Getting in the festive holiday spirit this week as we start to plan music for upcoming holiday parties. We just had our first snowfall of the Chicago winter season and we’re gearing up to bring warmth and joy to all of your holiday celebrations!

How are you getting into the holiday spirit? Maybe you’re planning a holiday party at work or hosting your closest friends and family for in your home. Looking for a few party ideas? Here is some inspiration to put together the perfect holiday gathering with quality entertainment.

Winter Wonderland

It may be cold outside, but baby a snowy explosion of white can be magical and modern affair! Hire a mixologist to craft some frosty cocktails, add elegance to the decor with glittery linens, and select entertainment to perform all the wintery classics. An a cappella group or a jazz trio is a lively way to channel all of the legendary holiday tunes. The group Pentatonix has brought holiday classics into the modern era with their pop, a cappella twist. A great rendition of Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” will bring back great memories.

Great Gatsby

Transport yourself back to the roaring 20s with all the glitz and glamour, perfect for any holiday event! During this era of social change and prohibition, “jazz bands played at dance halls like the Savoy in New York City and the Aragon in Chicago”. Hiring a great jazz group would compliment this theme and have the perfect mix of upbeat and background music to set the mood for the evening. (source: http://www.history.com/topics/roaring-twenties). Adding a few pieces to the band and you can expand the repertoire to all eras for dancing.

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Masquerade

Who is that alluring person behind that mask? This theme creates a formal and classical affair that your guests can have a lot of fun with. A live dance orchestra with strings can elevate your event to the next level. A string quartet is another option if you’re having a smaller party and don’t need a full band. It’s also an excellent choice for cocktails and dinner before dancing starts and you waltz the night away or get down to the latest Bruno Mars hit!

Movie Classics

Draw inspiration for your party theme from classic holiday movies. You can bring back childhood nostalgia with the classic holiday film, A Christmas Story. Book a children’s choir to play into your guests’ youthful spirit. They can perform a special show or accompany a live band or DJ to provide entertainment that your guests will love and cherish.

No scrooges here! A Christmas Carol theme can bring all your holiday traditions to life. Deck the halls, bake some cookies, and serve up delicious egg nog. You can book an a cappella caroling group with authentic period costumes to pull together this classic holiday theme. The carolers can go around to different areas of the party, serenading your guests and encouraging them to join in on the caroling fun.

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Karaoke

Looking for something that is goofy and fun for your holiday party? Sing holiday tunes or just some of your favorite songs! Karaoke can either be done with a DJ or all out with a full live band karaoke experience! Invite your guests up to sing accompanied by live musicians and they can provide great encouragement for guests to get up there and sing their hearts out! In between your friends belting “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, a live band can provide entertainment to pack a dance floor.

Contact us if you are interested in any of these options for your holiday party!

Happy Monday! We apologize for the gap in our posts recently but we are back and ready to begin sharing exciting stuff with you again! On a similar note, my name is Emily and I’m the new planning and operations coordinator here. I graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Arts, Entertainment, and Media Management. I’ve always had a passion for music so because of this, I’m thrilled to share different musical happenings each week that I find interesting.

We’ve had an exciting variety of record releases in the past couple of weeks. An impressive release came from 12-year-old Grace VanderWaal, who won America’s Got Talent. See her videos here. She’s definitely worth checking out and will be performing at The Park West this Wednesday, November 15. Taylor Swift also partially released her album last week. She’s not going to release it to streaming services until next week, but you can purchase it now if you just can’t wait at her online store. Interesting (smart?) approach to releasing an album. She did sell 700,000 albums already when I wrote this post and it’s expected to increase from there. So I’d say it’s a pretty genius move on her part. What do you think?

At every wedding reception, there are a number of special dances – the first dance for the bride and groom, an anniversary dance, mother-son and father-daughter dances, etc. However, an important special dance for any wedding reception is the last song of the evening. As with any special dance, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to choosing a song.

Here at Stitely Entertainment, we believe it comes down to one simple question: Do you want to end the evening on a sweet note or with a high-energy vibe?

Ending the night sweetly often takes the form of a ballad or a song that holds a great deal of sentimental meaning. Examples include, “Our Love is Here to Stay,” John Legend’s “Stay With You,” “Lean On Me,” or “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.”

High-energy songs get everyone in the room out on the dance floor! Think popular songs that everyone knows and loves and will be guaranteed to create a celebration. For instance, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey – a song played in every college bar. Another example would be “Beginnings” by Chicago. A tune with a great horn section, message, and groove. Other examples include, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” “Raise Your Glass: by P!nk, or “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

Jeff Stitely adds that the last song of the evening should create a “unified field” or a sense of oneness with everyone gathered for the wedding – a way for everyone to participate in celebrating the bride and groom’s new life together.

