Ryanhood performs at Julie O’Kelly’s home. (Photo by Julie O’Kelly)
Go out to a concert — or have the concert come to you? Few are aware that instead of trekking to a coffee shop, bar or theater to hear live music, you can organize a house concert by selecting a band and inviting friends and neighbors over to watch the performance. House concerts have become a vital part of the music scene across the United States; this alternative has really taken off through the creation of the Concerts in Your Home website. There, potential hosts can peruse a list of musicians who have registered at the site, offering samples of their music and links to their own websites.
Ginter Park resident Julie O’Kelly is currently the only Richmonder to organize house concerts through the site; she hosted nine in 2016. As O’Kelly notes, “The hosts do not pay a fee, although there are lots of costs [and] time associated with hosting. … I can reach out to a group I would like to host or they can reach out to me.” The artists play for a suggested donation, and “concerts are by invitation only,” says O’Kelly.
To get a large enough audience, O’Kelly sends out emails to her friends to see how many would be interested. “Fifty attendees per show is my goal,” she says. “I usually end up with 30 to 40, although we have had 46 at one show.”
The musicians find it a refreshing break from regular gigs in traditional venues. Jeff Miller traveled from Nashville, Tennessee, to give a solo performance at O’Kelly’s home, delivering an acoustic blend of compositions on her outdoor patio on a beautiful fall evening. Ryanhood, a folk duo from Tucson, Arizona, performed rich harmonies over guitar and mandolin riffs at O’Kelly’s home in November; they say her living room’s acoustics served their sound nicely. A touring band has a long wish list, says Ryan Green, one half of Ryanhood. “A nice-sounding space, an attentive audience, a decent night’s pay, a good meal, cozy accommodations,” he ticks off. “A good house concert will check off every single one of them, and often leave you with a lasting friendship as well.” O’Kelly, like most hosts, provides food and lodging for the traveling musicians, who often travel on to other houses to perform.
O’Kelly plans concerts once a month in 2017, including the singer guitarist Sabrina Murdaugh from Nashville on Jan. 19. Visit concertsinyourhome.com to stay informed about upcoming performances or to sign up as a host.