By Marie-Lynn Hammond
This past Sunday I and two musician friends played a concert, had a fabulous time, and even made a bit of money – all without tickets, posters, hall rental, noisy bar patrons, or big, complicated sound equipment. How’d we manage that?
It’s a House Concert!
Because the show took place in a private home – it’s called a house concert. In the last few years the media have discovered them; I’ve seen articles in major newspapers and heard a radio doc about the phenomenon. But they’ve been around much longer than that. I played my first house concert with my old band, Stringband, in Thunder Bay, around 1981 or 1982.
Unplugged, Up Close and Personal
House concerts have been a staple of the folk world for a long time, though jazz and classical acts put on house concerts too. In fact, there are so many folkie/rootsy house concerts these days there’s even a site devoted to them http://www.scoop.it/t/house-concert-scoop, and there’s a network of house concert venues called Home Routes: http://homeroutes.ca/.
House concerts tend to be relaxed, intimate, often magical, and guests can mingle with the artists – a large part of the appeal. And experienced house concert hosts train their regulars to bring wine and yummy snacks for noshing at the break and afterwards, adding to the convivial atmosphere.
Usually we do these shows unplugged, but sometimes I’ll use a bit of sound reinforcement so I can be heard above my accompanist’s keyboard or accordion – his accordion is LOUD, my voice is not!
How to Put on a House Concert
All you need is a space in your home that can fit 20 or more bodies, a few folding chairs, and a willingness to pester your friends to attend. And, thanks to the Internet, artists can easily promote these shows to their own fans too. (But never put your address up on a website. Have potential concert goers email you, then tell them where you live.)
Now don’t expect to get Bruce Cockburn or Feist interested, but you’d be surprised at how many nationally acclaimed performers will accept an invite. You decide with the artist what to charge, or just pass the hat. My old Stringband partner has a great page on how to put on a house concert at http://www.bossin.com/. He recommends getting people to pay up front, but many hosts and artists with dependable friends and fans don’t find this necessary.
A Perfect Day
So on Sunday we performed in a beautiful home in the country for about 35 people. They sang lustily on the choruses of my funny songs, you could hear a pin drop during my serious songs, and at the end they gave us a standing ovation. Oh, and we sold CDs and made a bit of money. It just doesn’t get much better than that!
So what about you? Have you ever attended a house concert? Hosted a concert? How did it go? Let me know!
Marie-Lynn Hammond is a critically acclaimed songwriter living in York Region. Between working on two new CDs, she freelances as an editor of both fiction and nonfiction. She’d be happy to come do a house concert in your home. www.marielynnhammond.com