The road to Meetinghouse Concerts: how to launch a new concert series

A short story of how a new house concert series begins, through introductions, conversations, and collaboration of strangers yet to meet for a forthcoming concert of piano and guitar in Wells, Maine on Sunday 13 February 2011.

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About a year ago, a cellist friend of mine asked me how to find house concerts to play in. Other than the ones I’ve already played in, have attended as a guest, or have organised and produced, I had not thought about how to find homes which have never had concerts before. I suppose one would have to find such dwellings, contact the owners, and suggest “won’t it be a great idea to have a concert at your house.”

Musicians who have played in house concerts know that the guests are some of the most attentive audiences around. In smaller spaces, you can’t help but sit and absorb the music. There is no distraction of too many people or the ego of those who go to concerts just to be seen. The people who go to house concerts know the etiquette. They appreciate being told and invited, for there is usually not the size or the space for wider publicity.

The following story tells of a new house concert series in the making.

My American friend in Amsterdam and I caught up after the New Year on skype. The next day, she e-mailed to suggest that I look up a certain pianist, named Greg Hall, in Maine who is a long-time friend of her artist husband. Out of curiosity, I checked out his website and shot him an e-mail introducing myself and my goals of finding new performance opportunities for musicians.

An enthusiastic reply prompted me to call him. The phone conversation lasted well over an hour. We got to know each other. I got guitarist Robert Bekkers to listen to the pianist’s online recordings and read his approach to improvisation.

We all agreed that we as musicians want more opportunities to perform and that house concerts are a great way to do that. He has played twice in a house with a beautiful grand piano and wonderful acoustics. The owner is a gracious hostess who, he was sure, would be open to using it for another house concert, if only we could make audience development effortless. He offered to discuss this with the owner.

What followed soon after his e-mail introduction was a call to the owner, Lynne, who shared her dreams for this beautiful house that was once a place of music. We talked about the location of Wells, Maine for concerts, how to get people to come to concerts, publicity, and what a house concert series would do for the community. I shared positive experiences of sold-out house concerts in a rural community in Connecticut and the 14-year track record for full-house outdoor garden concerts of an amateur flute player in Texas. Our lengthy conversation led to follow-up emails and an agreement to work together on making a concert happen for the Maine-based pianist and the Dutch guitarist.

Before long, the pianist Greg Hall, who is also an IT expert, produced a google spreadsheet of the tasks, responsibilities, and progress for this concert. We set up a 3-way skype conversation on Sunday, with him in Maine and us in Maui. We had exactly 3 weeks to agree on the details, allocate the tasks, arrange the publicity, send out invitations, and make this concert of Sunday 13th February 2011 happen.

Meetinghouse Concert Series with Steinway Grand
Meetinghouse Concert Series with Steinway Grand

The house itself is located on Meetinghouse Road in Wells, Maine. Thus it was tempting to create a concert series called “Meetinghouse Concerts” or “Meetinghouse Concert Series”  somewhat like the way we made double use of the word “house” in “Monument House Concert Series” in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Next concert: Sunday 13 February 2011 at 7 pm GUITAR MEETS PIANO: from Maui to Maine

From Maui to Maine: guitar meets piano

Classical guitarist Robert Bekkers will travel from Maui to Maine to meet pianist and composer Greg Hall, famous for his live concerts in Second Life where he is known as Tip Corbett. Reservations are requested and required for this rare opportunity to see two musicians perform original works for solo and duo of works written and not yet written, reviving that 19th century tradition of house concerts in Europe. They will be signing new CDs.

An extraordinary event is set to happen on Sunday 13th February 2011 at 7 pm in Wells, Maine.

Classical guitarist Robert Bekkers will travel from the sunny tropical island of Maui in Hawaii, crossing an ocean and most of the North American continent to the snow-covered town of Wells, Maine. There, he will give a concert with a pianist he has yet to meet — Greg Hall.

Pianist Greg Hall, also known as Gregory Hall, is a composer, pianist, and improviser. He gives regular weekly live concerts in “Second Life” where he is known as Tip Corbett. Below is his avatar.

Pianist Greg Hall, a.k.a. Tip Corbett in "Second Life"
Pianist Greg Hall, a.k.a. Tip Corbett in "Second Life"

On Sunday 13th February 2011, Greg Hall will appear in real life as himself.

Where is Wells, Maine? Robert Bekkers will take the 1.5 hour train ride from Boston going north. It will be an adventure in New England, now covered with snow.

Snow-covered garden of the house at Meetinghouse Road, Wells, Maine
Snow-covered garden of the house at Meetinghouse Road, Wells, Maine

What a change in weather it will be for Robert Bekkers who has been exploring Maui since Thanksgiving Day 2010 when he ended his coast-to-coast concert tour of mainland USA.

View of Maui from a 4-hour hike
View of Maui from a 4-hour hike

Together, Greg Hall and Robert Bekkers will revive that 19th century tradition of cozy house concerts when musicians played music they wrote (compositions) or music not yet written (improvisation). Back then, musicians were both performers and composers.

Bekkers has arranged a number of pieces for piano and guitar, performed and recorded but not yet published though highly sought-after. Hall’s repertoire can be heard online in “Second Life” as well as from his website.

They will play two sets solo — and join the two sets with duo improvisation and sightreading. It is probably the first of its kind.

Bekkers’ solos will be extracted from his “Cappricho” programme (2 page PDF): virtuosic works of Villa-Lobos, Brrios-Mangore, Brouwer, Bach, Walton, Martin, and Castelnuovo-Tedesco.

Both Hall and Bekkers will be signing their solo and duo CDs during the intermission and after the concert when guests are encouraged to stay and chat. Bekkers is currently producing CDs of live recordings of two concerts of his own piano guitar duo.

For more information, visit Gregory Hall concert announcements, Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo concert agenda, or download the one-page PDF.

GUITAR MEETS PIANO

Greg Hall, piano and Robert Bekkers, guitar

Sunday 13 February 2011
Doors open 6:30 pm for 7 pm concert
Suggested donation $10 at the door
Guests are welcome to bring their own drinks to share (BYOB)

Reservations requested
Free parking
169 Meetinghouse Road, Wells, Maine
Meetinghouse Concert Series

A percentage of the proceeds will go towards the selected charities of the late owners of this house: Animal Welfare Society of West Kennebunk and Maine Children’s Cancer Program, in memory of Dennis and Nella Hudon.

Steinway grand piano at Meetinghouse Concerts
Steinway grand piano at Meetinghouse Concerts