Saturday, July 9, 2016

Lexington Resident Turns His Living Room Into Music Venue

In memory of his wife Virginia, Lexington resident Robert Schwartz brings intimacy and accessibility to the music scene.

“Partly in honor of my wife and to continue the thread I wanted to start a series where people locally can come and hear live music not at symphony hall, but in an intimate venue,” said Schwartz, of Patterson Road.

During the past year, Schwartz turned his home into a 40-seat concert venue bringing three professional music performances to Lexington. He is preparing for another set of performances, which he calls Musical Chairs, to start this fall.

The point of the smaller venue is to give audience members the chance to get up close and personal, according to Schwartz.

“One of the advantages of a house concert is it’s the way it was done during the Renaissance,” said Sheila Beardslee-Bosworth, whose band Concordia Consort plays Renaissance-era music. “In a house concert, everybody’s sitting there in an informal setting, and even though we treat it as a professional gig, it’s a little more relaxed.”

The home has a long tradition of musical tenants back to Joanna Giwosky, a harpsichordist who used to play and teach lessons at home.

Schwartz’s late wife was a professional harpsichordist as well, who came from a long musical background.

“It’s a privilege and an honor to continue the thing that meant the most to my wife during her lifetime,” Schwartz said. “It was the single most important thing in her life. My wife as a harpist gave recitals here in the house. Students would play and practice and take lessons right here.”

The money audience members pay for the tickets pays the musicians, Schwartz said. At the price of $15 to $20 per ticket, Schwartz believes people will take a chance on music they might not be used to.

“Folks that don’t have a lot of experience going to concerts or don’t have a background with classical music get to hear something local,” Schwartz said. “It’s very informal, you can chat with the musicians and learn what motivates them, why they chose the music they chose to perform.”

Many of the people who attend are not professionals, which Schwartz lends to the price of the tickets.

“Everybody in the audience are either amateurs or people, like me, that don’t play the music,” Schwartz said. ”I have a deep appreciation for it, but I don’t have an instrument.”

Beardslee-Bosworth, whose group performed at Musical Chairs this winter, said for musicians the experience is more personal and in many ways more rewarding. The group has begun playing more house venues because of their experience at Schwartz's home.

“In a concert hall, we’re up front and the audience is way down there,” Beardslee-Bosworth said.

“We don’t necessarily get to talk to them up close and personal about the music or to see how they respond to it other than applause. We can answer their questions about why we did something this way or that. It gives us a chance to bring the audience to a better understanding of what we’re doing and how we went about doing it.”

The reception after the show is the favorite part for many concertgoers, Schwartz said.“Afterward, there is a reception, everybody is encouraged to bring a beverage and a snack, and the musicians get face time with the audience,” Schwartz said. “Some people have said the chance to talk to the musicians afterward is one of the best parts of the evening.”

In Lexington where the available venues are typically larger and more costly to attend, Schwartz believes Musical Chairs brings something new to town.

“There are not that many house concert series in Massachusetts, and the ones I know about are folk music venues like Fox Run in Sudbury,” Schwartz said. “I’m not aware of any house concert series that focus on classical music.”

With more series like Musical Chairs, live music could build a larger and more diverse community of talent coming through town, Schwartz said.

Schwartz said the series was relatively easy to establish.“I thought it would be far more difficult but maybe it’s because I already have strong organizational skills,” Schwartz said. “Perhaps the most surprising thing is finding out that anybody could do this if you have good organizational skills. I didn’t know that ahead of time.”

For more information on Schwartz's venue, please visit here!

Gentile, Al. "Lexington Resident Turns His Living Room Into Music Venue." Wicked Local Lexington. June 19, 2016. Accessed July 7, 2016.