A Concert In My House

Editor’s note: Every year we like to take the opportunity to fly the House Concert flag. If you’ve never experienced one, you should. It’s the only music genre’ of which I know that affords musicians the opportunity to sustain a musician’s lifestyle simply by performing a few times a week, in someone’s living room. Gather two dozen friends all pitching in to compensate the artist, bring along some pies and peanuts, and your favorite beverage, and it’s one of the best evenings you can spend with your mate and friends. My friend Harry Jarrett owns and operates an old farm converted into a venue space, predominately dedicated to wedding industry. On the property sits a restored, historic farm house, recently vacated. “It’s the perfect setting for a house concert,” I said as I encouraged Harry to play along with the idea. We eventually scheduled a three date series this past winter. Following is Harry’s observations from his first ever house concert.

Last night was a special night for me and the 20 plus family and friends that gathered with me. I think I understand now where the phrase “packed house” comes from. Though it wasn’t really packed, it was packed full of life and music.

Giving It A Name
It was the first ”Passin’ Through” house show I, and my friend, Greg Tutwiler, hosted. And it was perfect. We re-arranged the living room of the Home Place on Sunny Slope Farm I built onto the farm house that my great, great grandfather, John Wampler, built in 1872. We all gathered around the fireplace one cold night in January in anticipation of our first artist, Kipyn Martin. The fireplace may have warmed us on the outside, but Kipyn and her guitar warmed our hearts & souls, and opened minds.

Kipyn Martin is a young artist with a rich, old soul. She grew up in West Virginia, in the low lands of the Shenandoah Valley near the Shenandoah River. Her lyrics run as deep as that river, and sore higher than our mountain peaks. She took my heart to places that night it had missed for years. The tears and smiles I saw emerging throughout the room that evening told me that she was doing the same for many others.
Most of her songs seemed to be birthed out of her own life experiences. But somehow, as she sang, I felt as though she was singing my life songs and those of others sitting in the room.

I would love to be able to tell you which song was my favorite. But I cannot pick one, not yet. I need to rest in her lyrics and the warmth of last evening. The memory of her words to the audience that evening; “I can tell from what I know about Harry and his family, music has long been in the wood of this house,” make me smile as I write this.

I can, however, tell you which song was the most poignant to me. It was “God is Love.” Michael Granberry, and Arts Writer stated it well in an article I found the morning as I pondered that beautiful evening.

Touched By A Song
“’God Is Love’ is a song our nation needs to hear, warning of the sin of using religion as a weapon to justify misguided political or social beliefs that do anything but show “God Is Love.” The song closes with lyrics that serve as a gentle but forceful reminder of how it should be, a truth, Martin, now 30, said she learned the song in a loving Presbyterian church that opens its doors to all:

“God is love and love abides
And when we meet
with the rejected
That our arms can open wide
God is love and love is kind
And when ideas steeped in fear close our hearts
We can open and change
our minds.”

There was a story she told for each song. Sometimes, they were so compelling to her, and us, that she forgot to tune her Gibson guitar (personal pronoun she) during them. But we did not mind and she laughed it away with us as she tuned up and down all six strings like the classically trained guitarist she is. As we chatted at the end of the night and I thanked her, I had to tease her about the precision of her tuning. There was a story for that too.

Kipyn Martin and her life songs inspired me that evening. I think that they will inspire many. One day soon, I imagine, she will become way too big for my large living room. I hope so. I write this in hopes that my words will move you to listen to her words. So that she might warm your heart and soul and open your mind as she did mine.

Harry Jarret