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Session - A Brief History

Posted by Ceri Stingl - 20th June

So, I’m sat on the train on my way to a client meeting, casually browsing Facebook, and am suddenly struck by how many of my friends (young and….not quite so young ha) have been to see Lionel Richie on his recent tour, and how fantastic they say he was.

Here are a few stats for you; 65 years old, performing for 40+ years, 100 million albums sold worldwide, 5 time Grammy winner, Golden Globe winner, 16-time American Music Award winner….(Oh, and he’s a Gemini, in case you were wondering). Who else has had a career as long and as diverse in genres as him?

That got me thinking about Session’s career – a baby compared to Lionel but still a span to be proud of! Since out first performance at a St. Cyres Sixth Form assembly in 2001, we’ve changed line-up, instruments, learnt countless songs, played many wonderful venues (from muddy fields to swanky hotels) and attempted genres we never had before. We’ve met some lovely people, have learnt lots and have improved both musically and professionally along the way.

It’s hard to believe that the fresh-faced youngsters you see in some of these pictures are none other than the original members of Session (Andy was so small he could hardly see over his drums…. I, on the other hand, don’t look that different, not aged one bit, incredible really ☺). With our original line-up including Dan Lewis on lead vocals and guitar, and Cameron Stewart on bass guitar.

*Brucey bonus point up for grabs – there is actually someone missing from the original line-up that only true Session fans will remember – who is it?!*

And from that moment on we started performing regularly together; from supporting the Beachwood Sparks in Barfly (who are still going strong), to playing (and winning!) Battle of the Bands contests in Moloko’s Bar and The Toucan Club (if you remember these relics of Cardiff you are officially ‘getting on a bit’).

There have been many, many highs…. And a few lows (although not that many – we’ll come to those in a minute). A personal high for me was Session being nominated last year in the Best Entertainment category at the Welsh National Wedding Awards; a great achievement and one we’re incredibly proud of.

Of course another personal high for us all is having the opportunity to play at many family and friends’ weddings, which has been an absolute honour in every instance (there’s nothing quite like seeing your nearest and dearest dancing like nobody’s watching to songs you’re playing). And even performing for people we don’t know; we remember every single wedding we’ve performed at. Spending the evening with people that are there to celebrate such a happy occasion, and have a great time, really is a huge perk to the job.

We’ve played at some cracking festivals; the Hog Rally in Bristol (where we ran an experiment to see how many ‘hogs’ we could fit into the Session van – 43 in case you’re wondering). And, of course, not forgetting Penarth Summer Festival which is always a fabulous event (all day sunshine this year please!).

And there have been many Session socials, Christmas Do’s, inter-band weddings (and, no, Session did not perform at the Stewart wedding… although Cam and I did sing, but that’s another story…).

But of course, there has been the occasional low. I can’t say I’ll miss the scraps and brawls we’ve experienced at some venues we’ve played; from fighting with hammers and chisels at a certain pub in Maesteg, to the stage being stormed at an un-named pub in Cardiff (although one thing I will say is that both venues hold a special place in my heart as having the best gig atmosphere and crowds we’ve played to! ). Or the Session van breaking down at 3am on the way home from a gig in London... That wasn’t ideal either.

In 2006 we said farewell to singer and guitarist Dan Lewis as he embarked on his adventure to London and in 2012 we waved goodbye to bassist Mike Heneghan as he left to begin a successful career in Psychology in Australia. However, this also lead us to recruit the super-talented Andy Brown on bass as a replacement and gave us the opportunity to perform with some other fantastic bassists (Tom, Dave and Kev to name a few).

Following that, there is so much for Session to look forward to this year and in the future. Penarth Summer Festival will, again, be fantastic (rain or shine) not to mention the many weddings we’ll be performing at for couples tying the knot this year and next (we really do have the pleasure of meeting some lovely people in our line of work). And we’re looking forward to returning to venues to see the regular faces who have been instrumental to us pulling off great wedding performances over the years and who really do look after us, and hopefully meeting some new ones.

So, if you’re a couple that has booked us to play at your wedding, or a venue that has invited and recommended us to perform, or an agency that continues to encourage people to book us – thank you for enabling Session to continue to perform and enjoy what truly is a wonderful career in live music. May it long continue!

