Salon concerts: external validation

Independent third party reviewers or previewers act as external validation which is great for publicity for house concerts and salon concerts.


House concerts, salon concerts, private concerts …. these are all live music gatherings in someone’s home which can be one-off, ad hoc, or occur at a regularity that can be labeled a concert series.

Over the years I have attended, performed, and produced many such events in the UK, Netherlands, and the USA. One topic I neglected to mention in my paper “House Concerts for Art Music” is external validation. In some ways external validation doubles up as publicity.

External validation, loosely defined, is having someone else put a stamp of approval on what you do. When I worked as a magazine editor, I received a lot of enquiries from new product vendors and service providers who wanted to tell me about their business. If I wrote something about it, I would be giving them publicity and a seal of approval. For this reason, concert reviewers are very important for performers and concert producers.

In my years of producing house concerts, I have never succeeded in getting a local newspaper to come and review a concert. In hindsight, these concerts, although open to the public, might have been too private for the space was small and the occasion “one-off.”

Publicity and public endorsement would make it easier to market the next concert. I wondered if other concert producers felt the same about the need for external validation. Short of getting a reviewer or previewer, I asked my guests to sign guestbooks and send in their comments which I could use to market the next concert.

Recently I read an article about Margaret Sewell’s Salon Concerts in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Although I have never met Margaret or attended her concerts, her invitations were so compelling that I decided to write about concert invitations in a blog post. Reading the article about her concert series made me even more curious — a different experience from visiting her lovely website.

Solution? Get to know journalists and writers who love to attend salon concerts. I am one of those. Unfortunately I am not independent enough to write about my own concerts for external validation.

House concert invitation

Recently I received an e-mail of a beautiful invitation to a house concert, which I forwarded to a friend who lives in the same state in the USA as the venue. All important information for the recipient to make a decision are given: the day of the week, date, time, entrance fee, musicians, website, e-mail address, and phone number.

One of my most popular blog posts is “Concert announcement or invitation” in which I talk about the importance of writing an invitation that truly lures the reader to abandon all reservations and come to the concert.

Recently I received an e-mail of a beautiful invitation which I forwarded to a friend who lives in the same state in the USA as the venue. When I tried to download the invitation to share it with my blog readers, I discovered that it was made up of 20 different small images. Luckily there was a link to the website, and the sender was kind enough to send me a one page PDF at my request. I reduced the file and created a link to the website for use in this blog post.

Salon concert invitation
Salon concert invitation

An e-mail like this is hard to ignore. There is obviously a lot of thought that went into it.

At first I read “As summer slips into autumn” but then noticed that it’s the beginning of an Emily Dickinson poem, which I copy and paste below.

As Summer into Autumn slips
And yet we sooner say
“The Summer” than “the Autumn,” lest
We turn the sun away,

And almost count it an Affront
The presence to concede
Of one however lovely, not
The one that we have loved —

So we evade the charge of Years
On one attempting shy
The Circumvention of the Shaft
Of Life’s Declivity.

The concert is part of a concert series in Tulsa, Oklahoma run by Margaret Sewell, whom I’ve yet to meet but has already helped me greatly in my ongoing research into “house concerts for art music” (15-page PDF). All important information for the recipient to make a decision are given: the day of the week, date, time, entrance fee, musicians, website, e-mail address, and phone number.

If I wanted more information, I could easily visit the website, e-mail, or pick up the phone and call.

Although there is no information about the programme, I gather from the concert series that it would be classical — i.e. art songs or opera arias, or both. I can click on the names of the performers from the webpage and find out more.

This invitation has inspired me to put a little more effort and time into creating invitations for our upcoming concerts in Amsterdam, Newton, Hampton, and San Francisco. So far, I have dropped a few sentences here and there to friends in the vicinity, created a Facebook events page, and considered creating a webpage. I will also try a new way of sending out invitations.

You may ask, “But why are you doing this if you’re just the performer? Surely that’s the responsibility of the concert producer!”


As the performer, I am not obliged to send out invitations. But I would like to see familiar faces in the audience and help the hosts get a full house.

Specifically for the concerts in the USA, our piano guitar duo is performing where we have contacts, friends, family, ex-colleagues, and hope to make new contacts and friends wherever we go.

Creating an invitation involves much more than sending e-mails. It helps to create a theme and a tagline, like this example shows. Give it atmosphere, like the image of autumn leaves. Give enough information to whet the appetite.

I certainly wish I could be in Oklahoma on 18th September 2010. But we give a concert in Amsterdam on 19th September. And it’s FREE to the public.