Organizing a Salon

I read an interesting review the other day a of new Classical CD, “Music in Proust’s Salons”, in which Steven Isserlis, the cellist, recorded pieces written by contemporaries of Marcel Proust. Proust loved organizing small concerts following fancy meals at elegant Paris restaurants. Pieces by Faure, Franck, Hahn, and Chabrier figure prominently in Proust’s selections for his guests. I thought what fun that must have been for all concerned, and I began imagining what sort of salon I would organize. We have many musical friends, so I would invite them to perform. Some are more classically trained, some are Native friends who play a variety of instruments. The guests would be a hodge-podge of coworkers, church friends, and professional friends. We could have dessert and coffee, finger foods, and snacks. Our living room is pretty small, so we would have to find a community room somewhere so we could have enough space as well as a kitchen. I think it would be lovely.

If money wasn’t a problem, who would you invite to play at a salon you organized?  What would you want them to play? what food would you serve?  Have you read much by Proust?

63 thoughts on “Organizing a Salon”

  1. Rise and Have a Party, Baboons,

    I have found myself fantasizing about parties, salons, potlucks—anything I host in my home following all this social isolation. No Zoom salon for me! This is just a chance to say it out loud. Thanks Renee. I would want a Roots acoustic guitar singer—maybe Roseanne Cash or Emmy Lou (why not fantasize big?) or Vince Gill. I would serve homemade pie of my favorite varieties with rum-laced or cinnamon whipped cream. That would dictate cherry pie, apple pie and lemon meringue (made with limoncello) pie.

    Four years ago when my art friends and I visited Ireland, our host (Father John from N. Ireland) did something like this. He invited an Irish singer who sings gigs in Nashville to entertain us while we noshed on snacks and beer. He wanted to sing Bob Dylan songs for us and all we wanted to hear was Irish folk songs. He finally made the switch to those and we were all happy. And drunk. The Irish folks there sang along heartily. It was a wonderful evening.

    We arrived home Thursday afternoon to a chaotic house, post construction. The kitchen is nearly complete, but until Wednesday we are without the permanent countertops, kitchen running water, and sinks. We found that the upstairs toilet is not working well and the dryer broke. So far we are walking around in circles, calling repair people, and opening boxes looking for our stuff. I am lining drawers and shelves and putting things away. This is a job I really hate, but I am making myself cut the shelf-lining so we don’t ruin the new cupboards and drawers. Yesterday both Lou and I were vaccinated with Moderna shot #1. We get dose #2 on April 30. We both spent the day with sore arms, chills, and fatigue. Tylenol seemed to cover those symptoms. Today I go to the gym to walk on the treadmill and work the spasms out of my hips.

    It is good to be back home.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Wow! You have quite the challenge on your hands. Last night our dinner guest, whose first career was as a piano player in a variety of bands in Michigan and Las Vegas, played songs by Dylan and the Beatles and other rock and roll artists on our piano while husband played harmonica. Both sang. It was a mini salon!

      Liked by 4 people

    2. We are making progress here. The construction dust is deep, though. Our cleaner who was to come Tuesday before we arrived home, contracted COVID and could not come. I guess she is pretty sick. So we tackled dust. It was especially thick on the porch where I winter over plants. Tomorrow it is to rain, so they will get a shower when I place them on the deck for a deep clean.

      We have about ten boxes left to unpack before late afternoon when my son and his wife arrive with our Easter Dinner which we will eat on the deck in the warm weather.

      Our broken dryer lead to another adventure. I did the laundry yesterday and hung it on the outdoor clothesline in the sunshine. I was so pleased with that until the crossbar on the clothesline snapped and dumped all my clean clothes on the ground. They finished drying on the deck railing without any more incidents. But good grief. More stuff to repair and replace. I now understand why the farm wives all switched their clothes lines to metal poles.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I have been to a few House Concerts that are a little like the salon you describe, Renee. Instead of a meal beforehand, there was a snack and beverage table, and I believe these, including wine, were included in the price of the ticket. We got to see a local men’s quartet pre-Covid that sang everything from Old Man River to “Athiests Don’t Have No Songs”

    Liked by 5 people

    1. House concerts are what I was thinking of. A few years ago we saw Jeremy Messersmith at a friends house just across the road under some huge old Oak trees. It was pretty nice. Maybe 30 people.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. There’s a place here in St. Paul that calls itself Grand Oak Opry. During the summer they host a series of outdoor concerts in their back yard under a grand old oak tree.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I I would like to hold mine at the Marine Art Museum, where I have attended small concerts of a couple dozen people. Some local band, like Under Paris Skies out of Trempealeau – that plays “Franco-American swing, vintage jazz, Latin and post-modern inventions.”
    Or Patina, ” a violin, whistle, flute, bass, percussion and guitar band that plays mixed Celtic music along with various other genres… ”