Having trouble deciding which way to go? Do what feels best to you and what fits your personal style! Ultimately, what matters is the way you want to feel at the very end of your special day.

Picture this: you’re sitting outside on a beautiful late spring day. One of your best friends has just said “I do” to the love of her life. As the happy couple turns to face the gathering of family and friends, the officiant proclaims, “It is my great pleasure to introduce, for the first time – “

Ah, there’s the variable! How exactly will they be introduced?

It’s a question many couples face while planning their weddings – not only for the first introduction at the end of the ceremony, but also for the one that happens at the beginning of the reception. Introductions range from informal and casual to traditional. And, depending upon whether or not either person is changing their last name these introductions change further.

For example, say the bride is taking her husband’s last name. On the casual side, they can be introduced as “Tom and Jane Smith.” On the very formal side, “Mr. and Mrs. Tom Smith.” And semiformal: “Mr. and Mrs. Tom and Jane Smith.”

If, however, the bride is keeping her last name, they can be introduced by their names, (“Tom Smith and Jane Johnson”) or, more formally, “Mr. and Mrs. Tom Smith and Jane Johnson.”

Or, if the couple is combining their last names, “Tom and Jane Smith-Johnson” or “Mr. and Mrs. Tom and Jane Smith-Johnson.

But hey, what if you’re not sure yet what will happen with your last names? Wondering what the current trends are?

According to the New York Times, before 1970, 14% of women kept their maiden names, though the first wave of feminism, which reached its zenith in the 1970’s, pushed that number to 17%. Things took a dip in the more conservative 1980’s, but the number of women keeping their last names has actually been on the rise again since the 1990’s, up to 22% of women in the 2010’s.

Whatever you and your fiancé decide, you have plenty of options as to how you can be introduced to your friends and loved ones on your special day. Do what feels right for you!

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/upshot/maiden-names-on-the-rise-again.html?_r=0

Ever been at a wedding and found yourself wondering about where some of these old traditions – like the ring worn on the left hand, the bouquet toss, and the tiered cake – come from? Here at Stitely, we looked into the history of some of these practices – turns out, the history of weddings is full of fascinating tidbits – some sweet, some superstitious, some strange.

1. Before 1840, brides simply wore their best dress on their wedding day. It was Queen Victoria who set the standard of wearing white for one’s wedding – at least in the Western world (whereas wearing white had already been standard practice in Japan for a long time). Fun fact: her wedding cake weighed in at 300 pounds!

2. It’s widely accepted that traditionally, wedding rings are worn on the 4th finger of the left hand. This dates back to the Roman Empire, when they believed that a vein in the 4th finger of the left hand ran directly to the heart, thus symbolizing the love and commitment between the newlyweds.

3. According to Hindu tradition, rain on your wedding day is a sign of good luck!

4. The bouquet toss, that ever-popular battle for the bridal airborne floral arrangement, has its roots in England, where women used to try to tear off pieces of the bride’s dress and bouquet to try to get some of her good luck. At this point, the bride would ditch the bouquet by throwing it over her shoulder and making a run for it! Now, the bride gathers her single female friends behind her and she throws the bouquet high in the air – and the first woman to catch it is thought to be the next one to be married.

5. And, of course, there’s the garter toss. Back in the days when couples were required to prove that their union had been consummated, relatives would be invited into the bedroom as “witnesses.” The relatives would then try to obtain pieces of clothing – undergarments were considered particularly lucky. Eventually, though, newlyweds got sick of this – to the point where the groom would toss the bride’s garter out the bedroom door so everyone would leave them alone. Now, however, the garter is tossed to the single men in the room – and the one who catches it is supposedly the one who will get married next.

Of course, weddings continue to change – some brides opt not to wear white, some people have alternatives to cake for their dessert, and some couples decide to do variations on the bouquet and garter toss or omit them all together. It’s all up to you! You can take what you like from the old traditions, and maybe create some new ones yourself.

 

Sources:

https://www.theknot.com/content/wedding-traditions-superstitions-facts-trivia

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/weddinglore1.html

Last time, we brought you a few tips for choosing the perfect song for your first dance. Now that you’ve picked the song, there’s the dancing part. One very common worry among brides and grooms alike is how they will look to those watching during their first dance.

In answer to this, Jeff Stitely offers a quote from one of his all-time favourite authors, Paolo Coelho:

 

“When I was an adolescent I envied the great ballet dancers among the kids on the block, and pretended I had other things to do at parties — like having a conversation. But in fact I was terrified of looking ridiculous, and because of that I would not risk a single step.

