“House concerts are, by their very structure, listening rooms,” says Tim Lehman of Chestnut House Concerts in Lancaster. “Artists love and appreciate this. Audiences are attentive. They listen. They respect the artists.” Tim, who loves and plays the violin but is not a professional musician, prepares each event with as much attention to details as a chef. In fact, his house concerts feature food and drink which the spectators bring. That provides a wonderful moment for people to sample exquisite dishes and greet each other.
“Audiences are just feet...no....inches away from the performers. There is a chemistry in all this. And it works so very well. During intermission and following the concert, guests are free to visit with our performers at will. But Karen and I especially love the opportunity to prepare dinner and breakfast for our guest musicians who stay overnight in our home. And so many of our musicians have stayed in contact with us...even to the point of staying overnight with us on other occasions when passing through the region.”
Tim actually spent his childhood growing up on a dairy farm close to the Canadian border in northern New York State, then at age nineteen moved to Portland, Oregon. There he perused his outdoor interests in marathons, ulta-marathons, bicycling, Expedition Sea kayaking, and worked at a physical therapy clinic. However, fate and love sent him to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 2011.
How did you get into organizing house concerts?
I hosted my very first house concert in the early 1990's while still residing in Portland. I once engaged in a conversation with a former professional client who happened to be a Celtic musician. I was expressing my reluctance to subject myself to the pervasive smoking that used to be so prevalent in Celtic pubs. Her response, “But, Tim, I do house concerts!” My question? “What's a house concert?” Her answer, “You invite friends. I come to your house, I play music. You pay me.” And so a few weeks later my home filled with 60 guests to watch Nancy Conescu and Randal Bays play through an evening of original and of traditional Celtic tunes. My memory is of a particular moment when, during the middle of a very traditional tune, my Old English Sheepdog, Kessie, crept forward to touch Randal's fiddle bow. Without hesitation, Randal slipped ever so easily into the seasonal favorite, “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?”
In 2012 Karen, his bride to be, went searching for a house suitable for concerts. “And thus was born...our Chestnut House Concerts series.”
Tim loves to go to symphonies, chamber music events, rock, folk and bluegrass events, although it was not until he turned 62 that he picked up an instrument or took a music class.
What instrument inspired your interest?
I can never explain what possessed an aged-challenged me to choose one of the more formidable of stringed instruments, the violin. Nevertheless, I found a very patient teacher and made some progress. I do not feel even remotely accomplished on my violin. My wife, Karen, is on the other hand a musician and she plays the flute, keyboard, and mandolin. There's no small amount of irony in the fact that both Karen and I admit to selecting the cello as our favorite instrument to listen to.”
Could you tell us about your Chestnut street concerts?
Our Chestnut House Concerts musicians come from varying genres and our most recent performers, Harpeth Rising, describe their music best...as genre-bending. For the most part, our performances are fully acoustic. Because of this and due to limited space one will not see a full drum kit or a baby grand piano on our stage. Performances have included bluegrass, Americana, world,string band, Celtic, and folk variations. Performers have arrived from all over the USA, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, and Lancaster.
Have the concerts always been accompanied by potlucks?
Both in Portland and now here in Lancaster the concerts have been preceded by a potluck event. Certainly participation in the potluck is not required of guests but experience suggests that this part of the evening is enjoyed very much. In addition the early arrivals for the potluck have the opportunity to seek out the best seats.
What is your next concert?
The next concert, number 29, will be with Low Lily on February 26th. By having guests RSVP, the contact information does allow connecting should a cancellation be of concern. So far we've encountered no blizzards. Many guests walk to the concerts so maybe a blizzard shouldn't even be a concern. Since most performances are acoustic, an electrical failure isn't necessarily a deal breaker. Candles might even add to the atmosphere. Without naming names, I must suggest that there have been occasions when performers have cut it a bit too close and have arrived at the front door even as guests are arriving through the side door!
Do you have spectators who come back for more?
Recent media attention has considerably bolstered the attendance at Chestnut House Concerts but we will never neglect those who have attended so many performances from the very beginning of the series in October 2012. Although initially setting a limit of one concert per month, there have been and will continue to be those occasions where we can not say no to a performer passing through the region. There are multiple requests coming in weekly and it is so difficult to turn some away. Our schedule is constantly in flux.
Contact website: http://chestnuthouseconcerts.com or facebook under the same name.
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