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House concert 101

October 25th, 2012 · No Comments

Tips on holding a fundraising concert in your own backyard.

By Susan Oppenheim

The first time that I heard the term “house concert” was about three years ago, when my musical son-in-law was heading to Kitchener-Waterloo to perform at one. A host opens their home, or in summertime their yard, to a minimum of 25 people who pay a cover charge, and can buy CDs and refreshments. Because these events take place in comfortable settings with like minded-people, the informality and ambience is unparalleled.

I have volunteered now for about 13 years for the Annex-based baroque orchestra Tafelmusik.

Through this connection, I was linked to “classical revolution” evenings, where performers sit in with sheet music on a drop-in basis and jam the classics. They are open to the public, sometimes donations are suggested, and you can usually order food and drinks, as they tend to take place in more-than-willing restaurants. They are fabulous experiences.

This summer I decided to host my own house concert. I have a terrific sun deck on an extension on my property (in the Christie, north of Bloor area) that is on a public laneway, so planning an open-air evening would likely not pose a sound problem for many of my neighbours.

For talent, I approached the Metis Fiddler Quartet, whom I had met at a classical revolution night. They are a totally unique classical/folk performing group comprised of two violins, a cello. and an acoustic guitar.

Siblings Alyssa, Conlin, Nicholas, and Danton Delbaere-Sawchuk, now ranging in age from 16 to 26, started playing professionally in earnest 10 years ago. They grew up nurtured and surrounded by music, with lessons ranging from the Suzuki Method, Royal Conservatory of Music, and independent mentors. They are the grateful recipients of Canada Council travel grants and study bursaries, and have earned for themselves and our country a solid reputation for playing concert that focus on the rich musical roots of Canadian Metis and Aboriginal elders. They are delightful and extremely gifted. When approached to do my first  house concert they eagerly accepted.

The only big stress I had: what if it rained? I was glued to my iPhone weather app, and luckily it didn’t.

Would I do it again? You bet!

For more on the Metis Fiddler Quartet, please visit For more on Classical Revolution Toronto, please visit their Facebook page.

Tips that worked for me

  • You are the host and you supply the space. We mutually agreed that 25 guests would be my ideal limit.
  • The talent will fill the seats for you and arrive in plenty of time to help set up, work the door, and clean up afterwards.
  • Local musicians find paying customers using their fan list, website, Facebook, neighbours, and family members. For our event they sold 90 per cent of the tickets.
  • They brought wine and beer and CDs to boost their sales, and volunteers to assist.
  • I donated homemade desserts and iced coffee and lemonade at the end of the performance for a social mix-and-mingle. This got everyone chatting, and is something that I love doing
  • They included other performers in the sales who after the set quietly slipped out to their cars and brought in more instruments. We had an incredible jam session that lasted till almost midnight.

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