It’s the latest trend in chamber music since, well, people’s homes had chambers. Like the 21st-century equivalent of posh palaces with salons, San Diego philanthropists are hosting up-close-and-personal concerts that are presented by music organizations. Meet three local couples who open their hearts and homes to music. Now, if only we could get an invitation.
You half expect fabled composer Frédéric Chopin to play one of his waltzes on the piano in the 15,000-square-foot Rancho Santa Fe estate belonging to June and Robert Shillman. The music room resembles a Paris salon, with elegant pillars, an antique Steinway concert grand, and space for 80 guests. (Larger musical events are held outdoors, near the pool.)
June is a board member at the La Jolla Music Society and at the San Diego Youth Symphony, where son Max, 19, used to be a percussionist.
Performances featuring young musicians in intimate settings "help them get more experience playing in front of an audience," she explains, comparing music rooms to the usual testing ground of grand concert halls.
Hosting concerts gives her the "best feeling," she says. "It’s as if I’m in another century."
In the past few years, more than 3,000 people have attended performances and other fundraisers hosted by Joyce and Craig Grosvenor.
"This house was made for sharing with others," Joyce says of the nearly 13,000-square-foot manse near Rancho Santa Fe.
Particularly dear to the couple is the San Diego Symphony. Joyce, a board member, will join her husband in chairing the "Opus 2011 Gala" on October 1. They’re also donors in the Partner with a Player program, their partner being the orchestra’s much-lauded principal pops conductor, Marvin Hamlisch. When Hamlisch is at the piano, their home is more like a classy nightclub.
By comparison, Lehn and Richard Goetz are newbies. They’ve hosted only one performance for the La Jolla Music Society, where Lehn is a new board member. But that concert in April, which starred Spanish classical guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas, made them eager to welcome other musicians and guests to their 9,000-square-foot La Jolla showplace.
"Listening to Pablo play in the home we created was the most special musical experience I’ve ever had," said Richard. "It was absolutely magical."
House concerts have a friendlier vibe than concert halls and can be a transformative experience for those who may not know a lot about classical music.
"They change everything," says Lehn. "You meet the performers and make a personal connection. All of a sudden you appreciate how much goes into performing because you are seeing and hearing the musicians up close."