Mad Madge: Eat to the beat: what is this obsession with music to munch by?

 “We’d love you to come and sing at our fund-raising dinner,” the prospective client sweetly intones. “Can you sing during dinner?”

 To which my answer is a curt but polite “Not while people eat”. I always think that singing during dinner is an insult to two art forms, ours, and the chef’s. If I’d slaved over a hot stove for hours only to have my moment of culinary glory shared with a woman dying of consumption whilst singing flat out, I’d have language as strong as Gordon Ramsey’s too. Opera is to be watched, good food is to be savoured. You can’t do both at once.

 Worse still, I’ve noticed a growing trend for every waking minute of a function to be packed with music, from the first drink to the last stagger on the dance floor. First some poor ignored pianist or never-to-be-heard-above-the-chatter string quartet do their best to stay awake as a drinks reception full of people totally ignore their best artistic efforts. (Or, worse, as one pianist told me, chat loudly about how dreadful the evening is, right in her ear. “Don’t they realise I can play and listen as the same time?”) Next, the punters move into the dining room, where the DJ has thoughtfully put on a background cd of music to add ‘a relaxing atmosphere’. Personally, I find having to yell at my dinner companion over disco hits of the 70s less than relaxing…

 Then, we come on, to an audience already partially deafened and with ears tuned to amplified sound. As I’ve said before, it takes them three numbers to adjust to acoustic singing, by which time we’re almost through our first set. And so it goes on, until we’ve done, and the live band with enough amplification for a Wembley Stadium packed with deaf grannies starts up, emptying the room in 30 seconds flat. The poor old DJ has to sit about until all this has finished, and try and coax the remaining punters out of the bar back onto the floor for a line dance to “Oops Upside Your Head”, because it’s the MD’s favourite.

 When will organisers realise that what people want to do over dinner is … talk. They want to interact with their fellow guests, not sit there blasted by a wall of sound from all directions. So, when us performers sing in between courses of dinner, it’s a moment to guests to sit back, sip some wine and gently digest some fabulous music, presented at a human volume level. When the next course arrives they might even want to chat about the music (heaven forbid). What they don’t want is Kool and the Gang in their ears again, until they finally retreat from the evening with thumping headaches and no idea of whom they were sitting next to. Or what they were listening to. Or both.

 And if all else fails, you can always find the fuse box and pull the plug…