Da Hooley ceilidh band FAQ page

If you’re thinking about booking Da Hooley ceilidh band, and there’s something you’re unsure about, check through our list of FAQs below. If you can’t find the answer you’re after, contact the band for help.

We have also created a page with information about booking ceilidh bands – a list of things it’s worth thinking about before you decide on a band – this might be especially useful if you’ve never organised a ceilidh before.

The music

Q: What is the band’s line-up?
A: The core band is a 4-piece line-up featuring an accordion/caller, two fiddles and a guitar.

Q: Can I have percussion?
A: Yes, you can add a drummer to the line-up. See percussion.

Q: What is the band’s style?
A: With Da Hooley Ceilidh Band, the emphasis is firmly on having fun, and creating an atmosphere of willing participation. Scottish ceilidh dancing is a great leveller and has the power to bring people together, no matter what their background or dancing experience. Our dances are a mixture of easy, intermediate and challenging, and can be refined, spirited or downright unruly! We’ll use our experience to ensure we use the right dances at the right time for you and your guests.

We’re a ceilidh dance band rather than a Scottish country dance band. Scottish country dance is a more disciplined form of dancing while ceilidh dancing tends to be less formal.

Q: What does the band sound like?
A: Check out our videos and recordings web page. We have carefully curated and arranged our music to ensure the strongest drive and rhythm for the dancers. The dual fiddles is a device we have deliberately settled on as their combined sound is greater than the sum of 2 fiddles. The accordion provides a strong body and depth to the sound. And the guitar injects powerful rhythm, colour and bass to the overall sound. Our repertoire is mostly Celtic folk music spanning a variety of cultures including Scottish, Irish, American and even Galician.
Our repertoire evolves over time, as we find and arrange new tunes from our collective experience.

Q: Do you play covers?
A: No. Our set is entirely ceilidh, delivered to a very high calibre. If you would like music other than for ceilidh dancing during the evening, you could consider taking the option of playing your own music using our extended PA hire at the end of the evening.

Q: Can I have a mix of ceilidh dancing and my own DJ music?
A: Yes. If you take the extended PA hire option you can play your own music mix on your own media player (iPhone, laptop, DJ deck, etc.) or maybe enlist a DJ friend to play through our sound system.

A word of advice from our experience: Aim to have the ceilidh dancing first followed by DJ music. A transition from DJ to ceilidh can come over a bit flat.

Q: Can you provide a DJ?
A: We have worked with several DJs in our time. We’d be happy to recommend a DJ for you to book.
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The dances

Q: What dances do you play?
A: We have a large repertoire of dances. Here is just a sample:

  • Standard couple dances, such as the Gay Gordons, Military Two Step and St Bernard’s Waltz
  • Well-known set dances such as the Dashing White Sergeant, Strip the Willow and Flying Scotsman
  • More challenging dances including the  Waves of Tory, Cumberland Square Eight and the Eightsome Reel
  • Unusual dances such as the Dunedin Festival Reel, The Foula Reel and Hoolighan’s Jig

These and others can all be ‘called’ before and during the dance. Where necessary, we’ll also demonstrate the dances beforehand. We’ve gained a reputation for introducing many of our audiences to some of the more unusual dances beyond those often played at ceilidhs.

Q: Can I have a mix of ceilidh and disco?
A: Yes. We often play for 4 hours of ceilidh dancing but we appreciate you or some of your guests may prefer a mixture of styles. You could choose to have ceilidh band for part of the evening and then switch to a DJ, or use music from your own iPod, laptop, or CD.

Q: Do you supply lighting for the dance floor?
A: Yes, for a small additional fee. By popular demand, we have invested in a good-quality lighting array that will add a real party atmosphere to the dance floor.

Q: What does your dance caller do?
A: Drew, our dance caller, ensures everyone knows what dance is coming up next, how many couples are required for each dance set, and where & how they should line up on the dance floor. Using a wireless radio microphone, Drew is free to move around the room, encouraging the dancers onto the floor and arranging them for each dance. He will then walk them through the dance (if required!) and if necessary can also demonstrate dances along with fellow band members. Once the dance is underway, Drew can continue to call as necessary to ensure the dancers stay in sync with the music.

The other part of the caller’s role is to MC the event: so depending on your event, Drew might be found announcing the first dance or the cutting of the cake, calling for last orders at the bar, giving thank yous & acknowledgements at the end of an evening or even helping out by calling the raffle.

You can see and hear Drew in action in some of the recordings on our video page.

Q: We’re getting married. What should we do for our first dance?
A: Essentially – whatever you want! Traditionally, the first dance is a bridal waltz. Commonly, couples choose to dance briefly together to let folk take pictures, before the wedding party, then guests, are invited to join them on the floor. The band can play live music, or we can play your own recorded music through our PA. Some couples may choose not to have a formal first dance.
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The dancers

Q: I’m worried my guests might tire of ceilidh dancing.
A: Don’t be! Our expert caller, will ensure the pace, energy and appeal of the dancing matches the enthusiasm and appetite of the room. That said, we’ll happily shorten our set to fit your own plans and preferences.

