This doesn't look much like a concert hall, does it? That's because it's the front of our house. And last week it was the venue for our first experimental house concert. House Concerts have been extremely popular in America for some time now. But they are something of a rarity in the UK. Audience numbers have been dropping world-wide across most types of music in recent years, for reasons which are not clearly apparent. It may be the availability of home entertainment, it may be a reluctance to go out in the dark, it may be the expense, it may be people’s busy life styles. But one sector which is thriving is the US House Concert.
I invited 14 friends to come and listen to me play to help with my research into whether House Concerts would work equally well here, and especially whether they may help the little-known orchestral keyboard concert scene, as well as other small ensembles and soloists. So how do House Concerts work?
Rather than performing in a concert hall to a large audience (with all the organisation, publicity, red tape and travel that involves), the musicians perform in a private house. The home owner(s) host the concert, inviting friends (who can in turn invite their friends), until all seats are filled – usually between 15 and 20, but more if space allows. Invites are handed out personally by the homeowner, with email and/or phone number for reserving seats. This avoids unexpected folk turning up. The home owner provides a space for the musicians to perform, as many chairs as possible, and some light refreshments. Visitors are encouraged, where necessary, to bring a small folding chair or (for the nimble) a cushion. Each visitor is invited to donate for the evening, towards the cost of the musicians and the refreshments. The concert is usually of two 45-minute halves with 30 minutes for refreshment and socialising at half time. The atmosphere at these events is warm, intimate and relaxing. They require minimal preparation, and work well for all concerned. In an age when large events are proving problematic, they may well be the way ahead.
What does the home owner get from the experience? Well, it’s a great way to host a gathering without too much organisation. They will enjoy the music along with their guests. And the musicians often give one of their albums as a thank you. At the same time, the hosts will be supporting performers in what is currently a difficult climate for the arts.
So what do you think? Have you ever been to one? Would you fancy attending one or even hosting an evening for your friends to come and listen to some local musicians? How much would you expect to pay for an evening like this? Do let me know! And next time I shall let you know what our guests put on their anonymous questionnaires at the end of the evening!