Paul Taylor – Freemasons
Being a Freemason, I have naturally performed and quite a number of Masonic functions and have a reasonable insight into what is expected of an entertainer, singer, comedian, the code of conduct when dealing with a Masonic audience, where to advertise as an entertainer, and even how to become a Freemason. First, I would like to give you a little background, if I may, and hopefully dispel a few myths.
The mere mention of ‘Masons’ or ‘Freemasons’ can conjure to some, images of cloaks and daggers, whispers and subterfuge, secrets and conspiracy. It is a ‘society with secrets’ rather than a ‘secret society’. These secrets are only passed on to fellow ‘brethren’ once initiated; which I’m sure is reason for much of the paranoia surrounding this fraternity. ‘Membership’ of this great and ancient institution used to be by invitation only, and then only if the prospective candidate had been ‘known’ for five years or more. As many new initiates were often financially independent ‘professionals’, much jealousy has surrounded masonry. This has undeniably been the main cause for much of the conspiracy aimed at this noble organisation.
Anyone interested in ‘what goes on’ can easily find all of the information on the internet (I would suggest the official UGLE website that answers all general questions on pretty much every topic) and there are many, many books concerning Freemasonry too. It is a shame that some people like to stick to the conspiracy; particularly as it is a great force for good. The Museum tour at Grand Lodge is really very interesting indeed and the ‘Temple’ in Covent Garden there is quite breath taking; tours are taken every single day and all are welcome.
Freemasonry in its present form has been around for 300 years; the Grand Lodge being consecrated in 1717 in our capital city, London.
Freemasonry is the second largest charitable donator in the UK, after only the National Lottery. Funds go to international, national, regional and local causes; from Earthquake assistance to a mini-bus for the local school.
There are approximately 6 million freemasons worldwide, and about 400,000 within the UK and Ireland.
There are a good and growing number of Lady Freemasons lodges throughout the world. Freemasonry is ‘non-religious’ although as in court, we do use the ‘sacred law’ to seal an oath. In the UK generally, this is the Bible. There are Lodges through the UK and the rest of the world that may use any sacred book from Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism etc. The point is, it is ALL INCLUSIVE.
Most activities within Freemasonry are related to fund-raising, socialising, benevolence (looking after the elderly and infirm brethren and their family), and reinforcing those characteristics deemed as worthy; such as social responsibility, integrity, honesty, charity, generosity of spirit, compassion and hard work.
Masons hold many functions throughout the year. I have held a number of charity functions myself and raised a decent amount of money within the Halls; all supported by my own and other lodges. The main functions however are; Ladies Night, The Christmas Party, Masters Night and Burns Night. It is likely that each lodge will have two or more functions per year, so for an entertainer, it really is a great opportunity to get some good gigs. Lodges are not accustomed to using agents, and would usually source their own artists through word of mouth or the internet. Therefore advertising could be a great way forward to introduce yourself to this area. (see below)
The audiences generally range in years from 40 to 80+. Most functions are Black tie and incorporate a 3 or 4 course sit down meal, toasts, and lodge specific songs. Like most audiences, they will appreciate a wide range of music; although I have found many asking for high class cabaret. It’s very nice being able to perform these songs to an attentive and appreciative audience. A Dance spot is not always required but I must say once they start, they don’t want to stop! Soul and Motown and Rock and Roll are always good choices of course; but then I know a few lodges that like to book rock bands.
Comedians have it a little tougher, I think, as there is a strict code of conduct; no sexist or racist jokes, nothing too crass or lewd. And definitely NO swearing. Many comedians that I know would struggle with just one let alone all of these. It has been known for comedians to be asked to leave. So I suppose the key is, being appropriate to the venue.
A good gig will usually result in a number of further enquiries, and who knows – even an invitation to join freemasonry, or an introduction to your own local lodge (if that interests you of course). There are entertainers that solely perform at Masonic functions. As the money is good, it can easily replace many ‘regular’ club bookings. Why work 3 days when you only need work 2?
There are a number of Freemasonry Magazines where it is possible to advertise (as any other monthly magazine). Each county (province) has their own.
The main publications to advertise in are ‘Freemasonry Today’ (for which there is a National and Yorkshire version) and the ‘The White Rose’, which is focused on the West Riding of Yorkshire. Adverts have to be paid for of course, but as many lodges struggle to find good and appropriate artists, comedians, and bands, and don’t use agents in any shape or form, it can be a very good investment.
I can safely say that the Freemasons gigs are ones that I always look forward to. To be welcomed with open arms and accommodated so readily by such a warm and generous group of people; make a few friends and perform to a receptive and attentive audience and of course, receive requests for further dates AND be paid a decent sum… all in all a great thing to get into.