do we mean by "A
and why might you like to host
or attend one?
of our favorite things to do (and to encourage our friends to
do!) is to host guests at our home for a "Civilized Evening."
(We're often asked to host "Civilized Evenings" at
other people's homes, and in many other settings, too, such
as churches, schools, and retirement communities.) Of
all the places we've played music, from performing before large
audiences at regional musicfests, to "sitting in"
at Disneyland's "ragtime piano," to being the soloist
with a major symphony orchestra, a "Civilized Evening"
is by *far* our favorite! Here's why:
At a recent "Civilized Evening" at our home, the youngest
daughter of one of our guests, an eleven-month-old, just got
*wide*-eyed every time music was played, whether the music was
cello, piano, or both. So, while Chris played Chopin's
Ballade No. 1 in G Minor (which is really *gorgeous*, by the
way!), our Dad held their daughter so she could sit on the rim
of our 7'9" concert grand piano (a Petrof). She was
barefoot, and her feet rested on the piano's sound board (for
those that don't know, that's the part of the piano which vibrates,
sending sound waves out into the room ... put your hand on one
some time, if someone will let you do it while they play ...
the feeling is *amazing*). Well, this little girl's eyes
stayed *huge* during the entire playing of the piece (which
is about ten minutes long), and she hardly *breathed* during
the playing! Afterwards, her Mom (who is also a pianist)
held her on her lap, and this wonderful young child "played"
the piano for about the next 30 minutes. While she played,
some of us watched her ... it was fascinating to see the extent
of her engagement with the instrument ... and some of us spent
some time talking with one another! Pretty soon,
the same family's *other* daughter, age 13, joined Chris in
the kitchen and helped prepare crepes Florentine for everyone
We make sure to take the time to allow all our guests to get
to know one another. In particular, we ask everyone to share
a bit about the "beautiful music" in *their* lives
... whether or not it involves such things as instruments!
We want to know, and we want our guests to know, about the many
beautiful things which our guests have created in their lives,
or perhaps are creating now. (This allows our
guests to ask questions, *learn* lots of wonderful things, and
to have wonderful things to discuss with one another as the
We always try to make a point of inviting guests who represent
a very large age range (from newborns and toddlers to our community's
elders) because we feel *very* strongly that the "age segregation"
which tends to permeate our culture is ... well, stupid and
horrible ... there's *so* much to be gained when members of
different generations participate with one another, and it's
*interesting*, too! We're also very committed to entire
*families* attending, when they can. We enjoy asking our
guests to bring along a friend or two, someone who they think
has "beautiful music" in their life, and is interested
in the "beautiful music" in *other* people's lives.
When possible, we ask some of our local music teachers to attend,
and to bring with them a student or two who they feel would
enjoy, and benefit from, a "Civilized Evening."
(We very strongly encourage the *families* of these students
to attend, also, including younger siblings!) We *always*
ask if any of our guests play piano (or other instruments, which
they sometimes bring!) and, if they *do* play, we ask them to
show us what they're working on lately. There isn't any
"pressure" in these requests ... the idea is simply
to share music with one another, and to encourage each other
to keep working, and to keep getting better! The format
is specifically *not* like a "recital" (we think the
"recital" format tends to be dreadful!) ...
instead, at a "Civilized Evening," guests can stand
(or sit) around the piano and listen, if they like, or they
can talk with one another, or have a bite to eat. We *do*
ask the *adults* present, though, to spend some time encouraging
the children who are present, whether with regard to the music
they're working on or the *other* "beautiful music"
which is emerging as a part of their young lives! (We
*love* it when the youngsters who are among our guests come
back to a *next* "Civilized Evening" and share their
progress with us ... we hope we'll be able to see their progress
during the course of each year, and over *many* years!
We hope to encourage a *lot* of *children* this way, by being
able to not just play music for them, at a distance, but by
talking with them and, where possible, listening to
and encouraging *their* music, too ... including when their
"music" is nothing to do with an instrument, but perhaps
math or cooking, or whatever else they might be called toward!)
Music is always well-represented at our "Civilized Evenings,"
so that its profound beauty and role model can contribute to
everyone present! We (Johnny and Chris) select two or
three gorgeous pieces, and perform them during the course of
the evening. Often, one or two of our musician-friends
come to an evening and, as "guest artists," offer
the gift of some of *their* favorite Classical Music.
(Among other things, this is a lovely way for some of our *younger*
guests to "meet" additional instruments!) Our
guests often comment that they've never been so *close* to instruments
while they're being played, and that they *love* being able,
for example, to experience how music (the physical vibration!)
*feels* when a person is so *close* to it, and to watch what
the musicians *hands* do ... children seem to be particularly enthralled
by fingers flying over the piano's keyboard! It's amazing,
and a great pleasure, to see how *involved* our guests become
with the music, and with the musicians! (It's pretty easy
*not* to be involved when a person is in a big hall, and distant
from the music and musicians ... but *not* so easy when standing
right next to the piano ... *especially* for *kids*!!)
Probably we should mention that Chris prepares his wonderful
orange-date scones for our guests... <smile>
A "Civilized Evening" is a modern-day descendant of
the "old-fashioned" American practice of gathering
with friends around a piano, listening to wonderful music, and
sharing excellent conversation and refreshments. It is
specifically designed to shine a light on the "beautiful
music" of each guest, and to encourage everyone present
to create *more* beautiful music in their lives. It's
a *terrific* way to spend time with family and friends.
Since the "olden days," when a gathering around a
piano was an "in" thing to do, people have tried out
a *lot* of ways of spending their evenings. Not all of
those ways of spending time, it's turned out, are terribly valuable,
edifying, or even memorable. The essential elements of
a "Civilized Evening" have passed the test of time
... and they make for a *wonderful* way to spend an evening!
Perhaps you'll be able to join us, one of these days, for a
"Civilized Evening" here at RiceHouse. Or perhaps
you'll have a chance to attend an evening which we host somewhere
other than at our home. (If you don't live nearby, please
let us know if you'll be traveling to the area! It would
be quite wonderful to meet you, and to be able to include you
among our guests!)
But whether or not you're able to participate directly with
us, we hope you'll get together with your friends, from time
to time, and hold a "Civilized Evening!" And,
if you do, we'd *love* it if you'd write to us and tell us how
it went! If you like, we'll post (here on the web site)
the story of some of the special aspects of your "Civilized
Evening." We know that, when people read about what
you've created with your family and friends, they'll be *inspired*!
When you can, invite a young musician or two to attend ... it
will give them a chance to perform, and it will encourage them
in the development of their music! (We Rice Brothers have
been *wonderfully* blessed in this way, and we know how valuable
it can be for young musicians to be able to bring the gift of
their music to your most special friends and family!)
When we here at RiceHouse hold a "Civilized Evening,"
we plan to share about it here on the web site. Please
feel free, if you have comments or questions, to e-mail us about
them! (We've been giving some thought to turning a portion
of this section of the web site into a blog format, so that
our visitors can share with one another about their respective
"Civilized Evenings." We'd appreciate knowing
what you think of this idea!)
We look forwad to hearing from you, and we look forward to joining
you in bringing forth "The Civilized Evening Movement!"
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Music and the Beautiful Music in *You*!(TM)
site are copyright © 2003, 2004 and 2005 John, Jean, Johnny and Chris
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from other authors for purposes of review or scholarly comment.
John, Jean, Johnny and Chris Rice
period and composer)
** We (The Rice Brothers) have not played very much of this composer's
music, so we do not consider ourselves to be on a first name basis with
(1900 through present)
(1900 through present)