The alternative performing space I like best is Goldberg’s room next door to his boss Count Kaiserling. The Count was an insomniac and used to get Goldberg to play the clavichord to while away the night – no iPod or TV!
I often wonder how Goldberg must have spent his day and when he had time to practise! Of course, this would all have been a footnote in history if Forkel, Bach’s biographer had not written that Count Kaiserling had commissioned old Bach to write his eponymous set of variations for Goldberg. The Count was reported to have said, frequently ‘Dear Goldberg, do play me one of my variations.’
A few years back, where would you have been able to listen to the following guitarists in a more or less regular series for free? Xue Fei Yang, Johannes Moller, David Leisner, Alison Smith, the Eden Stell Duo, Gerald Garcia and Alison Bendy?
It wasn’t in a well known concert hall, but in the home of my friends philosopher Nigel Warburton and forensic psychologist Anna Motz.
The building, which is a family home, was designed by rogue architect Ernő Goldfinger and features a sitting room with a high ceiling and wooden floor, which creates an ideal acoustic for the intimate sound of the guitar. The guitar was designed for spaces like this, and everyone enjoyed playing there.
More recently, I have had a shed built in my garden with a lower ceiling, but still creates a warm sound and seats 20+ people. Guitarists who have played there include the Vida Quartet, Jonathan Leathwood, Stephen Gordon and Sian Winstanley with more to come including rising acoustic guitar star Will McNicol and Laura Young.
A reason so many players like to do a tryout concert in intimate surroundings is that practising performance is just as important as practising scales.
I know a performer who gets dressed up in concert gear to practise, and many players have a favourite chair or cushion they take to use on stage because that is what they have been practising on.
I often carry that feeling of playing for an audience that is close up even in a large concert hall, if I have had a tryout in the shed.
Perhaps you have a room which can hold more than five adoring relatives? You might be able to invite an artist to play there if the sound is good – quite often, players enjoy doing a tryout performance before a major concert or tour and are grateful for an audience, followed by a party afterwards!