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Friends, music mix well at house concerts

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Home is where the musical heart is. And a growing number of people are keeping homes in mind as places to hear great recitals.

The idea of holding concerts in private residences is flourishing across the country. Perhaps the most impressive group sponsoring these concerts is the AIDS charity Classical Action (www.classicalaction.org), directed by Charles Hamlen.

Over the past eight years, Classical Action has organized "house concerts" in Buffalo, N.Y.; Boston; Chicago; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Seattle; St. Louis; and Ann Arbor, Mich., among other places. Classical music stars such as violinist Joshua Bell, pianists Richard Goode and Evgeny Kissin, and singers Cecilia Bartoli, Thomas Hampson, and Dawn Upshaw have donated their time and talents.

At home concerts, "attendees appreciate the thrill of hearing great artists perform in an intimate setting where it feels as though they're performing just for them and a few friends, as opposed to the large and more anonymous setting of a theater," Mr. Hamlen says.

Actually, chamber music was originally written to be played in private homes, not concert halls. Added to that can be the pleasure of ogling someone else's luxurious abode while listening to sweet sounds.

But even when the music and surroundings are humbler, the experience is equally pleasurable. A group called I'Onissimo! (www.awod.com/hamilton) plays free chamber music on house porches in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. "The intimate size of the space forces people close together and gives the music tremendous impact," says series director William Hamilton. "If you are sitting two feet from a cellist and can see every expression and every muscular exertion, you participate in the music in a way even the greatest concert hall does not make possible."

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