Monday, December 29, 2008

We Hosted a House Concert: The Hazel Hill String Band


Rachel and I sometimes host folk music house concerts. Apparently this is an uncommon thing, which puzzles me. When else can you easily and cheaply hear great music live and up close for the price of some snacks and cleanup? It supports the arts and artists, and if it takes in enough money, you get the price of your snacks covered. You might get a free CD or t-shirt, to boot. And you don't have to leave your house.

The first several house concerts we hosted were successes. We could hold around 40 paying customers at maximum attendance, and each time we had between 30 to 45 people reserving spaces. After these successes, things took a downturn.

We hosted an incredible band, the Goldoolins, but only succeeded in attracting 12 paid audience members. The Goldoolins are gantastic, and they put on a great show, but we were crushed that so few people came out to hear them. We didn't even think of taking money to cover snacks on that occasion.

The last concert we tried, we had so little in the way of responses that we canceled it the night before. Depressing. It's been over a year since we tried to host another.


The Hazel Hill String Band play at the Contra dancing event each month. They are fronted by an old-time folkey I know from various folk music events, and he asked us to host them in a house concert last month.

We warned them that they would have to do some of the publicity to ensure a crowd came; we didn't want to be solely responsible if not enough people came.

I began to get worried when no one was reserving spaces the week before the concert, but the band said not to worry. So I worried, but we went ahead anyway.


Turns out my worrying was on the ball: the audience consisted of only four paying attendees, and me, and the wife and mother of one of the musicians. I also paid for my entry; that made five.

And, although I didn't know this in advance, the band consisted of 7 people! Plus a guest musician. And the aforementioned wife also sat in to play on half the songs. Which meant that the size of the band was larger than the audience. I was mortified; but at least I wasn't totally to blame.

And the band gamely went ahead and put on a great concert. Truthfully, I wasn't expecting too much, as their playing at the Contra dancing was nice and all, but nothing special. And our small audience surely wasn't going to provide much energy.

Thankfully, this time I was wrong. The band was really good. They played with much more energy and variance than they do on Contra dancing night (where their selections are constrained). They were peppy and fun. They did some singing along with the playing, too. The singing wasn't anything special, but it was fine. And the whole evening was really enjoyable.

I had a lot of snacks left over. The musicians didn't even drink the beer I got for them; they said they had to drive back. Huh. Who ever heard of musicians that don't drink beer, eh?

My recommendation: if there's going to be a house concert near you, go to it. It's inexpensive up-close entertainment that beats the hell out of almost anything else you could be doing. And if you have a chance to hear The Hazel Hill String Band, take it.

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