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A Little Night Music

Margot Shaw, FLOWER magazine’s founder and editor-in-chief, recalls the shimmery summer parties hosted by her parents and shares a playlist to set the mood at your next soiree
Find Margot’s dinner party playlist at the end of this post. Table styling by Amanda Smith Fowler. Photo by David Hillegas. See tabletop sources.

Summer Party Memories

I remember very distinctly the sounds, sights, and smells on the day of a summer party at my house growing up: the hum of the lawn mower; the strains of show tunes from the hi-fi setting the tone; the stacks of plates, platters, crisp linen napkins, and silver; and the fragrant bouquet of silver polish, lilies (my mother’s favorite flower), the sophisticated Ma Griffe (my mother’s perfume of choice), and whatever was cooking—humble and homey red beans and rice (my father’s specialty), shrimp boiling in his special spices, or even something fancy and complex like bouillabaisse.

Margot Shaw in Rose Garden
Margot Shaw

My parents were top-notch hosts and enjoyed nothing more than setting the scene and filling it with an ensemble of fascinating and varied guests. I was weaned on the soundtrack of clinking glasses, a cacophony of conversation and laughter, and whatever the pianist hired for the occasion played—usually standards and jazz.

Today, my gatherings have a soupçon of my parents’ style, mixed with my modern take: a playlist that’s still full of plenty of jazz and standards but, as the night progresses, becomes a more boisterous compilation of Motown and other dance-y tunes from the ’70s on; most likely a catered dinner (as “cheffing” is not my forte) that usually consists of just good food, nothing fancy; and plenty of lilies everywhere except near the food, as we don’t want to overpower the aroma of a delicious dinner.

There are as many styles of entertaining as there are people, and in my mind, each, if it truly represents the hosts, is a smashing success and a generous gift to the guests, who now more than ever mean the world to folks. So, whether you’re a veteran party planner or a novice embarking on your first dinner party, serve what YOU like, play music YOU like, include flowers YOU like, and invite guests YOU like, and you will have given the greatest gift you can, YOU.

Dinner Party Playlist

This playlist, in three parts, will take you from dinner and cocktails to dancing the night away. 

CLASSICAL

  • Mozart—“A Little Night Music” by Academy of St. Martin in the Field (Serenade in G, K.525 “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”)
  • Bach—Sinfonia in D major, Op.3 No.1 by Camarata Budapest
  • Bach—Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G by Academy of St. Martin in the Field
  • Handel—Water Music, Suites II and III by The English Concert and Trevor Pinnock
  • Gustav Holst—The Planets by Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
  • Bach—Lute Suite No.1 V. Bourrée by Julian Bream

JAZZ & STANDARDS

  • George Benson—“Affirmation” and “Breezin’ ”
  • Antonio Carlos Jobim—“Wave” and “The Girl from Ipanema”
  • George Shearing—“Country Gardens”
  • Acoustic Alchemy—“One for the Road” and “Mr. Chow”
  • Bob James and Earl Klugh—“I’ll Never See You Smile Again”
  • Ronnie Laws—“Never Be the Same”
  • Frank Sinatra—“Love is Here to Stay”
  • George Shearing—“Blue Moon”
  • Harry Connick Jr.—“A Wink and a Smile”
  • Blossom Dearie—“I Won’t Dance”
  • Steve Tyrell—“Night and Day” and “Ev’rybody Wants to be a Cat”

CONTEMPORARY MIX

Rock, pop, R&B, Motown, neo soul, blues, and a little gospel

  • Coldplay—“Strawberry Swing”
  • James Taylor—“Mexico”
  • Bill Withers—“Lovely Day”
  • Santana featuring Rob Thomas—“Smooth”
  • The Supremes—“Come See About Me”
  • Mayer Hawthorne—“A Long Time”
  • Whitney Houston—“How Will I Know”
  • Steve Winwood—“Roll With It”
  • The Spinners—“Could It Be I’m Falling in Love”
  • The O’Jays—“Love Train”
  • The Isley Brothers—“This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)”
  • Al Green—“Love and Happiness”
  • Adele—“Make You Feel My Love”
  • Earth, Wind & Fire—“That’s the Way of the World”
  • Sheryl Crow—“My Favorite Mistake”
  • Aretha Franklin—“Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)”
  • The Rolling Stones—“Almost Hear You Sigh”
  • Eric Clapton—“Broken Hearted,” especially this acoustic version with John Mayer
  • Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins—“But Not for Me”
  • Laura Nyro—“I Met Him on a Sunday”
  • Diana Krall—“Fly Me to the Moon”
  • The Subdudes—“Next to Me” and “One Word (Peace)”
  • Take 6—“Spread Love”
  • James Taylor—“Shed a Little Light”
  • Miles Davis Quintet—“It Never Entered My Mind”
  • Aaron Neville—“I Bid You Goodnight”

By Margot Shaw