House Concerts

Big LIttle Lions here September 2018.

Our home seems made for house concerts. This place is open in an unassuming way. Plenty of space for people eat and talk, then find a spot to sit when musicians begin to play. I feels to me as if a glow hovers around everyone at these events, intensifying as the evening goes on.

It doesn’t matter that our carpet is three decades old, that portions of the kitchen floor are in ruins, that there are several different colors of siding on our house. What matters is making very real connections in an era when we’re ever more likely to be distracted and rushed.

Two years ago my husband wanted to cancel our scheduled house concert. He insisted it would be too much for me. I’d recently gotten several frightening diagnoses and he was worried. I told him every crisis reminds us how radiant our lives already are and we were absolutely going ahead with the concert.

Our performer that autumn was veteran singer-songwriter Doug MacLeod. Doug had long performed the blues as a story-teller and won many  national Blues Music Awards. When he showed up we were all in his thrall. Can you remember the hippest guy in school, exploring the best music and coolest haunts but too laid back to brag? Doug was that guy, all the more awesome for each of his years. Doug sat down to play, man and guitar, his sandpaper-y voice wearing off our sharp edges. His stories and songs held us . Late in the evening he told us about his son Jesse’s cancer diagnosis and how they had begun composing together.  Quite a few of us were madly in love with him by evening’s end. Maybe, from sheer proximity, a little more hip too.

Our most recent house concert happened this weekend. We are honored to host amazing musicians from around the country, around the world (many found through the Concerts in Your Home network). I send out invitations well in advance, ask for RSVPs, try to have a houseful of around 30 people all donating a decent amount (100% to the musicians) to make it worth the musicians’ while. Many musicians stay here overnight, our breakfast conversations a rich new element to this experience. I tend to stress over RSVPs, probably because so many musicians performing in our rural home travel long distances to get here.

Maybe it’s a symptom of our times, but increasingly the 70 or so people on our invite list do not respond. Or they say they can come but cancel a few days before the performance. Recently a friend who cancelled actually paid for the two seats she and a friend would have occupied. Otherwise people don’t seem to understand that this is opportunity to engage with live music on the most direct terms —- literally feet away — with established, talented, extraordinary artists. The audience for this weekend’s concert, including family members, came to only 14 people in attendance.

My spouse says that our house concert experiment has run its course after nearly four years. I disagree. I did my share of active worrying when I got cancellation after cancellation for this weekend’s show, many of them less than 24 hours before performance time, but those who came told me it would be perfect exactly as it was.

They were right.

Artist Noah Derksen and his accompanist Abby Wales made it an all acoustic show to accommodate our small audience and it was perfect. Nothing will stop me from continuing after the marvelous energy of this show.

The community we all need is  in front of us. Miss your village? Maybe it’s right here, waiting for you to show up.

 

18 thoughts on “House Concerts

  1. You have identified something I’ve been noticing myself and given me some food for thought. However, I was really moved by a sentence you wrote and now it isn’t there anymore. Did I completely imagine it? Did you edit it? Was it just what I needed to hear that I read between the lines? It was something along the lines of “The people who don’t show up, don’t define us.” And it was that one sentence I’ve been mulling over since yesterday . . .

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    • You didn’t imagine it, Jen. I did go back to delete it. I was afraid it came across as judge-y when I meant something far more expansive. I’m mulling too. This whole thing is a big topic for me — our very real need for belonging and joy, particularly in a time of isolation, polarization, and struggle.

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  2. We’ve been to most of your house concerts, and find them a wonderfully intimate way to connect with musicians and those who appreciate them.

    I think that last minute cancellations, or no-shows are a symptom of a lack of understanding of what the arts, in any form, are. This is not a sweet hobby for the musicians.It’s how they earn their living. Repeat: it’s their livelihood. No one wants to show up to work and not get paid a living wage.

    I hope you keep opening your home to these gatherings of mostly kindred spirits. I know I am richer for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved reading this. I recently attended my first house concert at our friends’ where they were trying out a new trio they’d formed and the music was wonderful. The intimacy of the setting, the warmth of it, the richness of the musical choices and backstories – it all came together to weave one of the best evenings we’ve had in a long while. Bonus: they asked me to read when they took a break. That was a lovely feeling, too. I was honored to share a stage with my friends. They did tell me that they sent out dozens of invitations and had the same trouble you did with getting people to respond. In the end, the group that was there was perfect. Just like yours.

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  4. Maybe that is the reason here, however, I see lots of other situations that have nothing to do with the arts where people have stopped showing up. Personally, I saw a free mom’s playgroup disintegrate after years of being a beautiful place for all who showed up. Also, a discussion group I shared with 5 other couples (ages 20s-late 30s) just stopped because only us or 1 other couple made time for it. Also, our homeschool planning meetings used to be a fun place to support and encourage each other . . now it is just a small handful who make it (after many last minute cancellations!). My husband and I have felt discouraged . . . why do we want to devote time and energy to connecting even during a busy phase of life with young kids. Others say they want connection but only a small group (not always easy to get together in a rural area) is willing to show up.

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  5. Love the idea of house concerts. Music has a way of getting into my bones, touching me on an emotional level…I especially love listening to music when in a bad mood. I also think it’s a good way to appreciate musicians and other artists letting them know they are loved by the community.

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  6. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? Wow, your own house concert? I love live music and hate the crowds.
    We also notice lots of people cancelling or no-showing for events… And I used to be one of them. It was my shyness. But I’m forcing us out to events and definitely keep our word if we make plans!

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    • You’re absolutely right, Neil. House concerts are an important income stream for many musicians. They can fill in between gigs with these smaller, more intimate settings. Many musicians have told me they like house concerts best — they aren’t competing for attention with bar patrons or rowdy concert-goers —- people at house concerts are there for the music.

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