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Looking for music entertainment without the muddy moshpit? Traditional venues offer comprehensive hospitality packages for a range of music events
Not all clients are ready for a weekend in a remote field, however luxurious the tents, so for an established and comfortable way to enjoy music in the summer, classic hospitality tickets are more popular than ever.
The hospitality at traditional venues tends to run to a tried-and-tested format – a risk-free proposition that appeals to corporate buyers. Guests will generally be welcomed with Champagne and canapés, before a pre-show dinner with wine and coffee, so there’s plenty of time for getting to know fellow guests. The party will then be ushered into premier seats, with access to a complimentary bar throughout the evening.
Don’t assume that a traditional backdrop will always be reflected in a conservative music policy. Even the most genteel of venues offer varying styles and tempos. Forthcoming events at the Royal Albert Hall, for example, include concerts by flamboyant rock giants Muse and enfant terrible Pete Doherty. ‘We have the Proms and classical concerts, but we also support up-and-coming young artists,’ explains director of events, Jasper Hope. ‘There’s a whole other side to us.’ This combination of a classic venue with less conventional performers means that companies can offer corporate guests an exciting evening in a comfortable, elegant environment without the scrum for a warm can of beer at the bar.
Cathcart Spring Proms
15 May 2008, Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, SW7
Line-up: Tenor Wynne Evans, the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and the Royal Choral Society, with David Arnold.
Expect: Often described as the “Corporate Proms”, the 2008 Spring Proms will again feature hundreds of musicians and choristers, soloists and groups against this most magnificent of backdrops. There will be spine-tingling choral favourites, symphonic rock arrangement of chart hits and plenty of other ‘sing along’ Proms classics.
Hospitality: For £225+VAT, the Consort Package offers a private box for up to eight with a buffet and drinks service or there’s the President Package at £325+VAT, including dinner in the Gallery and a Grand Tier box.
Contact: European Events, tel: 08700 111991, squaremeal.co.uk/cathcart
Hampton Court Palace Music Festival
3-21 June 2008, Hampton Court Palace, Surrey
Line-up: Rufus Wainwright, Katherine Jenkins, Jools Holland, Van Morrison, Michael Ball, Buena Vista Social Club, Ray Davies among others.
Expect: A majestic setting and a ‘something-for-everyone’ selection of artists. Performances, ranging from foot-tapping to hip-shaking, are held in the strikingly lit courtyard of the 17th-century palace. With a limited capacity of 3,000, it’s an intimate affair.
Hospitality: Guests dine in the magnificent state apartments in the palace, with a menu created by Gordon Ramsay and Absolute Taste caterers. The corporate menu includes a substantial canapé reception and two-course dinner with specially selected wines, followed by coffee and individual boxes of chocolates. Prices start from £225 per person, and flexible packages can accommodate from two to 200.
Contact: IMG, tel: 020 8233 5122, squaremeal.co.uk/hcpmf
Opera Holland Park
3 June-9 August 2008, Holland Park, W8
Line-up: Il trovatore by Verdi, The Magic Flute by Mozart, Iolanta by Tchaikovsky.
Expect: An atmospheric listed site in verdant surrounds perched between Kensington and Notting Hill, the theatre was given a radical upgrade in 2007 with the construction of a state-of-the-art canopy. It’s a classic line-up, but the team has a progressive outlook and is always happy to recommend performances more suited to the less seasoned opera-goer.
Hospitality: There are two lovely spaces for entertaining: The Mezzanine, a 120-capacity contemporary venue in the heart of the theatre with great views; and the Dutch Garden Lounge, a glass-fronted lounge overlooking the celebrated Dutch Garden with capacity for 50-person dinners. Dining options range from Champagne picnics (£150+VAT) to a Summer Reception with substantial canapés (£185+VAT) or a three-course Pre-Opera Supper (£210+VAT).
Contact: Opera Holland Park box office, tel: 020 7361 2108, squaremeal.co.uk/ohp
18 May-31 August 2008, Glyndebourne, East Sussex
Line-up: L’incoronazione di Poppea by Monteverdi, Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky, Britten’s Albert Herring, Bizet’s Carmen, Hänsel und Gretel by Humperdinck and Peter Eötvös’s Love and Other Demons.
Expect: Established in 1934, Glyndebourne is to opera what Glastonbury is to rock music. It’s a famously stunning setting, a 700-year-old country house and opera house in leafy grounds, and attracts a predictably cultured crowd, as well as the ‘Seasonaires’. Concerts kick off mid to late afternoon, with a long interval for dinner and refreshments.
Hospitality: Even basic tickets are scarce, so companies take up corporate membership, starting at £4,700, to secure priority booking. Dining arrangements can be made through one of the Leith’s facilities. Official hospitality is limited to an all-inclusive One Night Corporate Event packages at £28,000+VAT for 40 top price tickets and catering.
Contact: Glyndebourne, tel: 01273 815046
4 June-6 July 2008, Garsington Manor, Garsington, Oxfordshire
Line-up: Vivaldi’s L’incoronazione di Dario, Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress.