See you soon,

Ceri x

Wedding Planning

Posted by Ceri Stingl - 20th February

Slightly confused/worried bride.So after months (or should I say years!) of planning, it’s all over. What a fantastic day! One we’ll most certainly remember forever. If only we could do it all again! (Well… the day, that is… not all the planning… ha ha).

Because there really is a lot to planning a wedding. I know everyone tells you how quickly it’ll come around, but you don’t quite realise at the time quite how quickly. And getting married is a really big deal; a day that a lot of girls (and guys) have been dreaming about for a long time. And ensuring it goes without a ‘hitch’ (excuse the pun) takes a huge amount of planning and organisation.

I think having worked in the wedding industry for as long as we have, we were always aware that choosing the right suppliers for our day would be key to ensuring the day ran smoothly. But the problem that we found was that we had worked with so many professional, high quality businesses - how would we choose!

Our first step was to sit down and consider what was really important to us on our special day. And I mean REALLY important. Everyone has a budget (excusing Wills and Kate – Ellie Goulding was WELL outside ours!), and so unfortunately there were times throughout the process where we did really need to prioritise.

We soon realised that our top four ‘biggies’ were; guests, location, catering, band. The band, of course, had to be….well, nothing short of SPECTACULAR. But I’ll come on to that later….!

Of course, we wanted as many of our friends and family there as possible, so that was how we came to our budget; how many people can we afford to feed without re-mortgaging the house, which then helped us narrow down location choices.

But when it came to actually picking a venue, and visiting… well, we’ve been to so many with the band! So it boiled down to ‘who do we feel would give us fantastic service and make us feel the most special’?

And that is why we chose De Courceys Manor in Cardiff.

Can I just say at this point that Session have played so many fabulous hotels, with amazing staff and fantastic food.  All we can say about De Courceys is that they are incredibly helpful, supportive and professional when hosting a wedding, and when performing with a band! We considered many other venues, but it was the staff at De Courceys who really won us over… so it just goes to show that ‘word of mouth’ applies in every walk of life; if we hadn’t played there as a band, we’d never have got to see what a great team they are, and how they really do go the extra mile. And that’s not to mention the beautiful décor and gorgeous food (if you haven’t been there for Sunday lunch, book now!).

There was a dress, vows, a meal, a cake, tears, speeches; the day was absolutely amazing. It was so strange being on the 'other' side of it all! It was the band that I was most nervous about (well, walking down the aisle was a tad nerve-wracking too!). Now, someone once said ‘Don’t shy away from booking a band without seeing them’ (what idiot said that – see last blog ha), but, If I’m honest, I’m not sure I had truly bought in to that idea. I mean, I know we’re professional and reliable (sounds a little boastful I’ll admit, but it is true), however this doesn’t mean that all bands are. What if they don’t turn up on the day? What if they turn up and play heavy metal music? (my Nan would love it but that’s another story). And worse still, what if they played 500 Miles by the Proclaimers?! (Still our most requested song by the way!).

And yet, despite all of the above, we booked a band without having seen and heard them play. And here are the reasons why. Firstly, they came highly recommended by a friend of a friend of a cousin of a friend of a neighbour (or something like that), so we checked them out. Their website was incredibly impressive (not even Session can boast playing Jim Carey’s Boat Party). Their testimonials were fantastic – real couples giving such good feedback really was a must for us. And their communication with us was superb. We asked A LOT of questions, partly because of the type of band they are (which I’ll explain a little more about shortly) and partly because we were intrigued as to how another band dealt with such queries. They were really helpful from start to finish, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them.

If anyone wants to know what kind of band they are, above is a photo of Cam and I singing our first ‘dance’… if you’ve seen either Cam or I dance, you’ll know our singing is a little better than our dancing ha ha.

Actually, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of the suppliers we used. David and his team at Chair Covers & Bows made De Courceys look even more glam than it already did. And Nicky at Creation Hair made me look even more glam than I ever have (not hard). Not to mention Leonie at Perfection Bridal Cardiff, who actually chose my dress for me.

And the cherry on top were Snap Photo Booth, who captured some of the funniest pictures of our family and friends I’ve ever seen, plus Andrew Hazard out photographer who captured the real essence and atmosphere of the day.

