A house concert is a wonderful thing. It gives friends and family the gift of live music, and musicians get to perform in a relaxed setting for a supportive audience. Planning one is easy – all you need is a living room, hors d’oevres, some friends – and a few musicians, of course!
Hiring professional musicians is a wonderful way to support your local music community – but if finances are limited, consider inviting non-professionals to perform. Most developing musicians greatly appreciate an opportunity to play for an audience. Reach out to your musician friends or friends with student-musicians. If you are a player yourself, why not recruit a few friends to work on a small ensemble piece?
Next, you’ll need to select a repertoire. Your musicians can certainly help you with this, and may even have specific pieces prepared. If the options are left open, consider your audience. Would they prefer a full “classical” program, or would an arrangement of a Taylor Swift song inspire their interest? Don’t feel obligated to stick to tradition – house concerts are an excellent space for trying new things.
There’s also no need to plan an extensive program, or to cram all the playing into one sitting. Take breaks between pieces, or even between movements, so that guests (including the musicians) can mingle and visit the snack table.
In a living room or patio space everyone sits on the same level, so it may be hard for listeners to see if they have someone seated in front of them. Maximize the size of your “front row” by shaping it in a U or a circle around the performers. Make the audience comfortable – include couches, loveseats, lazy-boys, and cushioned chairs as part of the seating, and provide coffee tables and side tables for food and drinks.
This is the clincher for establishing a casual concert environment. There’s nothing like a table full of food to draw people in and facilitate conversation. But what food to provide? Summer is grilling season, so a menu of shrimp and veggie kabobs, burgers and hot dogs might just be the way to go – but if you’re no grillmaster, how about hosting a potluck? Or, just order a pizza and set out some chips and salsa and veggies and dip. If you’re ambitious, hors d’oevres like bacon wrapped scallops, clams casino, or stuffed mushrooms are great crowd-pleasers.
So long as it’s delicious and plentiful, your snack table will do its job – and once it’s set up, all you have to do is sit back, relax, and listen!