 Until one day a girl called Marcia called out to me in front of everybody: “Come on!”

 I said I did not like to dance, but she insisted.

 Everyone in the group was looking, and because I was in love (love is capable of so many things!), I could refuse no further.

 I did not know how to follow the steps, but Marcia did not stop; she went on dancing as if I were a Rudolf Nureyev.

 “Forget the others and pay attention to the bass,” she whispered in my ear. “Try to follow its rhythm.”

 At that moment I understood that we do not always have to learn the most important things; they are already part of our nature.

 When we become adults, and when we grow old, we need to go on dancing. The rhythm changes, but music is part of life, and dancing is the consequence of letting this rhythm come inside us.

 I still dance whenever I can. With dancing, the spiritual world and the real world manage to co-exist without any conflicts.

 As somebody once said, the classic ballerinas are always on tiptoe because they are at the same time touching the earth and reaching the sky.”

 

Essentially, there’s no need to worry about how you look during your first dance. The dance is about sharing a special moment between you, the music, and the person you love. Just listen, be present, and let the music guide you! And remember, you’re surrounded by people who aren’t there to judge you – they love you, and they love to see you happy. They’re just enjoying the moment and sharing in the love. You’re a better dancer than you think. It’s in your nature.

Here’s a taste for what’s been going on around the Chicago music scene the last few years: Pocket Radio is a Chicago-based band known for energetic live shows and music that combines jazz, funk, hip-hop, and soul and gets audiences on their feet. This original tune, written by tenor saxophonist, S. Hudgens, is a perfect example of Pocket Radio’s style.

When it comes to choosing a song for your first dance as a married couple, it can be hard to know where to start. There’s so much great music out there! How can you possibly choose?

Jeff Stitely, our fearless leader here at Stitely Entertainment and an expert in the field for 25 years, has a few recommendations to help the process along.

First, he says, when considering a song, pay attention to how it makes you feel. Does it give you chills? Make you smile? Do you love the feeling you get when you hear it? If so, those are sure signs of a great song choice!

Second, pay attention to the lyrics. Do they resonate with you? Do they reflect your outlook on life, love, and/or relationships? If so, great! Looks like you’ve got a contender.

On the other hand, what if the song makes you feel great, and you love what the song has to say about life/love/relationships in the first two verses and the chorus… but then the third verse takes a left turn into darker territory? (What if the people who were so in love at the beginning of the song break up? Or what if the person’s love is unrequited? etc.)

Don’t give up on that song just yet – there are ways we can make it work!

If you’ve booked a live band, it can be as simple as changing a few words – past tense can become present tense, for example – or even omitting that last verse entirely. It’s as easy as that! If you’ve booked a DJ, it’s possible to fade the song out before that troublesome verse comes up. Either way, you have options that will help to make your first dance extra special.

Here’s a great example of how someone chose their perfect first dance song. Consider Jeff Stitely’s story:

“When I got married, I was a jazz drummer and loved all the old classic ballads. My favorite song was called “My One and Only Love”. The lyric starts with “The very thought of you makes my heart sing” and the whole song is that scrumptious in addition to being one of the most beautiful melodies ever written from that era. Maybe two other people in the country chose that song but we didn’t care about that. It is a personal choice. Check it out.”

Still need inspiration? Here’s a list of the top 10 most popular first dance songs of 2016 according to the music streaming service, Spotify:

 

  1. Thinking Out Loud (Ed Sheeran)
  2. At Last (Etta James)
  3. You Are the Best Thing (Ray LaMontagne)
  4. All of Me (John Legend)
  5. A Thousand Years (Christina Perri)
  6. Make You Feel My Love (Adele)
  7. I Won’t Give Up (Jason Mraz)
  8. Everything (Michael Buble)
  9. Better Together (Jack Johnson)
  10. Amazed (Lonestar)

 

2017 has arrived, bringing with it snow, bitingly cold winds, and, of course, awards season. This past Sunday, NBC broadcast the annual Golden Globes, bringing with it a cavalcade of celebrities, and high hopes to win one of the entertainment industry’s highest honors. In particular, a little film by the name of La La Land, a musical romp reminiscent of the Golden Age movie musicals of the mid-20th century, had high hopes to bring home a record number of wins.

La La Land, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, was nominated for a grand total of seven categories, including Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy, Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, Best Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Director. By the end of the evening, the film had swept the awards and won all seven of the categories for which it was nominated. Prior to Sunday, the record for most Golden Globe wins by a film was shared by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and Midnight Express (1978), each with six wins that year. Needless to say, that record was shattered this year.

