On the topic of house concerts, I’ve been reading about Jane Siberry and her European tour in The Globe and Mail. The 54-year old Canadian singer is performing in private homes and other small venues – this weekend in Stockholm, then on to Finland, Norway and the Netherlands before finishing up next month in London. She travels light, takes buses and trains. Her only requirement is a meal and a night’s lodging at her hosts’ homes.
During one monologue, she even explained to the audience why she stopped doing big tours. In an interview before the show, she had elaborated on that theme: “I would play at clubs and we’d go there and people wouldn’t be prepared, or the dressing room would be filthy once again. So I’m standing there and these people have come from far, Detroit or whatever, and security guys are walking back and forth as if people are going to shoplift. It’s so rude. Promoters are looking at the empty seats and waitresses are so bored, cash registers are going and it’s against the force of music.”
Siberry came up with the idea for the tour after receiving e-mail requests from fans in out-of-the-way places. “I don’t have a promoter that’s interested in bringing me over, and I thought, ‘Am I just never going to play there because someone’s a gatekeeper, but people want me?’ So that moment I wrote an e-mail and said, ‘If you miss me, invite me to your living room and find, say, 30 people at 30 dollars. (read more)
Pianists take note. If you want to perform, you can. It’s all about branding, making connections, administrating…and of course, practicing.
Chopin was the ‘man of the hour’ at Friday evening’s Salon Concert at The Music Studio. I performed short works (a few Preludes, a Mazurka, a couple of Waltzes and three Nocturnes) for an audience of about forty. My student baked pastries and we had plenty of coffee. Here’s what I learned:
When you’re doing everything, the publicity, greeting the guests, taking the ticket money, arranging for seating, setting up the coffee, etc etc, don’t try to perform by memory. For me playing by memory requires me to go into what Jade Simmons would call a “performance cocoon.” With all that had to be done before the performance, right up to the time I sat down at the piano, I didn’t have the focus to perform from memory. Lucky for me I only felt a tiny bit guilty because I had just read this article by Susan Tomes.
The audience likes trivia. In between each piece I spoke, briefly describing the French Salons of the early 1800s, Chopin’s 200th birthday, and the launch of the A major Prelude, purposely trying not to be lecturing. It worked.
They also like the intimacy of the Salon. Up close and personal. And right in their own backyard, for most of them.
Good food is important. Three large plates of cream puffs, eclairs and lemon tarts, gone by the end of the evening. Coffee was available before, during and after the performance. Lots of visiting and chatting up new friends.
The nicest compliment is when someone said “I haven’t performed in years, but I think I’d like to do this myself.”