Music in the Woods

Musician and music promoter A. Spencer Barefield was right.
Detroit’s incredibly talented musicians love to play in intimate venues.  What he did not mention was how much better my experience as an audience member would be sitting in someone’s cozy living room instead of a prim and proper theater.
Watching bassist-composer Rick Robinson play his 200-year-old bass 20 feet away from my seat was mesmerizing.  As his left hand deftly moved up and down the neck of his instrument, his right was just as busy with bow in hand.  The music was a beautiful backdrop for me as I tried to comprehend the skill involved in making that instrument sing.

Between compositions by Beethoven, Henry Eccles and Giovanni Bottesini, Robinson took the time to explain how a kid from Highland Park, Mich., could fall in love with classical music.  He mused that the bass is a great singing instrument, perhaps more so than the violin.  During song breaks, I even learned that the bass is not a member of the violin family. It is, instead, a descendant of the older viola da gamba family of instruments.

For a novice classical music fan like me, the presentation was a perfect introduction.  That’s exactly what the host of February’s Palmer Woods Music in Homes Series was hoping to accomplish.

“This is another way to expose people to new music,” said Dr. Robert Perkins, who hosted this fundraiser in his 1950’s California Contemporary home designed by Robert Sarota.

I mention the home and its designer because the Music in Homes Series’ goal is to expose people to incredible local musical talent in classical, jazz and world music while highlighting the magnificent architecture of Palmer Woods.  While the neighborhood used to conduct home tours, selling the idea of allowing hundreds of strangers into a home has become more difficult.  A few years ago no one agreed to open their homes, which threatened the income this annual fundraiser provides the neighborhood.

A. Spencer and his wife Barbara proposed having a series of concerts in the intimate setting of different neighborhood homes. Drawing from their experience running the non-profit Creative Arts Collective, they were certain many local musicians would participate. They were right. What started as a six-home tour has grown to nine homes, with monthly concerts culminating in June.

“Musicians love doing it.  They are able to make a unique connection with the audience because the spaces are so intimate and the houses are so cool,” said A. Spencer.  “Musicians want to stay connected to their own communities and do something within their communities.”

Barbara also remarked that allowing musicians the opportunity to play in such unique places is part of what keeps our internationally known local talent in Detroit. She fears what would happen if they decided to leave.

“A city without music and art is a dead city,” she said unflinchingly.

This stop of the Music in Homes Series proved to me that Detroit is very much an alive, creative city.

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