This reviewer has heard a number of people discussing whether or not these wins were well-deserved – after all, how could a romantic musical win out for best screenplay over a powerhouse film like Moonlight? And how could Emma Stone win Best Actress over Meryl Streep? In some ways, La La Land’s sweeping victory doesn’t make a lot of sense.

After two viewings of the film (one on Christmas Day, one the day after New Years), this reviewer can honestly say that not only are those wins well-deserved, they say something about the state of film and our society’s relationship to entertainment and to the ways in which we consume media.

During the golden age of movie musicals (think Singin’ in the Rain, Easter Parade, and White Christmas), movie audiences craved escape and romance, acrobatic dance routines, hummable music, and, of course, a happy ending. Stars like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Debbie Reynolds sang, danced, and romanced their ways into audiences’ hearts, and everyone went home happy. But the 1960′s brought widespread home television viewing and rock and roll into the forefront of public consciousness in a highly immediate and visual way. Showtunes and choreography fell by the wayside in favour of mop-topped teenagers with guitars and the Ed Sullivan Show. The movie musical as we knew it retreated to a distant corner of the public consciousness. In past years, it surfaced in the form of movies like FootlooseYentl, and the ever-loved animated Disney films of the 80′s and 90′s – and more recently in movies like Once. But our dear old movie musical never achieved its former glory – even in Enchanted, which used music to make fun of the old golden age tropes, rather than uplifting them.

La La Land stands out because not only does it bring back the big production numbers, romance, and seemingly spontaneous, flawless dance routines of yesteryear, it transforms them into a work of art that is at once nostalgic and forward-thinking.

The story: a classic show-biz routine. Starry-eyed young actress meets and falls in love with a sardonic, passionate jazz musician. Both are down on their luck, but find new inspiration in one another. They talk, they sing, they dance. They are, in many ways, perfect for one another. BUT their story is not all rose petals and sunshine. Rather than committing fully to the age-old paradigm of the fluffy, happy love story, the two young protagonist’s relationship has very real difficulties, and reflects far more the reality of modern love, rather than another generation’s fantasy.

The music: at once classic Broadway and modern masterpiece. Composer Justin Hurwitz teamed up with Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who wrote the lyrics for the film. Pasek and Paul are Off-Broadway and now Broadway veterans, and are the minds that gave us shows like Dogfight and Dear Evan Hansen, which has just moved to Broadway. The old Broadway sensibility is there – but so is a modern outlook. There is a depth and earnestness to the music that has developed over time in the Broadway sphere since the late 1960′s – far more aware of itself and aware of the underlying humanity. “City of Stars,” which won Best Original Song, is the perfect example of this. It could almost be a modern radio hit – and yet it calls upon influences from the music of composers like Cole Porter and Irving Berlin for a decidedly nostalgic flair. A near-perfect hybrid. 

The performances: decidedly modern. As opposed to the old style of movie musical acting (big laughs, big fun, not a lot of subtext or character development), La La Land throws two powerful acting talents (Stone and Gosling) into an older format and asks them to do what they do best. Occasionally while singing and dancing. The result is enchanting, though in a way that makes one very aware that you are watching something different than anything you’ve seen before. Exquisitely nuanced and deeply felt, Stone and Gosling’s performances lend an incredible richness and humanity to a story that, if handled only slightly less carefully, would have been heavy-handed and insincere. (My only complaint: the singing was only so-so. Is it so hard to find actors with that kind of emotional gravity and heart that can really sing? Several alternatives come to mind…)

Overall: a stunning film. Richly visual, highly dynamic, funny, poignant, well-paced (it clocks in at 2 hours and 8 minutes, but feels like far less), and a wonderful leap into the future, rooted in a shared past. The magic of La La Land is in its deft handling of an older genre (which has a power in and of itself) within a modern context, with modern actors, creatives, and technology. We may not see another like La La Land for a long time, but the film points the way into the future – not in the sense that every film from here on out should be a musical, but in the sense that there is something to be said for listening to the past, taking what works, and taking real care in making it a work of art for the modern audience.

3.5/4 stars

Join 400+ guests at the Chicago Cultural Center tomorrow evening at the IronHorse Ball to raise money for ALS research.  Channel 7′s weekend sports anchor, Dionne Miller will host and emcee the event.  Michael Hutchins, pianist and vocalist will play Sinatra during cocktails and Stitely’s own DJ John Norman will get the crowd dancing after the dinner and awards.  Tickets are still available.