House concerts touch souls

House concerts may be the most dynamic part of the folk and roots music scene today – yet they are rarely discussed, and seldom reviewed in the media. We figured it was time to right the balance a little, with this report from longtime house concert host Steve Tennant of Perth, Ontario.

In standard journalistic practice, it would be unusual for a host to review a show at his own venue. But part of what makes house concerts unique is that the hosts are often super-fans, working hard for the love of the music. Who better to judge the quality of the show than someone who’s literally warming their own home by hosting one?

Music is a very personal thing. While listening to live performance, one person sitting beside you can be laughing while those on the other side are wiping their eyes for entirely different reasons. It’s where the music takes us; where a skilled musician whisks us away, transporting each and every one of us to somewhere within our own soul.

When you think of ‘soul’, we’re used to thinking of the incomparable Aretha Franklin, but in fact, it can be anything that touches us in that place, deep inside, that seems to have a mainline to our hearts and emotions, be it a work of art piece or a piece of music.

On Saturday night, Nonie Crete and Eugene Rea shared their soul and brought their eclectic styles to play Music On McLean in good ol’ Perth, Ontario. Their infectious blend of celtic, blues and folk, interspersed with whimsy and glimpses of self-penned song origins touched the appreciative crowd, swaying them from tears of laughter to tears of unreleased emotion.

I first heard Nonie years ago in one of Ontario Council of Folk Festival Conference‘s many late night song circles where her stellar blues style on guitar and harmonica embedded itself in my mind. A couple of years later I caught her and Eugene together at the Barrie Folk Festival where again, via a song circle stage, I was impressed with their dynamic, and the musical genuineness the two produced together.

On this night in our home, any song they touched brought out all they had in interpreting their shared vision and enhancing the other’s offering. Eugene’s background support on guitar, mandolin or pipes took each tune to a new level just as Nonie’s guitar, harmonica and vocal harmonies gave extra depth to Eugene’s creations.

They shared their souls with us. We were blessed. I hope you jump next time they’re playing near and you catch the fire this complimentary duo deliver.

The magic of live music continues…

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  1. avatar
    Suzanne Stoop 15 March, 2011 at 12:41

    We too are fortunate to have some committed music super-fans who host regular house concerts in our area. Kevin Rivers and Allyson MacDonald (www.stonecroftfolk.com) have been bringing a wide range of music from home and abroad to their beautiful old stone house near Woodstock Ontario for at least five years. The final concert of this year’s spring season will feature Lennie Gallant on April 28. Their 50th concert in August brings Garnet Rogers back (for the fourth time!) for this very special event. We have had the privilege of hearing such talents as Oliver Schroer, Connie Kaldor, David Francey, Anne Lindsay, Ian Bell, Ariana Gillis, Liam Titcombe, Brock Zeman, Maria Dunn, North Sea Gas, David Leask and many more too numerous to mention, all in the comfortable confines of Stonecroft’s living room and loft. Those who attend are there for the music and all proceeds at the door go to the artists. A donation jar is on the table in exchange for the sweet goodies baked up by Allyson, her mom and sister, those proceeds going to support the work of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. That donation jar generated over $2,000 alone last year. Music is our lifeblood and we are so fortunate this couple brings such a wonderful variety to our virtual doorstep in such a beautiful venue. Just keep the concerts coming!

  2. avatar
    Nonie 16 March, 2011 at 11:53

    Yes, keep the house concerts a-coming. As a musician it’s my favorite way to relate my music to the people listening. Soon you feel like you’re at home with a few good friends and you’re completely comfortable and so you can be yourselves. I find that soon the energy from the musicians and the energy from the audience creates a wonderful atmosphere that only a house concert can achieve.

  3. avatar
    Eric Levin 16 March, 2011 at 18:24

    We have been very fortunate to have met the Tenants and have seen quite a few performers in their home. Every group has been superb! They have a real knack in searching out phenomenal talent and how they are able to get them to come and play is an unbelievable feat!

    Nonie and Eugene, as Steve said, rocked their home (well, folked their home). An unbelievable performance would be a gross understatement.

    Our greatest gratitide for allowing us to be a part of this.

    Donna and Eric

  4. avatar
    Scott Merrifield 17 March, 2011 at 00:19

    It’s great to see the growth of enthusiasm for house concerts these days. I started putting them on regularly in Sudbury 20 years ago. This year we’ve been fortunate enough to have had Ken Whiteley, John Mann (Spirit of the West), J.P. Cormier, and most recently Alejandra Ribera. Enoch Kent & Jon Brooks and Maria Dunn & John Wort Hannam are coming up. And there are now 5 or 6 other people in Sudbury alone that present them on a more sporadic basis.
    With more and more presenters all over North America, and the success of circuits like Home Routes, house concerts have become a huge and vital part of the folk music community.
    Kudos to Steve and Sue, Kevin and Allyson and all the other presenters who continue to bring the talent up close and personal,… to the performers who don’t mind having smaller but very appreciative audiences right in their faces, …and to the audiences who know a good thing when they find it and keep coming back for more.

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