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Filling the house with story and song

House concerts are a great way to enjoy live music in the home with friends and neighbours

I have memories of my dad’s record collection and the big cabinet stereo in the front room. I was forced into piano lessons from elementary into high school and we had the school-issued recorders and a guitar in the house. In recent years live music in the home has taken on new meaning for me. House concerts are a great opportunity to enjoy a night in or a night out without having to go very far.

Tanya Ringdal and her family have hosted a number of concerts. They learned about an organization called Home Routes that links performers and hosts from friends, and they’ve hosted concerts through the organization and independently.

“The best part about hosting is being able to not only create but participate in a quality, cultural experience in our small, rural community. We live on a farm, 20 miles from the nearest town and it’s nice to have access to such high-calibre artists without driving to a larger centre. We also love the opportunity to get to know some of our neighbours better; being as we open our doors not only to our immediate circle of friends, but anyone in the community who appreciates live music,” said Ringdal.

The Ringdals have seen the value in exposing their three young children to music and live musicians. “For them to get to know these artists as people, to hear them talk about their passions and their journeys, and to see where a lot of heart and hard work can get you, has been a wonderful experience,” she said.

When considering hosting a concert there may be concerns about having strangers as guests. “We have found the musicians, without exception, to be genuine, kind, and humble people. It takes a special kind of soul to be able to fit into new surroundings each night. House concert artists are not only adept at doing just that, but they bring an unmistakable sense of cohesion and togetherness to our home each and every show. They are impeccable guests. Often, they appear on our doorstep mid-afternoon with only the smallest of baggage in hand, although the collection of musical instruments that they pull from their vehicle can often be impressive. They need little more than a shower and a plate of food before putting on these great performances. In the morning, they hopefully join us for breakfast, but are then gone again, off to their next gig,” said Ringdal.

House concerts aren’t just a treat for the audience. Musicians and storytellers are also pleased by the opportunity to be involved. I’ve had the pleasure of attending house concerts and hosting one with Orit Shimoni. She’s a singer/songwriter, musician, writer, and storyteller who has been touring across Canada and Europe full time for a decade. “I’ve played in a variety of venues, bars, and cafés, small festival stages, and even trains. I’m always delighted when a house concert comes along. The domestic space means everyone is cosy and comfortable, there is no pretense. There is a direct and close connection with a listening audience, whose facial expressions and reactions you can see while performing. There is a sense of a gathering and a collective journey as the magic of music and story unfolds,” said Shimoni.

Some house concerts have set ticket prices, others are by donation that goes to the performers. Shimoni says the business side of things is often better at a house concert. “A smaller turnout still lets you have a comfortable evening without being concerned that the place of business had a slow night, but in general, house concerts are more lucrative than bar or venue gigs. The donations range from fair to generous,” she said.

The Ringdals have collected their own stories as hosts. “While each artist leaves us with a special memory, one of our family favourites was when Claire Ness and Grant Simpson travelled here from the Yukon. There was a clever, lightheartedness to Claire’s songs that made us all giggle and Grant’s uber-talented piano accompaniment was like the icing on the cake. Feeling inspired by their performance, the next morning, my then eight-year-old daughter asked if she could sing a song to them. She sang, and Grant chimed in on his keyboard, which brought huge smiles to everyone in the house,” said Ringdal.

Danica Lorer writes from Saskatoon, Sask.

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