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.
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