Building a Community with Music

Last night I was fortunate to be able to attend my first house concert, put on by Bobcat House Concerts. Bob LeDrew and his wife Cathy open their home about once a month and host an intimate gathering for an evening of live musical performance. For those of you who have never been to a house concert, it’s a truly wonderful thing. Bob and his wife, who both hail from Cape Breton,  describe the mood of their house concerts as “part coffee house/part kitchen party” – and I have to agree. 

Bobcat brings in artists from all over – past performances have included the likes of the legendary Penny Lang, incredible blues guitarist David Gogo and the always amazing Suzie Vinnick. Last night marked the furthest anyone has ever travelled to play a Bobcat show, with David Ross MacDonald, who hails from Southern Australia, making this house concert a stop on his Canadian tour.  

After a drink and a chance to mingle and meet some of the other 25 or so guests, we settled in to our seats. The opening act was Bob LeDrew himself, with a friend who had just flown in from Iqaluit a few hours earlier. They did a couple of wonderful songs with fiddle and guitar and really set the mood for the rest of the evening. 

David took the stage with his 73 year old Gibson acoustic guitar, and proceeded to completely dazzle us. It was almost like he put us under a spell. The room completely was silent, except for his intricate finger picking. Dave’s songs are reflective, talking of his family and growing up in a small town in Australia. And, he really knows how to play to this kind of small, intimate gathering. By the second song, it was as if we were old friends. 

Part way through the second set, Dave said he was going to play a cover song that he’d learned just three days previous as a birthday gift for a friend. He invited us to sing along. He said, “It’s a Canadian song, so you’ll probably all know it.” He proceeded to play Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah“. And then the most amazing thing happened. As he sang the first verse, a few people started to hum softly. By the first chorus, we had all found our place in the song, and the whole room filled with the sound of 25 voices singing in harmony. 

At the end of the song, David said something remarkable. “There’s nothing else that builds a community like singing together.” He’s absolutely right. After the song was over, something had shifted in the room. No longer were we a room full of strangers. That 5 minutes of sharing our voices had done something to us. 

Community takes on many forms. But be it music, or hobbies, or even social media, a community is created because of one simple thing; people gathering together and sharing. Last night, I walked into a room where I knew only the host (Bob) and the friend I was with. I walked out feeling like I was part of a whole new community; one brought together by a mutual love of music and an appreciation for its power to bring people together in a positive way. 

In the online world, we tend to spend a lot of time analyzing what community really is and how to create them. The fact is, building a community is simple. Bob and Cathy are doing it every month when they open their home to music lovers. How do they do it? First, they create something that people can identify with. Second, they make it open and accessible and welcoming. Third, they encourage people to participate. And finally, they sit back and allow the community to unfold as it should. 

Thanks, Bobcat, for making this community possible. I look forward to many more enjoyable evenings!

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guitarist
guitarist

nice piece of work. Your idea of creating a community with music is awesome. The first might have creatd thrilling excitement in you. I hope ti join the next.

suzemuse
suzemuse

@isfan...simple! You do like Bob and Cath are doing-you keep doing it! Lather, rinse, repeat...community!

allan isfan
allan isfan

It gave me shivers just thinking how awesome a night this must have been. I absolutely need to come to the next one. Your observations about community and music are extremely bang on! Good job On a different scale, even in a larger setting some people have the touch to create an instant, though possibly temporary, community because the crowd knows it is taking part in something special. David Usher did that really well and Coldplay also managed to with probably about 18,000 people last night. The real questions is ... how do you extend the community beyond that one night ... otherwise, I would argue it isn't really a community.? thoughts?

David Ross Macdonald
David Ross Macdonald

Suze It was a wonderful evening and your writing has captured that warmth and spirit. Bob and Cat have a special thing going on in Ottawa to be sure. I will be spreading the word to my favorite traveling artists ... I will get back myself as soon as they will have me! Dave

John Meadows
John Meadows

As a member of various choirs over the years, and having been to parties where the guests made the music, it's great to see posts like this, because your point is so true. Listening to music is nice; making music with friends is magic!

Bob LeDrew
Bob LeDrew

Thanks to YOU, Susan. The joy - or at least one of the joys - of doing these concerts is that you get to see people open up to a performer that they might never have heard of before. Last night that happened in spades, as you illustrated. It makes you feel pretty good inside when you know that someone got affected by music as you did. Bob