Q: Do you play for children?
A: Absolutely. In our experience kids, especially primary school children, love ceilidh dancing. They often pick it up more readily than the parents. We have played for many school ceilidhs and are regularly re-booked. Our caller, Drew, will keep it all very light-hearted and fun, tailoring the dances and the instructions to suit the age group.

Q: We’d like to improve our dance skills before the event. Can you provide personal tuition or instruction?
A: Yes. As a form of social dancing, ceilidh must be easily accessible. So most dances are easy to pick up, albeit with the aid of an expert caller. That said there are some basic moves and forms which it can be useful to know going into the dances. Perhaps you are a young newlywed couple looking to perform a traditional bridal waltz in front of your guests; or you would just like to know how to birl (spin) your partner or pas de basque (setting step); or you would have seen a dance that you’d like to hone ahead of your event. See our Ceilidh Tuition page for details.

Q: Our dancers have never experienced ceilidh dancing. What can you do to ensure they pick it up quickly, join in and, above all, have fun?
A: We love playing for the uninitiated. We’ve earned a great reputation for introducing ceilidh dancing to groups such as foreign students, school children, cosmopolitan weddings and multi-national conference socials. Our expert dance caller, has infinite patience and an infectious joy for all things ceilidh. Using his experience and easy going manner, he will:

  • encourage lots of folk onto the floor with friendly, relaxed banter
  • use a wireless microphone to roam the room and arrange the dancers
  • demonstrate and give full dance instructions before each dance (if required!)
  • start off with easy dances
  • gradually build their familiarity and confidence and select dances that fit with the dancers’ abilities

Q: I’m not sure whether my guests would enjoy ceilidh dancing – should I book a ceilidh band?
A: The emphasis for Da Hooley ceilidh band is firmly on creating a fun event, where people want to get involved. There’s no expectation that guests have to get the dances or the steps exactly right. We’ll encourage folk give it a go, and once they do, we’ll make sure they have fun. We usually start our ceilidhs off with easy, more common dances such as the Gay Gordons and Dashing White Sergeant. Our caller is adept at coaxing the shyest of guests onto the floor. All dances can be called before and during the dance as needed.
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The sound system

Q: Does the band provide its own sound system (PA)?
A: Yes. Over the years, we have invested heavily in putting together a high-quality sound system. Our current system can cater for all but the largest venues. As a rough guide: if you anticipate an audience over, say, 250, we may need to supplement our system. There would be an additional charge for this, depending on what was needed.

Q: How long do you need to setup and soundcheck?
A: Typically, 1 hour.

Q: Our venue has its own sound system. Can you use it?
A: This depends on a number of factors. We generally prefer to use our own high-quality system but will happily explore the possibility directly with venue management. If the house system is a full blown performance PA with sound engineer, we can supply a detailed specification of the band’s sound equipment requirements to the engineer in advance, and liaise directly with them to arrange our setup and soundcheck.

Q: Can we use your sound system to play our own music?
A: Certainly. This is proving quite popular as more and more folk are creating their own dance sets on their own media players (smartphone, laptop, etc.). We charge a small extra fee for the extended hire of our PA, to cover the time of the band member who remains with the PA.

Q: What are the requirements for the band to set up the sound system before a ceilidh?
A: We pride ourselves on the quality of our sound setup and our attention to detail. No matter how well we play, if the sound system is poorly setup, the band will not be well represented. It takes us about 1 hour to setup and soundcheck. Hence, we like to arrive at the venue 1 hour before the intended start time. Ideally, we should have unrestricted access to the stage/performance area but can work around minor restrictions.

Q: My guests are dining in the same hall as the dance. Does this affect the band’s arrangements for setting up?
A: We can usually setup quietly over the last 30 minutes of the meal, then conduct the soundcheck in the 20 minutes before the dancing starts. If you’re having speeches at the end of the meal, we will suspend setting up until the speakers have finished. If you think this will still be too intrusive, check out our Early Setup option.

Q: Our plans won’t allow an hour of setup time before the dancing starts, what can you do?
A: We offer an Early Setup option for an additional fee. We would liaise directly with the venue manager beforehand, and arrange to set up the full sound system at a mutually convenient time. The full band would then attend a few minutes before the scheduled start, run a short soundcheck and be ready to play. The option is subject to viability, e.g. if your venue is especially remote from Edinburgh, it may be impractical to complete a round trip just for the purposes of setting up.

Q: Can we use your PA for speeches and background music?
A: Yes, provided you can nominate a responsible person to receive minimal instruction on the PA settings. As part of the Early Setup option, we can make available a single wired microphone for speeches and allow you to plug in a media player to play background music through our speakers.

The venue

Q: How big should the dance floor be for ceilidh dancing?
A: There are no firm rules, but, obviously, the bigger, the better.

