There’s something humbling and heart-warming about being invited into someone’s home. Hospitality stirs a powerful response of gratitude.
Every time I sit down to a meal or stand around eating finger foods in someone’s home, I know they have gone to a tremendous effort and expense. I feel valued.
Now, add in the experience of live music, and the occasion moves up the rungs of memory a few notches.
Carla and I had the great pleasure of receiving the hospitality of our friends the Mackeys last Friday night. They treated us to a spread of food and the stirring strains of our favorite musician, Kate Campbell, in our first-ever house concert.
For the first hour or so we caught up with old friends, met new ones and generally enjoyed adult conversation without having our children in tow. For the next few hours, we sat in Brittany’s and Joe’s living room listening to Kate tell stories in word and song.
I was thrilled she sang “New South,” the unofficial anthem of this blog, in her opening set which also included her Southern lament “Look Away.” I beamed with pride when she elected to sing one of my requests in her second set, “Visions of Plenty.” She stuck mostly with the guitar, but at the end of her first set, she did give us one or two tunes on the piano.
Still, I couldn’t get over the mixture of awkwardness and excitement over having such a personal experience in such an intimate setting. I’ve seen Kate perform at church, at large-scale religious gatherings such as CBF’s General Assembly, in songwriting workshops, and even Eddie’s Attic, the Decatur, Ga., landmark venue that routinely hosts outstanding singer-songwriters. I’ve enjoyed her and her music in each setting, but I have to say that the house concert was the best.
I wouldn’t exactly call house concerts a new trend. Back in the 16th century it was called “chamber music.” Nobles would have musicians play in their homes for their friends. Maybe the contemporary trend is a revival of that practice. Curious, I went in search of information about this trend in live music and found several pieces online from CNN to the New York Times, both dated 2010. Three years is about average for me to experience a trend that the rest of the world begins to notice.
You don’t have to be a music promoter to recognize house concerts are a win-win for the performers as well as the patrons. House concerts provide a powerful experience of the arts and a livelihood for the musicians. The latter part of that equation is why home concerts are making a comeback. Constant touring is a rough way for a musician to make a living: playing in bars where the music is just a backdrop, paying out of pocket for travel expenses, being away from family and friends for weeks at a time. All of these factors and more make the home concert an appealing way to earn a living and share music.
In my research, I quickly found two sites dedicated to the proliferation of house concerts: Concerts in Your Home and Dinner and Song. The concept behind these sites is that they offer you the opportunity to buy tickets to home concerts in your area. Slightly riskier in terms of social awkwardness – paying to go to someone’s home you may not know to spend time in close proximity with complete strangers – than going to a show in a more impersonal venue, these sites make a compelling case for the house concert.
And that’s what made last Friday night so special: it was a gift. Brittany and Joe didn’t ask anything in return. Yes, we bought the one CD of Kate’s that we don’t already have, but otherwise, we didn’t have to contribute anything.
I’m sure your musical taste will dictate whether or not a house concert is for you. I can’t imagine experiencing Metallica or Guns ‘N Roses in a living room. But if singer-songwriters are your preferred genre, I highly recommend a house concert. It will be an experience you won’t soon forget.
Have you ever been to a house concert? Who performed? What was it like? Did you enjoy it? Leave a comment below and share your experience.