The serious business of tea and cake

The traditional time for afternoon tea is 4 O’Clock in the afternoon.  At the Pump Rooms in Bath, this fact is reflected in the table setting, as the handle of the cup will be angled so it points towards an imaginary 4 on the saucer.  With this in mind, 11 years ago, I set up my recording company called 4 Part Music.  Now most people assume the name is either completely random or it’s simply a music company which has 4 main areas of business. This could well be true. If I include all the work I do which is invoiced through the company, then you could argue that 4 Part Music offers: Location recordings, Music Production, Choir Management & Musical Performance.

Alternatively, the more musical amongst you will possibly assume it’s a play on words relating to 4 part harmony i.e. Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass.  In fact, interesting though that might be, because the name was dreamt up by yours truly, it is none of these things.  The name was born out of the amusement behind the abbreviation of 4 Part Music being 4pm; i.e the time for afternoon tea!  Since then, the business plan has largely been centred around tea and cake. So much so, that if Robert and I were ever to take the business to Dragon’s Den they would probably just despair and have us certified insane.

I once set up a competition amongst a group of clients to see who could supply the nicest tea & biscuits for a location recording session.  What’s more they took it very seriously and supplied a whole range of different biscuits – one client even gave me a bottle of wine as a thank you just for turning up to a recording session – I hadn’t actually supplied anything at that point!

On the days when I am not out recording, I will usually be running rehearsals for one of my 5 choirs.  Every other blog on the subject of choirs and singing, would be quick to point out that tea and cake is not the best way to help your singing voice.  Part of me would agree – but then again I am not trying to run professional choirs, and I have found that tea and cake is a great way of bringing people together.   Recently a lovely lady in my GWH Choir made a Gin and Tonic cake, which I have to say was superb.  Mind you having said that, last week another lady in the same choir turned up with a bottle of Madeira wine!

In the past few days, I have just finished a music production job which has taken just over 4 years, on and off, to complete.  As part of this process I had a number of progress meetings with the client which would involve her coming to my studio to go through the latest updates to her music.  During the course of these meetings – where in fact I usually had quite a lot to do, my client would often go down to the kitchen to make me a cup of tea and bring up more biscuits!

I don’t know much about so called business ‘self help’ books.  But I’m guessing that probably none of them have a chapter on how to get your customers to provide you with tea and cake!  Clearly, this is a major oversight on behalf of all authors of such books and should be rectified immediately.

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Jules Addison is Musical Director for The BlueBellesThe Pewsey BellesCirencester Male Voice Choir, The GWH Trust Choir and Transeamus Chamber Choir