearly a distinct style to each of the traditions, there’s also much overlap in terms of dances, sequences and tunes – you’ll easily find Irish tunes being played with Scottish dances at an English Barn Dance for example!
Ceilidh Tree regularly perform for entirely Scottish or Irish events where the request is for us to stick to one particular style.
Equally we’re very happy to mix things up and can also include dances from other traditions. If you have a particular dance request then we’d love to include it – just let us know!
What Makes A Great Ceilidh?
A Great Caller!
The most important component in a ceilidh is the caller. They make the dancing happen and ceilidhs tend to live or die by the quality of the caller.
A Ceilidh Tree caller knows how to grab your event by the proverbials and makes it their absolute priority to ensure everyone is engaged and having fun. Every guest that has even the smallest inkling toward having a go at dancing should be encouraged to do so and not put off!
A great caller knows how to adapt their style to suit the guests and it’s crucial that the caller reads the situation and is able to respond – in some settings a highly enthusiastic style is required and in others it works better to be a bit lower key, simply facilitating the dancing.
The caller needs to not just assess the ability of the dancers but respond to countless other factors in order to choose the perfect dance for the moment. Dance choice is KEY! If the dance is too tricky then guests will lose interest.
A great caller will feed those flickering flames of a guest’s interest at the start and build to a raging inferno by the end!
What Makes A Great Ceilidh?
A Great Band!
The caller is undoubtedly the star of the show but let’s not forget Ceilidh Tree’s great musicians! The music should have that quality to make guests want to dance and the musicians should also have a deep understanding of ceilidh dancing.
The majority of our tune players can also call dances and that really helps! The fiddle style is key to Ceilidh Tree’s sound and our musicians have grown up going to ceilidhs and playing folk music in sessions so understand that magical quality that can make people want to leap up and dance just by playing solo fiddle!
They are like magicians with have that driving, rhythmic, full sound that can make one fiddle sound like several! When you add in guitar, you get an even fuller sound and then the accordion for extra interplay and an even greater richness.
Once the caller starts doing their thing over the music it’s a huge sound.
Just like the caller the band also needs to be able to adapt to the unpredictable beast of the ceilidh. So the walk through went great but guests aren’t quite getting the casting out bit at the end?
Caller gives the sign to the band for an extra “B” part in the tune, fiddler nods to everyone else and the band seamlessly changes up what they’re doing so guests get extra time for their cast and back to the “A” again in sync with the tune.
Great Planning = A Fab Ceilidh!
Ceilidh Tree aim to make the planning part smooth, even enjoyable! We’ll take the time to work closely with you in the lead up to establish all the key details of your event.
Firstly, guests. The more info we have the better! How many guests are there? What’s the dancing ability and age range? How well do guests know each other.
These all dramatically affect the kind of dances and ceilidh style that will work best.
Secondly, venue. Ceilidh Tree are regulars at all sorts of different venues! The dancing space and layout impacts hugely the type of ceilidh that’s possible. We ceilidh very regularly in small / awkward spaces with great results due to planning. E.g. making sure tables and chairs are minimised pays dividends.
Equally, beginners as part of a smaller group in a larger ceilidh space can feel much more inclined to give ceilidhing a try if furniture is positioned in a certain way.
Ceilidh Tree can draw on a huge amount of experience to advise on anything venue-wise you’re unsure about. We’re also used to working closely with venues in advance to make sure all their requirements are met, e.g. use of limiters, setting up in a particular way etc.
Thirdly, timings. Proper planning will allow the ceilidh to be placed at the optimum point in your event. It’s a great idea to have the ceilidh when most guests will be in attendance and when energy / sobriety levels are still relatively high…
That’s why we recommend having the ceilidh a little earlier on if possible. It depends on lots of factors though and there’s a real art to getting the timings right. Even the type of food can have an impact.
Other entertainment that you’re considering is a big factor too. If you’re having a DJ, it’s best for the disco to happen after the ceilidh, this creates a natural build musically from the traditional to the modern. Don’t unleash Lionel too early!
Ceilidh Tree have lots of experience to draw on and will be able to take all of the above into account when advising you on the best format for your ceilidh.
If you’ve a question not covered in our ceilidh guide we’d love to hear from you.
If you want a quote for your ceilidh, wedding or barndance – complete our contact form here.
For a quick availability check or quote, you can use our interactive Ceilidh Bot.