Nadine Davenport—owner of UniTea Café in Ashcroft—is no stranger to house concerts, and knows how much fun intimate concerts in small venues can be. She was therefore happy to be able to sign up as a venue for Living Room Live, which brings classical music and musicians to communities large and small, and her next concert is coming up on Jan. 11.
Davenport and her then-partner Andrea Bona began doing house concerts in Ashcroft right after the demise of the Opera House. “We were all searching for something we could do to continue the music. For the first year we had house concerts at Leslie Alexander and John Ellis’s place in Ashcroft. It was a big, nice old house with a big fireplace: the perfect setting.
“When Andrea and I moved to Barnes Lake we continued the house concerts; then the Winding Rivers Arts & Performance Society came along and began doing concerts.”
In the five years since she opened UniTea, Davenport has been able to provide an intimate venue for touring musicians, and when she heard about Living Room Live she was intrigued.
Founded in 2018 by pianists Nicola Davies and Lisa Rumpel, Living Room Live was created to address the fact that while acoustic music is ideally suited to a house setting—where musicians play for a small group of attentive listeners who are only a few feet away—the majority of house concert series cater to every acoustic genre except classical music.
“Nicola was good at putting inquiries out there in Facebook-land about who might want to do house concerts. They have the wiggle room to allow small venues—not big ones—as well, and I don’t have a house where I can hold a concert, so I reached out to see what they were about.
“I like having classical music in Ashcroft, and to have that style of music at UniTea is great. And it’s great to get Ashcroft on the circuit between the Lower Mainland and the north of the province.”
The second tour for Living Room Live is now in progress. Earlier this fall UniTea hosted vocalist Paula Berry and pianist Lisa Rumpel, and the next concert in the series will be on Saturday, Jan. 11 at 7:30 p.m., when guitarist Jonathan Stuchbery will be performing a concert of Baroque music.
Hailed as “exciting and technically brilliant”, Stuchbery will be performing on his Baroque guitar, which is a rarely-played cousin of today’s guitar. Do you think of the guitar as a modern instrument? Wrong. “The best informed of the gentle class know well that the guitar has a notably knightly characteristic,” wrote Rémy Médard in his 1676 publication Pièces de Guitarre. “This is why the greatest princes of Europe who have wanted to play music prefer it over all other instruments.”
Through his instruments and music, Stuchbery invites guests into the private chambers of the kings and queens of 17th century Europe, where the guitar, theorbo, and lute were the most highly valued instruments. The intimate sound of these plucked string instruments was perfectly suited for small rooms and chambers.
“I didn’t really know the musicians beforehand,” says Davenport. “I was told about them and where they were from, and I had a pretty good feel that they were professional. The quality is going to be good with classical musicians.”
She says that the intimacy between the musician and the audience at house concerts is amazing. “It brings in such a dialogue, from what kind of instrument are you playing to what’s that technical piece you’re playing; all the nuts and bolts of a performer. There’s a chance for the audience to ask questions and for the musician to be more relaxed.
“It’s such a comfortable and intimate interaction, which is kind of rare. I think that’s why there’s an increase in the number of house concert series.
“It helps to bring culture to small and big towns, and you don’t necessarily have to have a brick and mortar venue. They pride themselves on bringing really good culture and music to any kind of town. It’s affordable, and you’re amongst friends and neighbours, and that really makes it a unique thing.”
Tickets for the Jan. 11 concert at UniTea are available for $20 each in advance or at the door; you can also call (250) 457-1145. More information about the upcoming tour schedule can be found at www.livingroomlive.ca.
Since most house concerts are in private homes, new guests usually connect directly with hosts for the ticket price, address, and to RSVP. If you are interested in hosting your own concerts in future, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.