Please join us as for our first #AMAFeed!

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We're super excited about our opportunity to share our love for music, food, and wine on a live "Ask Me Anything" #AMAFeed on Wednesday May 23rd, starting at 11 am EDT/8am PDT. 

What is AMA? AMA is a "crowdsourced interview" where the community asks a host questions, and the host answers online. Usually the Feed is held live, at least for a few hours, and can last up to several days. This is our first time doing this, and we'd love to see some of you on there. Please look us up here: https://bit.ly/2GyL1pV

Ten tips on how to work best with live musicians and make your next event a raging success!

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A good friend was recently hired to sing at an upscale dinner for a small group of wealthy arts patrons. She and her pianist, Irene, began the evening with a 40-minute set as guests mingled and then took their seats for dinner.

As their last song came to a close, they received a generous applause, some warm smiles, and were guided down two long flights of stairs to the basement. They remained in the basement for 90 minutes until required to return for their second set. They were served dinner, and dietary restrictions were generously observed.

The irony of this story is that this particular event was all about raising money for a performing arts organization. And what makes a performing arts organization different from any other organization? You guessed it: the performers!

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The event planner missed a golden opportunity here to make this dinner truly memorable for the guests. Here were two engaging, talented musicians hired for a fairly generous fee who were shuttled away into oblivion during the most important part of the night.

A better option for the artists and the guests would have been to seat my friend and her pianist at two of the dinner tables. Here, they could have interacted with patrons, shared stories of their artistry, and become part of the experience, rather than merely decoration or background noise.  

As a working musician who also runs a special events company, I am in a unique position to see both the event planner’s and the musician’s point of view when it comes to hiring entertainment for an event. I think there is a way for both sides to understand each other better and make this relationship much more mutually beneficial. So, in the spirit of musicians’ love for what we do, and for event planners’ love for how live music can elevate an event, I have compiled this list of 10 tips for how to make sure musicians and event planners can work together to make it a seamless, stress-free experience for everyone.

  1. Please provide a bathroom for your musicians. No, not a port-a-potty. An actual bathroom. These are professionals who want a private place to “go,” which includes running water, soap, hand towels, and a bit of privacy.

  2. Please provide water, coffee or soft drinks, and some light snacks at a minimum. This won't add much to your costs, and it is very much appreciated. Remember: hungry musicians won't play as well :) If you have vocalists performing, water is extremely important. A little goes a long way to make your performers feel welcomed and appreciated.

  3. Provide a room with decent lighting. You want us to look good, and we want to look good, also. Putting on makeup under one fluorescent bulb ain’t easy, and it’s not likely to produce the best results. Natural lighting (during the day) or generous lighting will help us look our best and keep us feeling refreshed.

  4. Tips are really appreciated. Sure, we’ve negotiated a contract with you, and we feel that we’re being appropriately compensated. However, a tip jar is a lovely gesture of appreciation for the incredibly hard work we put in, much of which guests don’t see.

  5. Please provide easy load-in and load-out. A string quartet doesn’t need all that much help loading in their gear but a band that consists of a drummer, bassist, keyboardist, and singer, all of whom need amplification… well, you see where I’m going. If possible, provide easy access from the parking area, a ramp to the stage, and an extra pair of hands to help lift and carry equipment.

  6. Understand the worth of a pro musician. Being a working musician is not easy. They spend most of their time auditioning for the next job, money is sporadic and often insufficient, and the benefits of a “real” job, such as health insurance, a 401K plan, and paid holidays are just not part of the deal. Between college, graduate school, summer programs, apprenticeships, and real life experience, most musicians have spent at least as much time studying and honing their craft as most doctors, lawyers, and engineers. A budget for hiring musicians needs to reflect the musicians’ experience and also the time they will spend rehearsing prior to your event to make sure they’re bringing you their very best performances.

  7. Talk to the musicians. They’re human, usually very nice, and they want to please you. If you notice something is wrong, or that they are not performing to your satisfaction, please let them know -- and not by leaving a scathing review on Yelp. Calmly pull one of the band members aside and let them know what’s going on. Perhaps they misunderstood a request or someone has fallen ill in the band, and they've had to replace them at the last minute. Be kind, courteous, honest, and flexible, and the band will be the same to you.

  8. Don’t ask for “extra time” unless you plan to pay for it. If you went to see your lawyer and used up more than your allotted hour, you can be sure you’d see it on your next bill. If you’ve contracted musicians for a two-hour performance, that’s what you’ll get. One or two extra songs… sure, that’s probably not going to be a problem. But if you want the musicians to stick around, please have them to one side, speak with the lead musician or band manager, and discuss the details.

  9. Set wardrobe expectations ahead of time. If you need your musicians to dress in something other than what they'd typically have in their closets, please be ready to provide the costumes or clothing, or to provide a stipend to be paid ahead of time for the musicians to acquire the necessary items themselves.

  10. Treat them like professionals. This is a no-brainer, but it is absolutely shocking how terribly many musicians are treated. Yes, we are “hired help,” as are the cooks and bartenders and cleaning staff and event planners, so I guess what I mean is, be nice to all of us. We’re all human, most of us have college, graduate, and post-graduate degrees, speak several languages, have children and homes and responsibilities just like the people for whom we are performing.

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Following these ten tips will not only enhance your relationship with your hired musicians, but will help ensure that they give the best live performance possible at your event - which is what we all want.

Did someone say cocktails?🍸🎵

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Our pairing this week introduces you to how we're pairing music, drink, and food through our cocktail branch, Song & Tonic.

While we're still staying true to the storytelling concept behind Five Senses Tastings, working with craft cocktails allows us to go deep into the ingredients in both the cocktail and the song. We deconstruct – then reconstruct – both the drink and the song through careful pairings of sound and flavor.

