It might be that questions over classical music’s future have overlooked the central importance of venues. Traditional concert halls may be the stumbling block for younger generations who find their plush, formal seating a turn-off. House concerts are being explored as an alternative in some US cities, in which classical musicians perform before a select gathering in someone’s living room.
Concerts of this kind might have up to 50 audience members, often strangers. They come to a volunteer’s house and pay US$70 a head for the privilege of hearing chamber musicians play right up close. The exact economics one can work out for oneself, but without venue hire costs and overheads, this model would seem to work well for musicians and listeners alike.
An organisation calling itself Groupmuse coordinates such concerts in Boston, New York, San Francisco and Seattle. The idea has also been successfully tried in Portland. Writes Bob Keyes: “Concerts like this one are part of a growing national movement that’s bringing classical musicians into private homes, a response to what some people see as the stifling setting of a concert hall, where audience members are expected to dress a certain way, sit quietly and clap only at specific moments. House concerts close the distance between the stage and seats, creating not only proximity between performers and members of the audience, but also a shared a experience that resonates with both.”
House concerts are already common practice in contemporary music and are often used as a ‘perk’ in crowdfunding campaigns, a trend popularised by artists like Amanda Palmer, Kate Miller-Heidke and Katie Noonan. Classical musicians in Australia are also exploring this approach.