It's been a busy Fall so I haven't posted in a while. One of the things I was doing these last few months was preparing a home concert for a Twin Cities multi-generation ladies group comprised of musicians, both active and retired. We meet once a month, present an hour-long musical program and enjoy a wonderful meal together. I always emerge from these gatherings inspired, refreshed and renewed, musically and personally. On the surface, this may sound primarily like a "social" group, with all the stereotypical status-seeking, competitive trappings but while our group is indeed social, I have never felt those other aforementioned vibes with these particular women. Instead, the atmosphere is educational, illuminating and healing on many levels. Our performers talk about the music, poetry, historical context, performance practice and inspiration for the compositions.
It is a bit intimidating, but also very rewarding to perform for such an experienced and educated audience. For my part last Friday, collaborative pianist and friend, Jill Schendel and I presented a group of six songs creating a seasonal journey spanning from late June (June Twilight by Rebecca Clarke, October Wind in New York by Emma Lou Diemer, Carol of the Snow and Behind the Clouds by Abbie Betinis, Wonder by Gerald Finzi and Come, Sing and Dance by Herbert Howells) through Christmas Day. We performed in Shirley and Michael Santoro's beautiful music room with its gorgeous picture windows, stunning views of the surrounding wetlands and the rich tones ringing out from their exceptionally sonorous Steinway grand piano.
In addition to the multiple magical musical moments experienced at the Santoro's lovely home, many of my most favorite home concert memories have been shared at Fred and Gloria Sewel's spectacular home in Minneapolis. (The Sewell and Santoro families are faithful supporters of the arts in the greater Twin Cities area of Minnesota)
The contemporary design of the Sewell house was featured in Minnesota Architect magazine (May-June 2002) and features a rectangular-shaped living/music room which was conceptualized and designed to be acoustically suited for chamber music. The Sewell's wonderful Steinway grand piano sits proudly in an beautiful environment of hard wood floors, colorful custom rugs with music symbols and composer names woven in, stunning art and sculpture all around and picture windows facing a lake. When I've been lucky enough to perform there, not only has each experience been richly rewarding from a musical standpoint, but it has seemed as though time has been suspended somehow; as if the music being played and sung has tapped into a centuries-old continuum. Similar to the Santoro's home, there is the opportunity for special moments between audience and performer, a human connection, where beauty and emotion meet aesthetic and the senses.
Communication and emotion in home concerts is strikingly close and refreshingly human. I hope the practice and promotion of home concerts continues to be nurtured and valued well into the future. Our present-day electronically-enhanced illusion of perfection needs a human balance that live performances and home concerts continue to provide.