We recently attended a house concert by singer Dawud Wharnsby, hosted by our friends who graciously opened up their living room to more than twenty families. The radiant atmosphere and top-notch entertainment were second only to the faces of children rapt with attention.
I’ll try hard not to gush here, but our family was touched by the evening. It was refreshing to finally meet the down-to-earth, gentle entertainer who can make the audience laugh and sing and cry within the span of a few minutes. Our kids insisted on standing in line for almost 20 minutes to have their books signed, and Mr. Wharnsby took the time to chat with them, find out their favorite songs, and learn each of their names.
My appreciation for his work (which I admired as a teenager even though I may have been a little older than his target audience) deepened. His relationship with his own children shines throughout the performance, and his lyrics, as any fan of his children’s CD’s knows, has a spiritual depth and poetry that is not often found in music catering to the Muslim community. Listening to “Can You Hear the Rhythm of Allah’s Creation” as my beaming 4-year-old daughter shook the rattles on the makeshift stage, while my other young ones danced in the dim kitchen and my husband fed grapes to the baby, was a little too much and I found myself watching from behind blurred, grateful eyes.
My favorite part of the experience was that the traditional separation of families that often happens wherever we go–dads talking on one side, moms on the other, and children ushered away to another space to play, be bored or be entertained–was disrupted. Families sat together and children sat in each of their parents laps, with the babies rolling on the floor. More than fifty adults, children, and babies sat on the floor and lined up on the couches, Our friends managed to host a spectacular event in their small living room, with only the simplest preparations and rearrangement of furniture, serving only fruit and water, and by charging a small admission fee to cover the booking costs. I was surprised that such a high-quality experience could be so simple–no elaborate meals, no kids high on sugar, or separate programs for different age groups, no expensive rented facilities.
As we walked to our car, our children whirling with excitement, I reflected on how rarely our community gatherings facilitate the kind of family bonding that we saw that night. Just one more addition to the long list of improvements we wish for our community, and a hope that we see more house concerts playing in more living rooms full of families.