Expect: A postcard-perfect English setting, with operas staged on the terrace of a Jacobean manor house, tea on the lawn, and promenading in the elegant gardens. Champagne is served on the croquet lawn, before audience members take their seats. The long dinner interval gives plenty of time to picnic, or dine in the restaurant.
Hospitality: A Standard option for £385 including best seats and a three-course dinner with wine in the 85-minute interval, or the Elite package, which also offers a Champagne reception, seats in the front six rows and an upgraded menu with wine for £485.
Contact: Eventwise, tel: 020 7381 9319, squaremeal.co.uk/ew
Wisley Music Festival
12-14 June 2008, RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey
Line-up: Lesley Garrett & the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra; Stars of the 80s; Counterfeit Stones
Expect: A beautiful country garden in summer and an eclectic line-up for this picnic concert, as well as informal and formal hospitality packages. The post-concert firework display finishes at 10.10pm, so guests will still be back in town at a reasonable time.
Upgrade: From the ‘Gazebo Village’, a picnic option at £70, to the £85 ‘Conservatory Connoisseur’ with a pre-show dinner and ‘The Wisley Pavilion’ package, with Champagne, three courses and VIP parking for £160, all including Gold Circle seating.
Contact: Balmlane, tel: 01753 626915
Summer Swing at Kew
8-12 July 2008, Kew Gardens, Surrey
Line-up: Jools Holland, Commitments/Sounds of the Blues Brothers, Lulu, Gipsy Kings
Expect: A lively event in the leafy setting of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Foot-tapping turns into fancy footwork later in the evening, as any one of the acts promises to deliver crowd-pleasing classics. It’s standing room only later on, so guests can move to the public area for dancing.
Upgrade: Private and shared tables in Kew Club; a minimum of 30 in the Kew Pavilions. From £229, including Champagne and canapés, pre-show dinner, free bar and a garden viewing area.
Contact: Ambro Events, tel: 01923 710970
9-12 July 2008, Henley on Thames, Berkshire
Line-up: Alfie Boe, Natasha Marsh, Lesley Garrett, Hayley Westenra, Gipsy Kings, Courtney Pine, John Williams, John Etheridge
Expect: The five-day festival celebrates its 25th anniversary with a glittering array of music, comedy, visual art and dance. Its trademark party piece is a musical firework spectacular over the Thames.
Hospitality: Hospitality at La Scala marquee includes Grandstand tickets, a Champagne & canapé reception, a four-course ‘Albert Roux’ dinner plus Champagne and wines.
Contact: Keith Prowse, tel: 0845 602 8987
18 July-13 September, Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, SW7
Line-up: To be announced on 9 April.
Expect: A ‘come-one-come-all’ ethos and a ‘promenade’ standing area livens up a famous roster of over 70 concerts at this splendid venue, from mid-July to mid-September.
Hospitality: The Hall offers hospitality through lease-box packages and on a one-off basis for private events. Proms hospitality is extremely sought-after, so for the best chance of laying your hands on packages, speak to the venue’s corporate business manager. The RAH’s all-inclusive packages include private box seating with a choice of menus, wines, Champagne and soft drinks.
Contact: Royal Albert Hall, tel: 020 7959 0507
TRIED & TESTED
Korn/Ferry Opera Holland Park
By Anna Longmore
I’d always wanted to go, it just never seemed like the right time. And, if I’m totally honest, the prospect of amply proportioned women in corsets warbling in a language I couldn’t understand was never sufficient motivation. But Holland Park is the perfect setting for the novice opera-goer. It’s a beautiful, breezy theatre for a summer’s evening attracting a more mixed crowd than established temples like the Royal Opera House. Before the show, Champagne and an excellent three-course dinner were served in a simple structure with a terrace overlooking the park’s pretty Dutch Garden. We took our seats in the auditorium – now with a state-of-the-art canopy overhead – for the performance of Verdi’s La Traviata. I needn’t have worried about the language barrier, as clear English surtitles took care of that, but at times it’s far more enjoyable to forget about the words and just absorb the music and the visual experience. You’ll already have read the plot, which takes away the niggling worry that you’re going to miss something key, making opera a far more mellow and calming evening out than the theatre. Not to mention the proud post-show glow at having broken new cultural ground. And with a relatively early finish and a short walk to Kensington, you’ve still got time to nip for a drink or two afterwards – to discuss the finer points of the performance of course.
TRIED & TESTED
Tower Music Festival
By Karen Doyle
A long, winding line of concert-goers met us as we arrived outside the Tower of London on a rain-splattered July evening for a night of ‘Roxy music’. As corporate guests, however, we took great pleasure in sailing through the queue-free VIP entrance. Entering the prestigious venue felt a bit like stepping back in time, with a jauntily-dressed Beefeater leading the way along cobbled streets to the 16th-century New Armouries building. After a lovely Champagne reception (with delicious canapés like tiger prawns and mini roast beef and Yorkshire puddings), dinner was served. Guests expecting a hearty hot meal might be disappointed; the food was light in portion size, cold and leafy (no cooking can be done on-site due to venue restrictions), but we were cheered by a personal visit from chef Gary Rhodes. With our sweet tooths satisfied by lemon tart, coffee and chocolates, we rushed off across the grounds for Bryan Ferry’s performance.
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Spring 2008.