Monday 24 July 2017

Music at a Sydney House Concert Goes Hmmm....

Things That Make You Go Hmm...
a Sydney House Concert

The CHN blogger was out and about in Newtown recently and attended a house concert put on by the I Heart Songwriting Club.

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A group of musos performed in a lounge room tucked away in a corner with around 20 people ranging from children to oldies. Sitting on lounges, chairs and on the polished wooden floor with greenery displayed in the floor-to-ceiling windows behind them. 

What a knockout show in a small and intimate venue, as opposed to a noisy pub somewhere.
The music was delivered with soul and warmth.  It spoke to the heart on a Sunday afternoon in the intimate surroundings.

The intimate surroundings of the Newtown House Concert for the I Heart Songwriting Club in July 2017 with performer Mariamma, (Francesca de Valence)

The domestic space certainly beat  the hell out of the huge souless barns that pass as music venues in some places.  The interval was an opportunity to have nibbles, cheese and dip, meet the musos and make  new friends in a truly warm and welcoming environment.

House concerts are an emerging trend in music performance and hark back to the days of chamber music. A look back at how live acoustic music was performed in earlier times. When a grand house provided a library, a parlour, a ballroom for music in the raw uncut version. At a time when there was no amplification or recording. All music was live and of the moment.

Friends and fans of the I Heart Songwriting Club in lounge room of the host at the Newtown House Concert in July 2017. (Francesca de Valence)

Graham Strahle reviewed the house concert scene in Australia in 2016 for Music Australia and came to the conclusion that this performance space is growing in Australia. He maintains that this type of performance is flying under the radar and is growing popularity.

Strahle reports that some artists prefer house concerts over other types of venues with a range of organising abilities. Performers relish the networking possibilities. This is very community based and a new interpretation of an old idea.

Some who provide performance spaces in their homes have dedicated rooms while providing supper or even meals for patrons and fans. These type of performances seem quite informal and not on regular circuits.

House concerts have proved popular in North America and Europe. Fran Snyder, writes that house concerts in the US, bring performers closer to the fans and
sometimes they even help artists rediscover what they enjoy most about playing music – the intimate connection with an audience.
Snyder makes the point that it allows performances in
'markets where you don’t have a significant fanbase'. 

This mode of delivery is not for all and there are disadvantages. The performer is exposed and there is no hiding behind a loop-track or a huge drum kit. It may not be for the faint hearted.
ABC News reports that attendances are falling at regional music festivals and that this type of performance is replacing them. Allowing fans to cheaply access high quality live music.
House concerts, according to Megan King, in the northern rivers area of  NSW are held in old houses with metal house ceilings that provide an ideal acoustic venue.
The house concert is another form of the 'pop-up' economy - a part of the gig-economy.The advent of social media makes the job of creating a network of friends and fans reasonably easy. In the old days it was only word of mouth. Private email groups and the like provide the vehicle for cheap and easy promotion. 
WH Chong writes that house concerts are
intimate, convivial gatherings in a domestic space.
Wikipedia has an interesting history of house concerts maintaining that their origins are based around the performance of folk, blues and country music. Where live performances were traditionally informal and small affairs at low cost. There are even influences going back to the medieval period with small intimate performances of unamplified music. You could argue that live performance goes back to the ancients and were a form of house concert, especially those based around religious festivals and the like.

The performers from the I Heart Songwriting Club at the Newtown House Concert in July 2017 (Francesca de Valence) 

"Things That Make You Go Hmm"
The CHN blogger concurs with all the conclusions of other writers after experiencing this type of performance for the first time.
After a hugely successful Brisbane show, I Heart Songwriting Club is touring "Things That Make You Go Hmm" and held  house concert in Sydney. The theme of the Sydney house concert was:
These incredible women share stories and songs on:
The dangerous powers of seduction
The sudden absence of love
The elusive nature of time
and… of course, being a stalker …. “Things That Make You Go Hmm..."
All the artists that who performed for the Heart Songwriting Club were singer-songwriters who were storytellers in their own right and told a story through their music. The performers were:
Francesca de Valence,
Helen Perris,
Colleen O'Connell

House concerts are a form of performance that seems likely to a strong future if current trends are any guide.

Learn more

Graham Strahle, Under the radar: Australia’s house concert scene (Music Australia)

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