How to host a house concert or literary soiree

Ever been to a house concert? Ever hosted one? I mean a private performance in somebody’s home, with supper and conversation. The performers are usually musicians or actors—but the intimate environment of a home is also ideal for meeting a writer up close.

To be part of a select audience listening to a poet in person, quizzing her with your personal questions, sharing your own ideas—that’s a very special experience. To participate in a literary house concert (or soiree!) is a privilege for all concerned—yet it can be so easy to arrange.

group of women listening to a poet in a private home

Is it a house concert or a soiree? Friends, home, comfort, poet, action!

My brilliant sister-in-law held a literary soiree last Thursday and it was the bomb! I mean, it was a delight and a success on so many levels. Let me walk you through the process—then you’ll know what to expect if you get invited to a house concert, and what’s more, you’ll know how to throw one yourself.

The host invited 18 friends, the number that her living room could comfortably accommodate. Guests arrived at 5pm and were offered a drink and sandwiches. (Some kindly brought a plate.) When all the guests had socialised and found a seat, the host welcomed us all, introduced everyone, including me—because this was a social gathering as much as a concert.

At around 6pm I launched into my performance. (I forgot to say that I was the poet  this time.)

I started with four simple poems and invited the audience to mentally write their own versions. This was fun. Then I read some poems that got to the heart of my topic, with a short intermission for more refreshments. Discussion followed, ranging wide and free, and I finished with a handful of light and funny poems.

Finally I sold copies of How To Be Old, and of course we chatted and I signed each book. The end! Everyone went home buzzing and as someone said, “with a smile on their face.”

Hosting tips for a house concert

  1. Do it your way. It’s your home: you and the performer(s) decide what suits you both.
  2. Invite as many as your space will accommodate; ten is usually a reasonable minimum. Make it an RSVP occasion, by invitation only, unless you’ve got a barn-sized space.
  3. A house concert is a social occasion where the audience sees a performance up close and interacts with the performer(s).
  4. Tell people in advance if books or other goods will be available for cash, and the price.
  5. Keep it simple and enjoy yourselves.
cloud and sun over Atawhai lagoon

Atawhai evening view




17 thoughts on “How to host a house concert or literary soiree

  1. How exciting! Your evening was a great success.

    John and I went to a house concert where Baroque music was played. It was marvelous to be so close to the performers, and we had a chance to chat with the musicians.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Baroque music is perfect for a house concert. Chamber music, anyone?

  2. cedar51 says:

    the closest I’ve come to that kind of thing is the open studio day … but it was more drop-in, see, maybe buy, chat to artist/s.

    looks like it was a well organised evening for thee, the poet…and where the hostess was some one else. So no real worries about having your own home, sparkling clean and all that guff.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I think it’s good to have support. But open studio, very similar

  3. Nyla Carroll says:

    What a fantastic idea – looks like it went amazingly well!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes, it’s a cool formats

  4. Joared says:

    This looks and sounds delightful. Unfortunately any here in southern California would have to be of the virtual variety given the virus.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes, it will be a while before house concerts return to the US 🙁

  5. That looks like the perfect venue. Glad you all enjoyed it!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you Peter. I was perfect. That was a bonus, as small and simple venues also work well.

  6. alison41 says:

    I think you had better have a long, serious consultation with Ursula before you even think of hosting a similar event. Just saying.

  7. iidorun says:

    I love this! Much better than getting together to just drink or look at Tupperware.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Well said

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I am so envious! I would just like to be able to have one friend sans mask in my living room at the moment.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Oh dear, I know how you feel because I’ve been there and of course may be there again one day. I’m didn’t mean to flaunt our (trembling) freedom.

      1. Elizabeth says:

        I didn’t see it that way at all. I just had a pang realizing how dramatically my life has changed because so many of my fellow citizens refuse to wear masks.

  9. Nancy Nelson says:

    amazing work