The main concert started later than expected.
It was a logistical feat to steer 50 bodies from facing the grand piano to facing the solo guitarist in the living room. The 10 minute intermission between the two performances stretched into 30 minutes of conversation, accompanied by South African wine and Senseo coffee.
In those 30 minutes between the supporting acts and the solo guitar concert, I chatted to strangers and friends. One friend had also gone to the 1st October warm-up (or spillover) concert held in another friend’s home. Later I learned that she had purchased all six CDs, as had another guest.
I made a mental note to try some of the 150 homemade cookies that my volunteers had baked that afternoon. The two boys from Wassenaar had reached for them even before they were served. Now they sat on the dining table in the busy kitchen, in danger of being devoured by the excited listeners.
Kitchen in Monument House Utrecht, Netherlands
Could 50 people fit and still see the guitarist?
I asked those in the restricted view, i.e. on the sofa, to move to the four empty seats in the living room. I welcomed the return of 19th century house concerts where composers performed and performers composed. Nowadays composers rarely perform their music in such settings, and performers rarely compose.
Here was a classical guitarist from South Africa who not only composed and performed but also put each piece in context, through the fascinating stories he told.
The concert began at 9 pm and ended an hour later. In the dim light of the chandelier, the guitarist was barely visible. But everyone sat still, aching to hear the mellow sound of the nylon strings and the stories he’d tell.
The film maker stood on a wooden chair, nearly incognito in the dark, directing his new video camera at the guitarist. I registered another mental note of asking him for some video clips to share with the rest of the world.
At 10:30 pm, only half-an-hour after the concert, several couples and families bid their farewell.
“It’s too early,” I protested to a family leaving for Nijmegen. “Can’t one of you stay?”
The seven year old looked at me. Without blinking an eye, he asked, “How about the garden house? Can I stay in the garden house?”
“That’s where the guitarist sleeps.”
“Can’t we swap?” he asked.
“He has a concert in Alkmaar tomorrow. Can you play the guitar?”
“No,” he replied. “I play the violin.”
Much later, after many rounds of impromptu music making, around 3 am, a first-time-guest to our house concert, stood up to announce his leave. “I have to drive back to Nijmegen.”
By then, all 150 cookies had disappeared. Luckily next day while cleaning up, I discovered a half-eaten cookie on a used napkin on the bookshelf. It was close as I could get to tasting a single homemade cookie.
A few days after the concert, I told someone that I considered house concerts an occasion where the audience mattered more than the performer(s). When I am the host, my guests are most important. While they may be drawn to the performers, it’s their enjoyment and comfort I’m most concerned about.