 

SONG
"City of the Angels" by Fred Astaire
DRINK 
Elderflower French 75
SMALL BITE
Spring pea puree, wild mustard flower on sourdough crostini
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SONG
"City of the Angels" is a perfect opening song for an event celebrating the sounds and flavors of this beautiful city. The lyrics speak to the open minded and open-hearted people who live here, the sunny air, the breezes, and the lifestyle. "Train or boat or jet there just as soon as you can get there, and I bet that you’ll be met there by a friend,” Fred Astaire sings. 

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DRINK
Classic, bubbly & crowd-pleasing, the French 75 is a wonderful welcome drink. Typically made with gin, lemon juice, champagne & sugar, we’ve updated this cocktail by adding elderflower syrup made from locally foraged elderflowers. Along with The Spirit Guild’s Astral Pacific Gin, the elderflower syrup makes this a truly LaLaLand French 75. 
 

Here's how they go together:

Bass - Astral Pacific Gin: The Gin is the constant ingredient in this cocktail, sneaky ingredient, giving this cocktail a punch

Keys - Lemon Juice: This drink needs the acid to expand the flavors just as the keys help to expand the melodies of the instruments and vocal line

Drums - Sparkling Wine: The soft bubbles add texture to this drink as the percussion adds texture to the song

Voice - Elderflower Syrup: Our LA ingredient is elegant & classic. The vocal line and lyrics are the love letter to Los Angeles

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SMALL BITE
Our small bite, presented beautifully by Chef Louis Pechan of Hundred Miles LA, lend vivid spring color and soft flavor to our cocktail and music pairing. We particularly loved how the spring pea was represented both in its truest form and also as another version of itself, in the puree.

All photos by Leslie Rodriquez Photography

So there's this island off the coast of Italy...

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Music:
"Hurrian Hymn No. 6"
Wine
2016 Vermentino di Sardegna by Antonella Corda
Cheese:
Ricotta infornata

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Music

Our musical selection for this week's Pairing Note is inspired by history... and by history, I mean, waaaaay back to the 14th Century. Before Christ. Yep, that far back. It's nowhere near the first piece of music written but it is considered the first melody transcribed in a way that we – modern folk – can interpret and replicate. The piece was discovered in the 1950s in the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit and is etched on clay tablets, composed in cuneiform by ancient Hurrians. The melody is designed to be played on a nine-string lyre. The sound produced by the lyre is somewhat haunting but given how long ago it was composed, it is not all that unfamiliar to western ears.

Musically, it is actually quite complex as well. One hand at times keeps a steady strumming or harmonic foundation while another hand picks out a melody. The end of the piece becomes more urgent and ardent. We are excited to pair this fabulous piece of ancient music to a wine from a very old place, Sardinia. The complexity of the piece pairs wonderfully with the Vermentino variety, which at first glance might seem a fairly easy, non-complex wine but hides quite a bit of complexity in the glass.

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Wine
Sardinia is actually one of the oldest land masses in Europe, and it also happens to be one of the most prolific producers of the white wine variety, Vermentino. If you're a fan of Sauvignon Blanc or Sancerre, this would be a good option for you to try. Higher levels of phenols can yield what some palates find to be a bitterness on the palate, though I have never tasted this. This particular wine is an excellent example of the wonderful value you can get in Vermentino. California is now growing some as well though the largest production still comes from Italy and France.

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Cheese
In my opinion, ricotta is an underrated cheese. Relegated to sitting between layers of pasta and eggplant in your lasagna, it is delicious in its own right. Its slight tartness combined with a creamy texture makes it ideal for spreading on a brioche toast with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. There are also many variations to ricotta. One that is popular on the island of Sardinia is ricotta infornata, or baked ricotta. Easy enough to make at home: simply spread a pound of fresh ricotta, drained and chilled for at least 24 hours, on into a buttered ceramic baking sheet, cover with a layer of salt, and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour and a half. You might also add another layer of salt on the top for some extra flavor and crunch! Let us know how it went!

A slightly weird and somewhat impossible pairing for Easter 🐇

Easter is a big deal in so many parts of the world. Amazing music has been written throughout the ages in celebration of this time, and good food and drink are never far away either. This Pairing Note allowed me to indulge my love for the Renaissance choral tradition. I've still to meet the person who doesn't – even if secretly – totally love this music.

Music:
"Haec Dies" by William Byrd
Wine
2016 Sparkling Blush by Tessa Marie
Cheese:
Sirecz (Easter Cheese)

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Music
I have loved early music for as long as I can remember (probably since singing in the Canterbury Cathedral choir as a young girl), and the Kings' Singers are among the best in the world at this very difficult, intricate, and highly exposed musical style. Enjoy this short piece, “Haec Dies,” - written specifically for Easter - and then please go discover more William Byrd and Thomas Tallis on your own. Whether you're celebrating the religious side of Easter this weekend or not (trust me, I ain't judging), this music will keep you company.

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Wine
Ok, so don’t hate me but we have a problem: you can't actually get this wine anymore... it's aaaaalll gone! But I had to get in one last hurrah for this very special winemaker before she goes into retirement, and we can no longer enjoy her beautiful wine art. This 2016 Sparking rosé blush is nothing shy of transcendental, and we will miss it! greatly Rosés are great for Easter meals (they go with so many things!) and bonus, it's actually starting to warm up here in LA so you can bet they're going to start flying off the shelves.

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Cheese
I always love learning something new and this week is no different. It seems that Easter cheeses are all the rage Eastern Europe. This week we're featuring Sirecz, Easter Cheese from Slovakia. You can find a recipe to try it at home here. It is in some ways more akin to a custard than a traditional "cheese" as we know it and therefore should pair nicely with a nice dry rosé. Let us know if you try this out yourself!