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House concerts: Live music in a homey setting

Local songwriter Arlon Bennett performs at the home

Local songwriter Arlon Bennett performs at the home of George Trapani. George's home/basement turns into the "Song Box" for his home concerts. Credit: Photo by Michael Falco

In this era, when $300 concert seats in crowded mega-venues are not unheard of, a quiet alternative has emerged. People across the country, including some on Long Island, are opening their homes for live music shows.

Furniture is shifted, stages are born and anywhere from 30 to 40 people gather in living rooms to hear music played in intimate settings.

"We all get to see a lot of good music and we get a chance to meet other people with kind of the same taste in music," says George Trapani of Seaford, who has organized house concerts for 10 years. "It's really a nice social event."


Musicians tend to be unplugged during these domestic performances, which span genres from classical to folk to pop. During breaks from the music, audiences at most house concerts partake of their own refreshments or a potluck buffet. "It's just kind of do-it-yourself," Trapani says.

Many classical house concerts are held as fundraisers for music programs. Admission at folk and other house concerts usually comes in the form of a suggested donation to the artist of between $10 and $20.


To be sure, music in the home is not a new proposition.

"It used to be how people listened to music," says Judy Lochhead, professor and chair of Stony Brook University's Department of Music, describing salons in the 19th century. "People would invite their friends. . . . They'd listen to or perform music and also talk about other things."

This return to house concerts is, in a sense, a replication of those salons and of the folk revival movement of the 1960s, Lochhead says. "It gives people more personal connections to the musicians."


Classical house concerts usually spring up on a word-of-mouth basis, Lochhead says, with occasional advertising by local arts councils. Such concerts may be a response to big concert halls, she added.

"You become an anonymous person there," Lochhead says. "At a certain point, chamber works got lost. I think this is an attempt to retrieve that intimacy."

Many other house concerts have become venues for budding singer-songwriters. But they also offer something to their hosts.

"This is an opportunity for me to choose musicians that I truly believe in," says Susan Wahlert, host of the realmusik house concert series in East Setauket. "It is also a way of contributing to the arts. . . . It's up to us to support independent musicians."


House concerts offer musicians an unusual perspective, says Monica Rizzio, a member of the Cape Cod pop-folk band Tripping Lily. The group spent the fall traveling the East Coast in a tour made up largely of house concerts.

"There isn't that space between the performer and the audience," Rizzio says. "We like the fact that it's very musically hands-on."

House concert audiences tend to be more attentive, Rizzio says. "A lot of times at a club, the audience doesn't feel as comfortable coming up to the artist after a show," she says. "At house concerts, it's very personable. You're in the kitchen eating or having a glass of wine with someone."

FOR MORE INFORMATION and list house concerts across genres by location.

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