So, now we’ve both been through the frenzy that is planning a wedding, we both feel like we’re even more equipped than ever before to deal with any queries you have as an engaged couple planning your own big day. It has even encouraged me to take up a course in Wedding Planning!

It is such a special time, but with a lot going on it can get stressful – just remember, we are always at the other end of the phone or on email to assist, even if it isn’t something band-related! You never know, we might just be able to help… ☺

Take care, and happy wedding planning!

Ceri Stewart AKA Ceri Stingl x

 

 

 

Firstly, congratulations on your engagement!  The chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve made the choice to have live entertainment at your wedding – and what an excellent choice it is!

 

As a recently engaged couple, and function band members, it's been a real eye-opener looking for and booking the entertainment for our wedding. Being in the trade obviously has its’ advantages, but we’ve found it a really time-consuming and challenging (but fun!) decision to make. Of course, you want your day to be special and to your own taste, but you also want to keep your guests happy (from kid cousin to Granny), as well as having the usual ‘are they reliable/how will they sound/will they play the songs I want?’ worries!

 

So, with that in mind, here’s our guide to choosing the right entertainment for your special day, whether that be DJ, live band or string quartet!

 

 

Firstly, think about what it is you really want from your evening entertainment; do you want a band that will blow your guests' socks off? Or would you rather something a bit more low-key? How much are you prepared to spend on entertainment? All these things will help you to narrow-down your choices once you've obtained quotes.

 

DO judge a book by its’ cover; if the entertainment company/band/DJ have put a lot into their website, it's probable that they take pride in what they do, and are keen to show-off what a great service they have to offer. Check-out their audio and video samples; do they appear professional and organised? How do they look on stage?

 

Ask around; can your friends/family recommend any bands or DJ's that they've seen at other weddings? Ask your venue if they've had bands/musicians/DJ’s perform there before and, if so, who they'd recommend. Word of mouth is the best way to really get to hear the truth about an act.

 

Get quotes from as many acts as possible, and compare what each have to offer. If one is more expensive than the other, consider why that is - and remember, the cheapest will not always be the best value for money! It's your special day, and perhaps spending a little extra will mean you receive a more personal and professional service.

 

Make sure your chosen entertainment company corresponds and communicates well with you; if you're having to chase them for information regarding their quote, or they're not getting back to you when asking them questions at the point of booking, consider that they may not be as professional as they appear....

 

Don't be afraid to book someone without hearing them; if their audio and visual are good on their website, you've heard good things about them and you feel that they could be the perfect act for your wedding, why not ask them if they have a practice you can attend? If not, have a look at the instruments they play - are there less than you can actually hear in the recordings? If so, ask them whether they are using backing tracks - this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it will help you determine what they will sound like on the night.

 

Don’t shy away from taking advice; entertainers have often played hundreds of weddings, and they really have seen it all! Listen to what they have to say, and don’t be afraid to follow their advice (but don’t feel that you have to adhere to their suggestions either!).

 

Ask questions! It's your day, and you deserve to have the act you want. Ask your band or DJ to confirm or explain any queries you have, or if there's a special request you'd like, try asking them. You've got nothing to lose!

 

And last but not least…. Don’t try to please everyone. Not all of your guests will share your taste in music and so you really do just have to go with your instinct and gut-feel.

 

 

Live entertainment at a wedding is sometimes an element of the big day that gets’ over-looked – after-all, you’ve got so much to think about, and so much to spend your hard-earned cash on! Personally, we think you just can’t beat the enjoyment and atmosphere of live entertainment…. But then again, I suppose we may be a little biased! : )

Good luck from all at Session in finding the right act for your special day – and if there’s anything you’d like to ask us, or any advice you need concerning your evening entertainment, please feel free to get in touch. We’re always happy to help!

 

Best wishes,

Ceri x

Wedding Entertainment - Choosing the Right Act

Posted by Ceri Stingl - 31st July

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Session Entertainment are based in Cardiff, South Wales and offer professional entertainment services across Wales and the UK. Covering Cardiff, Vale of Glamorgan, Swansea, Newport, Abergavenny, Brecon, South Wales, Bristol, and the rest of the UK.

A selection of the wedding, party and event entertainment we are able to offer include: Live Band, DJ Packages, Acoustic Duo, Live Karaoke, Cocktail Pianist, PA and Lighting AV Hire, LED Starcloth Hire.