    Will have to think about the food to provide, and I have read no Proust.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Have you ever been to a concert at the Oak Center General Store, BiR? It’s near Lake City and just a quaint little venue with an eclectic array of folk performers during the winter months.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh, absolutely, you must. It’s a charming place, and I have my doubts that it will be around much longer. Here are some of the performers I’ve seen there: Peter Ostroushko, Greg Brown, Eliza Gilkyson, John Gorka, Pete Morton, Peter Mayer – you name them, they’ve had some really great performers. And they are not expensive concerts. The place seats, I’m guessing here, fifty or so. They don’t have concerts during the summer, as they are too busy farming, but during the fall and winter months that place has some really fun gatherings.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Years ago we saw James Keelahan there. He gave a superb concert. In the potties they have signs that say, “If it is yellow let it mellow. If it is brown flush it down.”

          Liked by 2 people

        2. I have seen Keelaghan in concert at least four times, and he’s wonderful. Each time I’ve seen him, a guitar string has broken in the middle of a song. Apparently he’s so used to that happening, that he fixes it on the fly, never missing a beat. It’s really something to behold.

          Liked by 2 people

  4. Over the years we’ve been to many musical house parties and hosted a few ourselves but these were participatory rather than performance and decidedly casual—hardly a salon.

    Salons need not be musical at all and when I saw the title of today’s post it caught my attention because I was just reading about a literary salon hosted by Mabel Dodge in Greenwich Village in the teens of the twentieth century. Possible guests would have included Emma Goldman, Margaret Sanger, Dorothy Day, John Reed and Louise Bryant, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Carl Van Vechten, Big Bill Haywood, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, among others. I wouldn’t want to take Mabel’s place as host or even as a participant necessarily, but I sure would like to witness it.

    Gertrude Stein’s salons in Paris are legendary but since I don’t speak French, I’m afraid they would be an exercise in frustration.

    Annie Adams Fields and her publisher husband James Fields hosted salons in their Boston home. Those could have included any combination of Sarah Orne Jewett, Willa Cather, William Dean Howells, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Alfred Tennyson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mark Twain, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Lydia Maria Child, Charles Dudley Warner and John Greenleaf Whittier, all of whom were their friends.

    That’s my idea of a salon.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That’s the kind of salon that came to my mind when I saw today’s title. I think of that kind of salon, not as an occasional event, but something that happened with some regularity. Not necessarily every month, but definitely not as a one off event.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Eric Utne of the Utne Reader started up conversational salons in the 90s in the Twin Cities, and beyond… as described in this article:

      An excerpt:
      Editor’s note: In the early 1990s, Utne Reader was one of the primary figures in the resurgence of salons—intimate gatherings for face-to-face conversation and idea exchange. The following article from the March/April 1991 issue was and still is an excellent primer to salons for the uninitiated, and is being excerpted here to help spark another salon resurgence .

      Liked by 2 people

      1. maria popova of brain teasers has a very successful blog that is an tune like idea presenter
        she would be a great guest
        krista tippet

        lyle lovett
        yo yo ma
        bobby mcfarrin

        pink martini would require a large living room
        hot club music is great
        bela fleck
        taj mahal
        keb mo

        Liked by 3 people

  5. Years ago now, I used to hang out with a couple of musicians in the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. They would regularly host small private chamber music concerts in their home. Everyone would bring their own beverage and an hors d’oeuvre to share. Most of the people who attended were musicians, and oftentimes spontaneous jam sessions would happen after the “formal” program. All very low key, and very enjoyable.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I used to have a copy of the first volume of Remembrance of Things Past, just in case I got a hankering for Proust. I never did and now the book seems to have gone missing—probably culled in one of our meager downsizing exercises.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Happy Easter. The Easter Bunny here is in deep do-do, though, since he apparently ate off the heads of our tulip bed. Bah. Humbug.

    I have never much taken to Easter and this did not help my lousy attitude.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. We started the tomato seeds today after church. We had to enlist the help off the three neighbor children next door to help clear the front yard of the candy filled eggs that darn Easter Bunny flung as he hopped past.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Pretty quiet at our house today.
    Had my second covid shot at 9AM Saturday. Got a lot of work done outside yesterday; even had all four tractors running.
    Then about midnight I got the chills and a bit of a back ache.
    Not 100% today, but not too bad. Taken a couple naps and walked around outside just enough to appreciate the weather. It was 78 degrees here!
    Kelly and I both have hot packs on our necks and I have an ice pack on my knee so on average, I’m OK. 🙂 (existing aches and pains – not covid vaccine related)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The day following my first Pfizer shot, I felt tired, but I didn’t attribute it to the shot since fatigue seems to be a recurring thing with me. Husband felt flue-ish after his second Moderna shot, definitely attributable to the vaccine, but not a big deal. It was all over in about twelve hours.

      Liked by 3 people

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