The music spilled from the open window onto the street like a ribbon of honey. The joggers stopped when they stepped in its path and listened. Then the music stopped and they clapped.
--From a music lover's diary
The musical soiree is fast becoming one of the most inspired and easiest forms of home entertaining because the pressure is not on the host, but the music.
For those who hold musical soirees in their homes, in fact, the pleasures far outweigh the pains.
"It's one of the most elevating, heavenly experiences to have beautiful live music played in your home," said Veronica Chamber, who with her husband, television producer Ernest Chamber, has been hosting preconcert rehearsals of touring chamber groups in her home for the past 10 years.
The nice thing about the informal musical soiree, is that it can be as simple or as elaborate as one may want. It can be a gathering of families and friends or strangers. It can be live or on stereo.
A soiree can be outdoors or indoors--in the garden, garage, aviary, tennis court or living room where guests might sit in the comfort of couch or on the floor, when necessary.
Cost, although rarely the first (it's more likely the last) consideration of those who hold soirees, can be as low or high as the host can afford. The focus, remember, is on the music.
Some hosts provide nothing more than a bowl of nuts and punch, while others like Chambers do it up with an elaborate, after-concert supper, complete with bartender and waitresses.
Chambers' menu for a summer gathering, for instance, included cold poached chicken breasts with lemon sauce served on a bed of radicchio along with sliced tomato and hearts of palm salad. Dessert was a lemon souffle and raspberries with chocolate sauce, all served with help.
Worth Every Penny
Mel Silverman, a Century City attorney, who rented not only chairs, but patio furniture and umbrellas for his large-scale afternoon garden concert supper party, attended by 60 people, served a buffet of linguine with pesto and goat cheese, several pates, including smoked chicken and salmon, and tomatoes stuffed with mushrooms and sauteed shrimp, while a bartender served various California boutique Chardonnays.
"No it wasn't cheap, but it was worth every penny," said Silverman, a member of the Da Camera Society, one of several musical organizations which encourages home concerts by members.
Other hosts rely on pot-lucks with guests bringing pates, crackers, pastries and desserts and the wine.
However, to limit over-imbibing, Chambers offers guests a glass of wine before the music begins. "That's just one glass. If there is too much drinking one cannot enjoy the music as much," she said.
Traditionally, however, a typical musical evening ends with dessert and coffee or tea. And some hosts, such as Debby Grossman, president of the Beverly Hills Symphony and a fine violinist in her own right, enjoys baking homemade apple strudel, banana bread or chocolate fudge brownies to serve when fellow musicians play at her home or to take to home concerts elsewhere.
Combs the City
One career woman pressed for time purchases desserts on her way home from work. Or she might comb the city at lunch hour for a novel array of desserts to put on the refreshment table. One dessert table included eight or nine desserts from different bakeries, including a princess cake and kranskage from a Danish bakery, chocolate mousse cake and tart au citron from French bakery, among others.
How do musical soiree hosts get involved? Chambers was introduced to her first soiree 15 years ago at the home of conductor-violinist Henri Temianka and his wife, Emmy.
Others allow music-playing friends, or instrumentalists from local university music departments to use their homes for practice or playing for fun.
Some hosts have become addicted to soirees after attending a few organized by such societies as the Da Camera Society or the Beverly Hills Symphony. Both organizations welcome members and guests to attend their concert series, and invite those who wish to contribute their homes for afternoon concerts to contact the societies.
For the Da Camera Society information, call (213) 747-9085 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For information about the Beverly Hills Symphony concert series and interest in volunteering a home for a concert, call Debby Grossman at (213) 276-8385.