Classical music comes to a living room near you

Printed from:

BOSTON – The sun peeked through the windows as the sounds of classical piano gently filled the air. A 13-year-old black cat snoozed on a sofa, sharing the living room with guests who had come to the creaky old Jamaica Plain home to listen to  music from 19th century composers such as Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert.

“It’s a way to hear chamber music being played in an intimate setting,” host Matt Gillman said to the assembled audience, who sat on the sofa and mismatched chairs in his living room on Saturday afternoon.

Thea Lobo, a classical mezzo-soprano singer, stood beside a music stand while Geoff Weiting sat at the family’s piano, hands outstretched, ready to play.

The small recital was put on with the help of, a website that enables communities to come together around art. It fosters an online social network that connects young classical musicians to local audiences through concert house-parties. A small donation is asked of those who attend.

The origins of Groupmuse can be traced to the Allston apartment of pianist Cristian Budu. New England Conservatory musicians would gather for chamber-music house parties there and fill the apartment with the sounds of Brahms into the late hours of the night. Sam Bodkin liked the gatherings so much that he formed Groupmuse, which organized its first recital in January 2013.

Groupmuse now brings listeners to classical music performances in intimate settings every week. It organized more than 300 events in the past year in several cities, including San Francisco and New York as well as Boston.

Saturday’s performance was the first Malden residents Paula and Scott Billups attended. They had heard about the events from a friend.

“It reminds me of the old version of the salon,” said Paula Billups, who is rekindling her childhood love of classical music. “It’s a good town for it – you can listen to classical music whenever you want to.”

Thea Lobo said she loves the laidback atmosphere at a Groupmuse show. And she said the performances are helping her as she works to launch a solo career. The vocalist has performed with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, Guerrilla Opera and the Handel & Hayden Society.

“It is so unintimidating in this space,” she said.

Gillman, who has hosted two Groupmuse events, first heard about the website a few years ago. A violin player with a string quartet, he hopes to perform at a Groupmuse show someday.

“I look at them and I go ‘Oh I should go do that,’ but things get in the way,” Gillman said of the performances.

Composer William Kenlon, at the Saturday show while visiting from Maryland, said Groupmuse provides opportunities for patrons who might not otherwise have the means to go to a classical music concert. And it offers a way for performers to be heard by an appreciative audience at little or no expense.

“If you really want to perform – funding and trying to find a place to do it is half the battle,” Kenlon said. A half-dozen events are planned for this week in the Boston area alone. More can be found here.