Music, News & Commentary

The joy of house concerts

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Sick of sticky carpet? Experience the joy of a house concert. The wonderful instrumentalists, The String Contingent, will be playing houses here and there over the next few weeks. Or find a house concert near you.


So I’m converted. House concerts are back.
Remember the good old days when we made music at home? When Franz would come by and play the piano to a small group? That Herr Schubert — very very good, if somewhat romantic.
So far this year I’ve managed to catch two house concerts.
The first was by the estimable Shooglenifty, with their “acid-croft”, who swung through the country recently (now back in Scotland). It was an amplified concert in a living room and several women were shortly  jigging across the hallway (real men jig on the spot).
Hairy Angus Grant did his charismatic fiddle thing and spoke to us in his fat brogue. I went up to him during a break to clumsily compliment the show, saying, It’s wonderful! And I don’t even like folk, my dish is disco. He looked up from his rollie and dryly said, Aye, I like disco too.

A friend of mine, having moved into her new place, has been hosting concerts — mainly bluegrass and folk. I don’t see much live music, and certainly not bluegrass! — for pragmatic reasons as much as laziness. (You know, it’s often crowded, noisy, with long waiting periods etc.) But house concerts are by definition intimate, convivial gatherings in a domestic space.

The String Contingent
My second outing, last night, same place, was to see The String Contingent, a trio of wonderfully talented young locals on fiddle, double bass and stand-in banjo. (Their Scottish third on guitar was away on the night.)  A perfect acoustic fit for a house concert.
I can’t write about how their music works but I can say how I responded — very well, happily! — sitting there up close and feeling the vibrations in the air and through the floor, hearing the smallest detail of finger on wood, fibre on strings. Proximity has tremendous effect, and it makes no difference that I’m not a Celtic folky or bluegrass fan — being there really is the thing, and how music fills you up in that setting is, in an unverbalisable way, what music actually means.
Play String Contingent’s recent album Talk on bandcamp; I suggest track 5,Dovetail, for its exquisite simplicity or Garenin for its liliting beauty. (Or see them here on youtube.) Playing them like this, digitally, just reminds me how much information, detail, atmospheric gorgeousness goes missing.
So, catch them for yourself — they’ll be playing at the Newstead Live Festival this weekend (Jan 23-26), in country Victoria for the rest of January and and all over NSW next month, in a beautiful small space possibly near you. (See their gig guide.)
As fiddler Chris Stone said at the end with heartfelt gratitude: ‘Thanks for coming out to hear live music. Because if you don’t we can’t keep playing.’
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Notes: I’m not sure how recent a thing house concerts in Australia are but an early mention is on the Little Stevies blog where they write about bringing the idea back from Canada, in 2011: “… after having a blast of a time experiencing the beauty of the house concert over in Canada on our travels recently, we decided to steal the idea from a place where it is hugely popular, bring it home with us to a place where it is not so popular… ”
Want to find a house concert near you? House Concerts Australia is the network, but you’ll have to register. Their Facebook noted their fifth anniversary last December.

One response to “The joy of house concerts

  1. the people’s republic of australasia has been having house concerts in sydney for more than five years. it’s not a new thing. it is much the best way to see certain types of live music

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