Steve Haas: House Concerts–The Forgotten Form of Home Entertainment?
For centuries, opera singers, musicians, and even entire orchestras performed in royal palaces and the parlors of the aristocracy. Today, it’s rare that home environments are built with such acoustic considerations, let alone that serious live music of any genre is played in the home. We have almost entirely replaced our traditions of sharing live performances with newer forms of electronically-based entertainment like movies, TV, and videogames. Yet even listening to the best recording of a chamber group or blues guitarist & vocalist on a fantastic audio system can’t fully recapture the intimacy, depth, and freshness of a real ensemble playing before you—not to mention the interaction of audience and performers that makes every concert event so unique and engaging.
But all is not lost. Private “house concerts” have become more and more popular as extremely talented and, in some cases, well-known performers look for intimate settings to connect with eager audiences. These concerts can take place in someone’s average-sized living room where the furniture has been moved around and a temporary stage, PA, and lighting system has been set up just for that evening. Audience members love it because it gives an opportunity to experience great live music and socialize with other people in a comfortable locale.
There are even Web sites that serve as resources to connect artists with those who actually hold house-concert “series.” One such site—concertsinyourhome.com—run by a friend of mine named Fran Snyder, has provided such valuable service for years to hosts, artists, and those looking to simply attend house concerts near them. As musicians and their managers continue to see the benefit, the growth of both private venues and artists who want to play in them has been astounding over the last few years.
I have had the privilege of checking out dozens of these events around the US, and have heard everything from Julliard ensembles to groups consisting of top session and touring musicians who have played with everyone from Michael Jackson to KC & the Sunshine Band in their heydays.
While the vast majority of house concerts are held at the grass-roots level in average-sized homes, there are also those affluent homeowners who have the means and desire to take things up a notch (or five!). From the NJ couple that built a massive ballroom in their home to host up to 200 audience members, to an Atlanta-area businessman (and amateur organist) who commissioned a $250,000 pipe organ for a purpose-built addition on his home, these owners are taking live music in their home to the ultimate level—whether for performance, recording, or just practicing by themselves or “jamming” with their friends.
With any type of live music comes the need for good acoustics and, when appropriate, a sound system. (And it rarely works well to try to double a home theater audio system as a live-music reproduction system.) In some cases, it could be desirable to combine amplified sound with adjustable acoustic environments—either achieved through natural acoustic treatments or through simulated electronic enhancement, such as our Concertino™ system.
A recent example of this was a homeowner who created both a Theater and a Nightclub in his home to showcase a wide variety of live and pre-recorded music events. Rather than saying too much about this one-of-a-kind project, you can experience it in detail in the Paradiso Theater episode of HGTV’s Million Dollar Rooms.
So, whether it’s enjoying a local traveling musician in someone’s modest abode or attending a command performance of Elton John in a private ballroom, house concerts will continue to have an exciting place in the world of home entertainment. It just takes finding events near you or taking the plunge to host your own to share in these wonderful experiences.
Steve Haas is the founder and president of SH Acoustics, an internationally recognized acoustical and audio consulting firm with offices in Connecticut and Australia. He is also the creator of Concertino™, an active acoustic-enhancement system being integrated into luxury homes, yachts, presentation spaces, and recording studios. For more information, visit shacoustics.com and concertinolive.com.