Concert conversations

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. 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?”

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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 ten minute intermission between the two performances stretched into 30 minutes of conversation, accompanied by South African wine and Senseo coffee.

Continue reading “Concert conversations”

The music after the concert

What happens after the official concert is over?

When there are other musicians in the audience, something phenomenal occurs. They jam. They improvise. They even sing opera. That’s how they communicate with each other.

It’s extremely late (12:45 am). In less than seven hours I have to get to our second recording session. I have to be wide awake and alert for it.

But this can’t wait…. I will simply have to update this blog when I have more time.

What happens after the official concert is over?

Continue reading “The music after the concert”

Hosting our next house concert (final part)

I purposefully refrained from writing about anything else in the run up to the sold-out house concert of 3rd October 2009 which we organised and hosted for classical guitarist Derek Grippers. I wanted to document what was involved in producing such a concert so that I could refer to it the next time we get the urge to host another concert in our home.

Monument House Concert Series, Utrecht Netherlands
Monument House Concert Series, Utrecht Netherlands

I purposefully refrained from writing about anything else in the run up to the sold-out house concert of 3rd October 2009 which we organised and hosted for classical guitarist Derek Gripper. I wanted to document what was involved in producing such a concert so that I could refer to it the next time we get the urge to host another concert in our home.

As mentioned in my previous blog entry (part four), improving capacity management, revenue management, and audience development will reduce stress and anxiety before a concert.

We bought and borrowed extra folding chairs and hoped for last minute cancellations and no-shows to cope with capacity management. To ensure we met our costs and contributed sufficiently for the artist, we strived for maximum booking. Earlier (in part three) I mentioned the invitation process which is critical in audience development.

Monument House Concert Series Utrecht, Netherlands
Monument House Concert Series Utrecht, Netherlands

On the day after the concert, we placed the chairs row by row and discovered we could fit 50 people comfortably, all with view of the performer who would sit in the corner near the front door. I’m writing this so that next time I won’t panic when the bookings reach and surpass that magic number 50. What a relief! We couldn’t have known this before we had moved the furniture. We couldn’t have moved the furniture earlier than the day before the concert, for we live in this very house.

Four people didn’t show up. I received an SMS from someone who fell ill from possible food poisoning from her husband’s cooking. The other couple had provided all the South African wines.

Bookcase in living room of Monument House Utrecht, Netherlands
Bookcase in living room of Monument House Utrecht, Netherlands

It would have been a short, straight forward (i.e. simple) concert without the supporting acts, dinner, workshop, and masterclass beforehand. In many ways, these pre-concert events complicated the planning and logistics. Next time I would insist on a time schedule that gets followed to the minute, with plenty of breaks between each event and clarity of delineation of beginnings and ends.

I was trapped in the downstairs kitchen while the guitar master class osmosed into the workshop. Alone preparing the refreshments and dinner, I sent brain waves to the three ladies trapped in the upstairs kitchen. The guests for dinner with the artist arrived on time, but the workshop continued on.

So you see, hosting and producing a house concert is quite another matter. As mentioned in part one of this series, I enjoy attending house concerts. I love performing at house concerts. But I’ve yet to LOVE organising house concerts. I would dearly like to show others how to do it (hence this blog) so that they too can experience live music in their home.

Monument House Concert Series Utrecht, Netherlands
Monument House Concert Series Utrecht, Netherlands

Many of you reading this are wondering — how did the concert go? Did people enjoy the music? What time did they leave? Did I miss anything? Should I have called on the day for last minute cancellations so that I could squeeze in?

I will save that for the next blog.

Hosting our next house concert (part four)

But some will have to sit on the oak parquet floor. Some will have to stand. Some might not even be able to see the performer. One thing for sure, and that I guarantee: everyone will hear and feel the live music.

What causes stress?

Worries and speculation about something that’s out of your control.

  • Worrying whether enough people will show up to cover the costs, to make it worthwhile, to not embarrass the performer….
  • Worrying about the acoustics of a new venue
  • Worrying about reaction of the audience to a performer they’ve never heard of before

That was my stress every day in the week, ever since I decided to organise an extra concert because the first was sold out.

Yesterday morning, my friend and I, as co-hosts thought we’d have a maximum of 8 people. She threw her wishes to the wind as she set off for work, “Let more people show up.” The evening, as it turned out, was enjoyed by nearly 20. It was a candle-lit concert that far exceeded both our expectations.

Monument House Concert Series Utrecht
Monument House Concert Series Utrecht

What causes stress?

  • Whether there would be enough chairs and space for everyone to sit comfortably and enjoy themselves
  • Whether people who reserved actually do show up
  • Whether those very same people would bring extra guests at the very last minute
  • Whether people who didn’t reserve would show up
  • Whether our monument house can fit 50 people

In the 24 hours before our next house concert, I received tweakings of this magic number 50. An illness in the family caused five people to cancel at the very last minute. “Sorry to hear that,” reacted an anonymous caller, “but could you fit two of us then?”

