House Concerts, or Harp Without Borders

At a house concert in Tennessee

While you may not have thought of it this way, we all start out playing house concerts. It's that first holiday after you have started taking lessons when your mother asks you to play for your relatives. If you continue your music studies, you may play for women’s club luncheons, made infamous by the musician/comedienne Anna Russell. You may play for local music societies. All of these functions are house concerts. After many years of playing in venues large and small, I can honestly say house concerts are my favorite concerts to play.

A House Concert (Hauskonzert, if you prefer the German term) is by far the best way to experience music, whether you’re performing or in the audience.  It is both intensely personal and deeply bonding among the participants.  It is simply music experienced as profound communication.

From a seat in the audience, you can expect to be drawn in to the very core of the music-making.  The house concert is not an occasion for listening, as much as it is an opportunity to become a part of the art.  You will breathe as the performers breathe, experience the stillness of their concentration, and be moved by the release of their energy into the act of creating the music that only exists in that moment.

A performer faces special challenges in a house concert.  The intimate setting removes the “borders,” the separation that a stage provides between performer and audience.  Often we performers rely on that border, using it to create our own musical island where we can mentally close ourselves off from distractions and self-consciousness.

But in a house concert when the borders are no longer there, I feel a new and exciting level of awareness.  I hear the audience breathe, and I feel them react to the music as I play.  Often I am able to respond through the way I express the music to changes I perceive in the mood of those sitting near me.  The music becomes a two-way conversation.

Personally, I am particularly grateful for the people who host house concerts.  Their generosity of spirit and their love of music combine in this wonderful act of sharing with their friends.  Whether the concert is for just a few close friends or as many as their house will hold, they manage to create a place for a unique moment, an opportunity for the serendipitous blending of community and art, and, before I start sounding  too serious, a fun evening, too.

I would like to offer my deep-felt thanks to my friends who have hosted house concerts for me in the past year: the Jones, Nichols and Lash families.  Thank you for making me part of your circle of friends.  ~ Anne

What tips would you offer someone who would like to host a house concert?

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