After a 17-hour overnight bus ride from New York to Cincinnati I arrived at my hosts’ sprawling old home on a quiet street. As soon as I arrived, my hosts greeted me warmly, and then the pre-concert shuffle began.

There had been a lot of concern over the exact placement of the piano: How important was it for the audience to be able to see hands upon the keyboard?  Should we place chairs in the foyer?  At what angle should the piano be placed?  We tried a few things and settled on something.  “How shall I introduce you?” my host asked me.  Since she is the aunt of my close friend and composer Simon Fink, whom I had lived with for 3 years when we were both at Rice University, and many members of his family had come from Illinois and Indiana, and New York, I suggested she open by explaining how this event came about.  In fact, this same attention to detail resulted in an evening that hailed the notion of a salon concert.  There were about 65 people including friends, family and colleagues of the host.  The audience was a mix of music lovers, medical workers, university professors, a former mayor of Cincinnati and many others.

I was particularly touched by how sensitive my host had been throughout the whole process of planning the concert.  She had hosted many events at her home but the concept of a salon concert posed some new questions.  How do we present the idea of suggested donations to our guests? What sort of food are we going to serve?  How will the evening flow? (I present various approaches to these questions in the FAQ.)  Listen to her tell me about  part of the process she and her husband went through.  I found this enlightening especially in understanding some of the concerns a host faces when inviting their friends into the home:

Part 1

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Part 2

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Some highlights of what she says:

“We decided to put the word out about this concert about 2 months in advance and….within 5 days of sending out the invitation we knew we would have 30 or 40 people coming.”

“Everyone here was completely taken with the evening.”

“The crowd was so engaged you could hear a pin drop.”

“The music was consuming”

“Kimball makes himself accessible so people aren’t afraid to ask questions.   The atmosphere in the room and Kimball’s own relaxed but very informed presentation is very compelling.  For people who have things to ask, it’s very easy to do it.”

E.F. Host, Cincinnati, OH

 

 Simon Fink’s Let the Wind Speak

This concert featured a pre-premier performance of Simon Fink’s work Let the Wind Speak.  The work, written for me, was inspired in part by the notes to a late poem by Ezra Pound:

I have tried to write paradise

 Do not move

Let the wind speak

That is paradise.

Simon notes: “Pound’s wind is the elegant and ecstatic stillness of nature.  It’s the air that gels us in the present and the thread that ties us to the past, the voices of a perpetual collective unconscious.  A wordless gust sweeps through Let the Wind Speak, witnessed only by the leaves it ruffles, the chimes it grazes, and the sands it displaces.  It whistles old stories and channels in new ones.”

I’ve just begun my journey with this work and plan to perform it many more times in the coming years.  It rained briefly in the early evening before the concert and later the windows were open for much of the concert letting in a gentle breeze throughout parts of the house.  It seemed appropriate.  Audio coming in the future.  Hear Simonâ’s thoughts on home concerts from the perspective of a composer:

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And two testimonials from audience members:

{audio}leon2.mp3{/audio}

{audio}sue.mp3{/audio}

“To me a home concert is a whole new way of appreciating performance especially of classical music. I’m one of those who doesn’t put a high priority on going to symphony concerts. I feel distanced from the performance.  But in a home concert I suddenly feel very connected to the performance.   I sense the physicality of it. I feel like I’m involved.   I understand it better. I enjoy both the performance and the chance to talk to go back and forth in discussion afterwards.”

L.F. Audience Member, Cincinnati, OH

And perhaps my favorite comment:Â

“I’ve spent hours reading about music and hearing music but I just learned more in an hour and half than I’ve ever really processed about these composers.”

S.L. Audience Member, Cincinnati, OH

My favorite because I had never really considered how strong the educational aspect of home concerts could be.  There is a richness of the possibilities for the audience in a home setting.  They are more at ease among friends and more receptive perhaps to the music.

I’m often asked, how does a home concert work?  How does it work?  And sometimes I feel a bit of anxiety creep in when I realize that my “model” is somehow not flushed out or specific enough.  But time and time again, I see the benefit of allowing each home concert to take on a a life of it’s own.  Like my host said in the audio above, she and her husband felt they went through a kind of evolution in the process of organizing the concert and addressing the different aspects of the event.  If the model I present is too rigid, it doesn’t allow for the flexibility that allows for each concert to set its own parameters and evolve in it’s own way.