I like throwing parties. But I also suffer from a condition I call “Gatsby Syndrome.” Symptoms include behaviors such as
- delighting in the act of throwing parties;
- hoping that one’s favorite people will attend such parties;
- lacking a desire to socialize or receive attention at such parties;
- finding distractions during parties such as tending to host/hostess duties: replenishing drinks, busying oneself in the kitchen, taking coats, etc.; and/or
- lingering in the background observing the party rather than actually partying.
I was seventeen when it occurred to me that throwing a party was more than just getting a bunch of people in the same room. I put together my own birthday party (which, on a side note, turned out to be hilariously fun with every guest bringing a round cake to stack into a 20-tiered monstrosity that naturally resulted in a cake fight when it toppled over). But I remember there being two memorably awkward moments that combined into one larger awkward moment:
- Awkward Moment 1: I had arranged a whole bunch of chairs into one large circle instead of in groups of chairs for smaller groups to mingle. As a result, everyone quietly nibbled on their party sandwiches not knowing with whom to make eye contact, waiting for some brave soul to speak to the entire circle and break the silence.
- Awkward Moment 2: During that moment of silence itself, there was no sound—specifically, NO MUSIC to distract from the silence. It occurred to me later that in the event that all guests at a party shut their mouths simultaneously, having something to bridge the gap of that silence can save a party from sudden death.
Like have you ever been at a gathering where the conversation dies down, there is a silence, and someone says, “Well, I’d better get going. . . .” And then before you know it everyone else says, “Me too” and there’s a big scuffle as everyone retrieves coats and shoes, hugs the host, and vacates.
A few years after the great 17th Birthday Party, I was prepping for another party and popped my “Getz Plays Jobim: The Girl From Ipanema” CD into the boom box (does that date me?). As the hours passed, I noticed that people both stayed longer and seemed more comfortable. Even though the music was unnoticeable in its background-noise kind of way, it brought warmth into the room. And when I, as the hostess, noticed a break in the conversation at some point, no one else seemed to.
It’s a pretty simple formula that restaurants and retail stores have down: play music—the right kind of music—and people will stay longer and buy more. I’ve learned that people actually spend more when faster-paced pop music is played in a clothing store, and people will stay longer and consume more in a coffee shop with atmospheric, relaxing music.
Gatsby, when planning his parties, knew that music was key. “By seven o’clock the orchestra has arrived, no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums. . . . The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby).
(P.S. What happened to full orchestras being present at parties? Like in The Sound of Music, or even during “Under the Sea” in The Little Mermaid? Invite an orchestra to play at a party and I’m there.)
Live music at parties is always an incredible touch, whether it’s a formal quartet at a wedding reception or a bluegrass trio at a barbeque. And while none of us can afford to throw a true Gatsby party, music can always be a part of the affair—no matter what the party budget may be. Try these options on for size:
- A live quartet
- One guy on a guitar
- A Pandora station playing from your Blue-ray
- An iTunes or Spotify playlist
- A real record player or phonograph for a retro/period-themed party
- A violinist playing unaccompanied Bach
- A harp player
- A rock band
- Classical music CDs
So as you’re planning your upcoming Christmas party, be sure to invite the tunes! It’s time to kill the silence, vanquish boredom, and have a good time!
ALSO, don’t forget to join us for the holidays at Kennedy Violins! You will most definitely hear classical music in the showroom, music which may prompt you to pour yourself that cup of complementary coffee or tea and gaze contemplatively at the hundreds of violins surrounding you like friends at your own private party. You’ll love it. Hope to see you soon!