I love going to house concerts for the intimate way in which to enjoy live music. I go to really listen to a performance. I get to chat to others in the audience who feel the same way and the host or hostess whose personalities shape the concert. Most of all, I like to talk to the performers who are more accessible than in large commercial venues where you pay for your ticket, sit down among strangers, and leave immediately after the final applause.
I love performing at house concerts for exactly the same reasons plus one more. The audiences at house concerts are attentive, and I, as a performer, can feel it. I get immediate feedback that way. Afterwards, I feel free to ask the listeners for their honest opinion. There is always time to mingle after the concert to get to know the host and audience.
It’s a joy to find out two weeks before our next house concert (in Amsterdam) that it’s been sold out. The hosts are keeping a waiting list. As performers, we feel wanted when a concert is sold out.
Hosting or producing a house concert is quite another matter. When I lived in London, I enjoyed hosting concerts immensely. I thought I’d bring the same tradition to the Netherlands. That is, invite musicians to perform, develop a theme, set a date, invite people to come, and prepare for the concert. It was easy in London where I knew a lot of people. My compact Victorian cottage quickly got filled up, with people sitting on the stairs or wedged between doorways to get a glimpse of the performance. Neighbours would open their windows to watch the garden concerts.
When Robert and I left Bussum and moved to Utrecht, we bought a turn-of-the-century Dutch monument house to renovate for optimal music making. The high ceilings and oak parquet floors of this centennial house are ideal for solo and chamber music. My 100-year old New York Steinway sits in the corner of the so-called “piano room” occasionally receiving the virtuosic runs of a Liszt piano competition winner.
We invited the American violin guitar duo “Duo46” to open our first concert in the “Monument House Concert Series.” I was extremely nervous about finding enough people to fill the space. We had just moved to Utrecht. I didn’t know anyone except those at the Utrecht Conservatory where I was studying. I invited my piano tuner, the neighbours, Robert’s guitar builder, some colleagues at the university where I teach, our friends from Bussum, and Robert’s students. Those were all personal invitations, i.e. phone calls, face-to-face chats, and personal e-mails. They all came that warm summer afternoon in early July 2006.
As I write this, I am thinking about the next house concert we are hosting. Three years after we first started the Utrecht concert series, I no longer need to personally invite people to come to our concerts. But I still do. Barely two days after I sent out a mass e-mail and announcement on facebook, the concert of 3rd October for South African classical guitarist is already half-full.
Monument House Concert Series: http://www.pianoguitar.com/concerten/