World-Class Musicians Perform at Home: An Alternative Venue for Music Emerges on Long Island

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By Katherine Wright
At 7:01pm last Friday evening in Brookhaven Hamlet, Sarma Kancharla spooned a batch of homemade chickpea curry into a large white serving bowl on his dining room table. His wife, Anne-Mari Jakobson set tumbler glasses on the wooden sideboard, which was doubling as a bar for the night. But the arriving guests didna��t assemble around the table. Their attention, instead, was focused on the living room, where world-renowned jazz musicians Vitor GonA�alves and Yotam Silberstein warmed up their instruments.

Roughly once a month for the last year, Kancharla and Jakobson have hosted musical soirees for around 10-20 people in their home. Guests make a $20 donation towards the musiciana��s fee, Kancharla makes up any shortfall, and in return they enjoy a private concert from the comfort of an armchair.

a�?Ita��s a great opportunity to support artists and in a very intimate setting,a�? Jakobson said.

House concerts arena��t a new concept, but they are a relatively recent addition to Long Islanda��s music scene and restaurant- and bar-playing cover band culture, James Ramsden said. This year, Ramsden, has hosted concerts by Americana singer songwriters, predominantly from Texas and Tennessee, in his home in Lake Ronkonkoma. a�?I want to bring in something different.a�?

HOUSE CONCERTS from Katherine on Vimeo.

The idea of turning their living room into an occasional performance space came to Kancharla and Jacobson after attending a similar event in an apartment in Union Square, Manhattan.

a�?Its hard to get to concerts in the city, its expensive, and ita��s a long drive,a�? Kancharla said. a�?If we can get some great musicians at home, why not.a�?

House concerts strip the boundaries between players and listeners, who can sit less than an arma��s length from each other, GonA�alves, a Brazilian pianist and accordionist, said.

a�?There is no real barrier, there is no stage, we are close, we are intimate.a�?

He and Silberstein, an Israeli guitarist, both enjoy the personal connection they get playing to and socializing with people in their living rooms.

a�?If there is a break then you mingle around, whereas if you are in a venue you go the green room,a�? GonA�alves said. a�?There is something more personal about playing in a house, it is less formal,a�? Silberstein said.

The audience is also, generally, more focused on the music than they might be in other venues, Ramsden said. a�?By playing a house concert, [the musicians] get a listening audiencea��in a bar only half of the people might be listening.a�?

Silberstein agrees: a�?Ita��s nice to play for people who want to listen,a�? he said.

But house concerts arena��t just a way for musicians to clink glasses with fans; they can also offer an additional and substantial revenue stream to artists. In Manhattan musicians can play for as little as $30 and a beer, Matteo Rini, who organizes a house concert series in Brooklyn called Planeta and links Kancharla up with artists, said. Acts playing at Planeta one night, and Kancharlaa��s house the next can take home upwards of $1500, he said.

a�?We dona��t take anything,a�? Ramsden said. a�?We feed them, and we house them, so they can do pretty well.a�?

Artists also sell more merchandise than they might when they play in a bar, and gain increased name recognition, he said.

With the guarantee of reasonable earnings, house concerts attract world-class musicians, Rini said. He has had no trouble finding a�?big shota�? musicians to play at Planeta and elsewhere. The artists are all very excited to play in these settings, he said.

This year, the Spanish jazz singer and guitarist, Susana Raya; the Scottish harpist, MaeveA�Gilchrist; and the South African guitarist, Derek Gripper, who played Carnegie hall two weeks after his suburban Long Island gig, all entertained guests at Kancharlaa��s house. While visitors to Ramsdena��s home were treated to performances by the Texas-based Americana singer-songwriters Drew Kennedy, Gurf Morlix, Susan Gibson, and Robyn Ludwick.

a�?They make better money coming out here and ita��s only an hour out from the city,a�? Kancharla said. a�?And hopefully we make them welcome.a�?

About the Author

Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright
Katherine is a science writer and journal editor working for the American Physical Society in Long Island, N.Y. She is a part-time journalism graduate student at Stony Brook University.