Q: How should the room be laid out for dancing?
A: There are no hard and fast rules. In general, keep it intimate:

  • Leave as much room for dancing as the space will allow
  • Make sure dancers can get from their seats to the dance floor easily
  • If there’s room, enclose the dance floor with tables on three sides
  • If there isn’t, place a row of chairs along the edge of the dance floor to keep the dancers nearby
  • Staging (if available) for the band will make it easier for our caller to see everyone in the room.
  • Subdued lighting on the dance floor will set a relaxed mood

Have a look at our detailed information sheet on room layout it includes diagrams to help you make the best of your venue for dancing.

Q: Can you supply a technical rider?
A: Yes. You can download a copy of our standard tech rider here. We can supply a customised version for any particular occasion, venue or line-up.

Q: Is there anything I need to supply for the band?
A: All we require is a good size table (a 2’x6’ table is ideal), four armless upright chairs and nearby access to a single power socket.

Q: How much space does the band need?
A: A minimum of 12ft x 5ft for the musicians, and our sound equipment. View a diagram of our typical band layout, or download a band layout diagram as a printable pdf.

Q: Do you require staging?
A: Staging is not essential but it is highly desirable. It is much easier for the caller to manage and direct the dancers if he has commanding view of the floor.

Q: Can you recommend a venue?
A: Yes. In our 20-years’ experience, we have played at hundreds of venues. If you’re in the early stages of planning an event, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help.

Q: Do you travel beyond the Edinburgh area?
A: Yes. We regularly venture into the Lothians and beyond. Some of our more distant gigs include Ipswich, Huddersfield, Ireland, Orkney and Hong Kong.
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Q: How much do you charge?
A: All our quotes are individually tailored. Costs over and above the basic gig fee include travel (beyond the Edinburgh area) and adding extra options such as early setup, extended PA hire, DJ lighting, percussion.

Q: Do you offer special rates for charity fundraising?
A: Occasionally. We receive many requests for charity, school and other event fundraisers. We’re happy to consider all requests.

Q: Do you charge less for a shorter playing time?
A: Not usually. The fee is essentially the cost of the band for one gig of up to 4 hours. Any booking we take for an evening will mean we are committed to playing for your event.
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Booking the band

Q: What information does the band need to give me a quote?
A: We need to know as much of the following information as you can provide:

  • Date
  • Start and finish time for your ceilidh
  • Location
  • Venue name
  • Type of occasion (e.g. wedding, fundraiser, public)
  • Whether you require an Early Setup
  • Whether you require an Extended PA hire and for how long
  • Expected numbers at your event

If you are in the very early stages of planning your event and don’t have full details, we’ll happily provide you with an estimate. You can use our contact form if you would like to ask us for a quote.

Q: Can we come and see you playing live before we decide whether to book the band?
A: Yes, usually. You’re welcome to view our list of upcoming gigs to see where and when we’re playing. We play occasional public gigs which would give you the opportunity to experience a full ceilidh. For private events, we would seek the permission of the client for you to attend for maybe 20-30 minutes, before confirming the arrangement with you.

Q: What’s your booking process?
A: After agreeing with you the details of your ceilidh booking, we’ll email you a completed booking form which includes the details of date, time, venue, additional options as well as our booking terms and conditions. You simply email the booking form back to us to show that you have read and agreed the terms. The email will also include details of how to pay your deposit payment (usually £100) by either bank transfer or cheque. Once we receive your deposit, your booking is confirmed.
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Paying the band

Q: Can you issue a payment invoice or receipt?
A: Yes. we can issue invoices and/or or receipts for payment of the deposit, balance or the full fee as needed.

Q: What are the arrangements for paying the band?
A: We ask for a deposit to confirm your booking. We prefer for this to be paid by bank transfer, but can also accept a cheque if necessary. We ask for the balance to be paid to the band no later than the day of the event itself.

Ceilidh dancers in a large hall
Photo ©Ros Gasson

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Other questions

Q: How long a break do you need?
A: We can play around 2½-3 hours before we need a break. All we need is about 15-20 minutes but, just as likely, your guests will appreciate longer, especially if you’re planning to have food/buffet during the break.

Q: Does the band expect to be fed as part of the evening?
A: No. But if you are planning food for your guests as part of the break, we would greatly appreciate the invitation to be included.

Q: Does the band expect a bar tab?
A: No. We will gratefully accept the offer but you should not feel at all obliged to keep us in drink!

Q: Do you have Public Liability Insurance?
A: Yes. Da Hooley ceilidh band is insured through the Musicians Union.

Q: Our venue stipulates that all band sound equipment must be PAT tested. Is yours?
A: Yes

Q: Have you ever cancelled or double-booked?
A: No. We have a 100% commitment record. In over 20 years, we have never let a client down.

Q: I’ve thought of a question not covered here.
A: Really? ;-). Get in touch – we’ll be happy to answer it.

Whatever your event, our aim is to help you plan your ceilidh to be just the way you want it. We hope to see you on the dance floor!

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