Czech musicians offer household symphonies in slippers


If you like classical music but don’t enjoy dressing up for events at big concert halls, you can now enjoy your favourite music from the comfort of your home in your slippers. A new project called Vážný zájem or Serious Interest brings classical musicians directly to your house or apartment. The only thing you have to do is sign up on a special website to connect with the musicians, invite some neighbours and friends to make up the numbers and make sure they have something to eat and drink after the concert is over.

Tomáš Jamník, photo: archive of Radio PragueTomáš Jamník, photo: archive of Radio Prague I spoke to Tomáš Jamník, a young Czech violoncellist and one of the initiators of the project, and I first asked him how he got the idea for the project:

“I came to the idea when I was travelling from Berlin to Prague, because when I move from Germany to the Czech Republic, I always notice the differences and things that worked here and that work in Germany. The house concert project is based on the idea that it could also work in the Czech Republic. I play a lot of house concerts in Germany and many people attend and host these concerts, so I was trying to get it here as well.”

So what is the main advantage of having a concert at home rather than going to a large concert hall?

“House concerts have so many benefits. First of all it is the contact between the musician and the listener. The problem of classical music today is that it doesn't find a direct connection to the listener. Sometimes musicians have to wear jeans or something sexy to attract the audiences. But I don't think it is the right way to attract people.

“I believe you just have to keep the hard work and find people one by one. And it works really well if you invite good musicians to your house, and you invite your neighbours and friends. You spend one hour with nice music, with no requirements, sitting in a comfortable chair, and I think this is the biggest magic about these concerts.

“But of course it is also great for the musicians. If you play your music to people who are so close to you, it is a very special moment for a musician used to performing on stage. House concerts are about music and it really gets directly to the listeners' ears and you can see their direct reaction.”

All the concerts will take place during the month of April and I believe you raised money for the project through crowdfunding…

“At the beginning I thought it would be just a small project but it really grew in to quite a big one. The money we raised is used for the organisation of the whole project. We had to make a website, which is connecting the people and we had to make a promotional video to attract people.

“There are many more people involved: musicians, hosts and listener. And there are some 130 concerts taking place in one month. The crowdfunding was really successful and we collected much more than we expected, so we promised to organise another event pretty soon.”

So how does it work? What do I need to do if I want a concert at my place?

Screenshot from Vážný zájem promotional videoScreenshot from Vážný zájem promotional video “Very important person is the host, who is inviting his guests. We also ask him to invite his neighbours as well, because I think Czech people are not as open as people in Western Europe. So we want to connect the host with the musician, because one of the challenges was to connect the people locally. It is based on the idea of house concerts as I know them from Berlin. So it is about connecting the people together and it is important for us to find musicians who live in the same area as the hosts.”

Who are the people who applied to take part in the project?

“To be honest, it is mostly young people, and that is really important, because young people are missing at concert halls nowadays. But of course we also want to get in touch with people who want to support musicians, especially students. Because studying should be about studying and not about making money. So this is another advantage, that you can meet people who can support you.”

Can the hosts choose what music will be played?

“Sometimes we are asked if a musician can come to a birthday celebration or a private party and of course it is not what the project is about. This is about small house concerts and therefore we ask the musicians to choose a repertoire which fits the ensemble.

“But of course that if we speak with someone from an older generation, we ask them if we can play contemporary music. So when I am playing somewhere, I always try to choose music that would fit the host. But mostly it is best when musicians are playing what they have on the programme at the time.

“The best example is for instance if a young ensemble taking part in a competition and they need to play the repertoire in front of an audience. Speaking to the audience, introducing themselves and the pieces they play and this connection is also very strong.”

You have already taken part in one of the concerts in the Czech Republic. What was your impression?

“We played our first concert on April 1 with the colleagues from my piano trio. The reaction was great. The people were really excited. Of course besides the music there is very important part afterwards. So the host asks the guests to bring some wine and something to eat. So this kind of atmosphere is very nice.

Photo: iceviking / freeimagesPhoto: iceviking / freeimages “So the first house concert was really great. We played a piece by Antonín Dvořák, called Dumky. We explained everything about the piece and afterwards we spent at least two hours chatting with the people. So it was really a great event.”

By the way are there any special requirements regarding the venue?

“We say that it is possible to take place everywhere but of course there are some rules. For example there should be at least 15 people in the audience, because if you invite only ten people, only five will come, and that wouldn't be nice to the musicians.

“So there are certain rules and you can find them in a small guide which you get if you apply on our website. The first concert was great because the host has a great house. There were at least 30 people in the audience, so it was a very nice concert.”

What about the acoustics of the place?

“Of course musicians are used to the acoustics of a concert hall. In a living room, the acoustics is very small and private. Of course it can happen that someone makes a noise, but to be honest, somehow it actually helps the music.

“Also, if you have a piano at home, usually itis not a Stanway, that would be perfectly tuned, but my theory is that all these tiny imperfections actually help the music. The problem nowadays is that we are trying to chase a very perfect sound, very perfect music with no mistakes, and this kind of honesty is a great part of that.”

If there are any amateur musicians in the audience, can they actually join you?

“Of course the best house concerts are ending with a glass of wine and many encores and of course this idea of improvising is great and I have experienced it many times. If there are musicians and amateur musicians, there are many ways how to end the afternoon or the evening.”

The project takes place during the month of April but would you like to continue with it in the future?

Photo: lumix2001 / freeimagesPhoto: lumix2001 / freeimages “At the beginning we had to decide how big the project will be and how to connect the people. Of course there is a possibility to make a website that would work automatically. But our point is to connect people and show them that house concerts are great and easy to organise.

“I think it will take a lot of time, I would say many years. It is funny. Usually house concerts are the result of a healthy society. But maybe the house concerts can be used as a tool to make the culture better. So it is a paradox.”