Private Party, Belmont, MA. April 2, 2004
As I drove up the circular driveway, I was not sure I had the right house. The night was dark, the weather drizzly, and the house had no number that I could see.
Julie had found me on the web and emailed to ask if I was available to play at a private dinner party. We worked out the details and she emailed me her address.
The young man who answered the door assured me that I had the right address, and announced my presence. Julie came to the door and said, "I see you found us. Come in." She showed me into the living room and said, "I thought we would have you set up over there," indicating the far end of the room, "But you know best, so you can set up wherever you want."
I looked the room over quickly and decided that the spot she had selected was best. We were standing in the archway that connected the living room to the front hall. The living room was extremely large and rectangular, about twice as long as it was wide. The furnishings appeared sparse. There were a half-dozen wooden chairs against the walls, a couch and two chairs in front of the fireplace, a few small tables.
As I set up my amp, Julie chatted with me. She explained that this evening was a dinner party for a half dozen couples who belong to a business group. They would be in the living room for cocktails for maybe forty-five minutes and then they would go in to the dining room for dinner. She had asked me to play for two hours, but she said we would just see how it goes. Then she surprised me by saying, "So you always start with one particular song?" She had not only browsed my web site, but had taken the time to read some of my online journals, where I've mentioned that I always open with "Here's That Rainy Day." She knew that I had taught at Berklee, so we chatted about that. As the guests began to arrive, I began playing.
I had set up in the middle of the wall, between the two tall windows, at the far end of the room . I left my amp on the wheels; the shape of the room and all the wood made me think that I'd get plenty of lows and since I thought most of the guests would stand during the cocktail hour, I wanted to get the speaker a little closer to ear level. The goal in a situation like this is to fill the room with a comfortable level of music, but still not interfere with conversation. There was a curved couch in front of me, about ten feet away. I aimed my amp at one of the two archways at the far end of the living room that led to the dining room. I knew that the couch would serve to disperse the sound around the living room, and yet the sound would carry into the dining room.
The forty-five minutes of cocktails turned out to be about an hour and a half. The people seemed very comfortable with the music. I wanted to keep recognizable melodies in the air, so I played short solos. Later in the night I realized that I had run through most of my repertoire. I'm sure I could have played longer single-note solos, and more improvised chord-melody solos. The guests were busy talking, but occasionally, when I paused between tunes, one of them would comment to me that they were enjoying the music.
After a while they all went into the dining room for dinner. I continued to play, alone in the living room. I took one short break. The acoustics on the living room were great, so I enjoyed myself, and I think the guests could hear the music well enough during dinner. As dinner was finishing, the host said he was going to ask the guests to come back into the living room. At this point it had been about two hours, and he asked me if I'd mind playing a while longer. The guests came back into the living room and I played for about another hour. The conversations were lively, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. I played for about another hour, sticking to mostly chord-melody; this was background music, and keeping a constant texture seemed appropriate. When I finished my last tune, everyone applauded. As I packed up, everyone thanked me for the music. I think the night was a success.