“How did you find out about this concert?” I asked.

“I received an sms to check out your house concert website,” he said. “Maybe my friend saw something posted at the supermarket.”

“No, that’s not possible,” I said. “Everything has been done by e-mail and through the internet.” I had no time to print and post a flyer. In fact, none of our neighbours are coming to our concert. We had no time to tell them about this concert. We sold out in three days.

In the last 24 hours before our next house concert, it’s a game of checks and balances. One person asked to bring his wife. Another decided to come without his girlfriend.

The total number of bodies expected in our house tomorrow at 8 pm remains at 50.

But some will have to sit on the oak parquet floor. Some will have to stand. Some might not even be able to see the performer. One thing for sure, and that I guarantee: everyone will hear and feel the live music.

Hosting our next house concert (part three)

But Thursday is not a Saturday. People have to work on Friday. My friend’s lovely home is not my home. Time and location do matter. Finally, just because the Saturday concert sold out in 3 days (with the invitation sent only 2 weeks before) doesn’t mean that a second concert on a Thursday will sell out or at all.

Since my previous posting (part two of this topic), I’ve wanted to write about our two concerts in Amsterdam but got snow-balled into audience development for a second concert we decided to host as a result of the sell-out of the first.

Continue reading “Hosting our next house concert (part three)”

Hosting our next house concert (part two)

It’s been barely 3 days since we issued the invitation announcement of our next house concert on 3rd October 2009, we already have a full house.

After sending out the concert invitations, we enter the next phase of hosting a concert: waiting for replies.

It’s both exciting and nerve wracking to immediately get replies like “Yes! Put me down for the concert. I will be there!” and the opposite: “Sorry, I can’t make it.” And then the silence….. did my e-mails fall into their spam box?

Maybe I shouldn’t have blind copied my e-mail and PDF attachment to 100 people. I would much prefer personal e-mails. But there’s no time now. It’s less than 2 weeks before the concert.

It’s been barely 3 days since we issued the invitation announcement of our next house concert on 3rd October 2009, a date that coincides with the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival and Nieuwe Philharmonie Utrecht concert in the Vredenburg. Rejection e-mails are how I learn of date conflicts.

Saturday 3rd October is a financial advisor’s son’s birthday. It’s the first day of vacation for an IT project manager. There’s a party for dentists that day. There are probably many more reasons why others can’t come, but I won’t know about it because as far as I can see, we have filled up the house.

I keep two lists: one for the paying guests with parentheses for those who expressed any bit of uncertainty about showing up and another for the performers, volunteers, and collaborators.

My co-producer commands,”Stop! Don’t send out anymore invitations. Not everyone has responded Some people may still want to come.”

“But I think we have a full house,” I reply. “If I rule out those who indicated any bit of hesitation or uncertainty, then all our seats are filled. If I include those who expressed some conditionality, then we’d have more. But it’s as good as SOLD OUT.”

Monument House Concert Series Utrecht
Monument House Concert Series Utrecht

Three years ago we didn’t have a problem of getting sold out concerts. I remember having to contact people twice, sometimes begging them to come. I had posted our announcements at the music book store, public library, and the conservatory in hopes of attracting listeners. I had listed our event in the free weekly events guide for Utrecht that comes out every Thursday.

I had touted our house concerts as the perfect place for tourists at the city tourist office. How else do you go inside a stranger’s home uninvited

There’s no need for that now. Those who have come to our previous house concerts know they won’t be disappointed. Our house concerts are more than live music performances. We encourage our guests to come early to get comfortable over tea, coffee, or soft drinks. Doors are open half an hour before the performance.

I try to imagine myself at a house concert. I’d like to be welcomed and introduced as a person not as a mere member of the audience. I don’t like to get caught standing alone, uncomfortably between two people engaged in conversation but ignoring my presence. I don’t want to dash off after a house concert because I see no other option. At our house concerts, the reverse is true. Once Robert fell asleep in the middle of someone’s sentence. It was past 2 am.

I am curious. Is this next house concert so quickly booked because of us? our house concert series? the invitation that caused me three sleepless nights to create? our mailing list and support network? the performer Derek Gripper, whom no one has yet met or heard live in concert? his website and awesome reviews? the right time of the year? the power of social networking media like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter? my article on house concerts?

I will continue to part three: the invitation process.

ADDENDUM: 22 September 2009

I’ve convinced a friend to help me out. She just moved into a “herenhuis” with high ceilings and hard wood floors nearby, not much furniture but plenty of space, ideal for a house concert for Derek. It will be a spillover from our guest list.

Extra date!

Thursday 1st October 2009: extra concert for Derek with South African wine and cheese. Watch this space!

Hosting our next house concert (part one)

As I write this, I am thinking about the next house concert we are hosting. Three years after , 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 nearly half-full.

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.

Continue reading “Hosting our next house concert (part one)”