Clayton, Delaware, couple host live performances in their home

By Jenny Kania, Delaware State News

CLAYTON - Paul and Beth Gumerman of Clayton like to throw the occasional house party.

And their spacious Clayton residence is the perfect place to entertain friends, as well as strangers.

Nearly every month, they welcome a stampede of guests into their home for an evening of live music.

It's all part of the Cooldog House Concert Series - something the couple created last summer.

Busy with their careers and an active 3-year-old son, the Gumermans rarely have time to attend concerts.

So the music comes to them.

Local folk acts, rock groups and pop singers take center stage in the Gumermans' family room for intimate concerts in a relaxed environment.

Mr. Gumerman, an experienced sound technician, has equipped his family room with microphones, a mixing board, speakers and stage lights.

It's the ideal setting for aspiring stars, who want to get up close and personal with their fans.

Andy & Denise, a folk duo from Philadelphia, played the first Cooldog House Concert Aug. 9, 2003.

As friends of the Gumermans, Andy Fox and Denise O'Brien were happy to perform in the couple's home.

"It was wonderful," Ms. O'Brien said. "Beth and Paul are true supporters of music and incredible enthusiasts of folk music. And their house is beautiful, with a really great setup for live music."

At the Gumermans' house, performers don't need to compete for the crowd's attention. It's very different from a noisy bar.

Guests sit quietly in folding chairs, listening to each note as it echoes through the family room.

This is something that impressed Ms. O'Brien.

"The crowd was incredibly receptive to our music," she said. "We had nice interactions with the audience. I give house concerts high marks."

The Gumermans haven't had any trouble finding acts to perform in their family room.

As members of the Delaware Friends of Folk organization, the couple know many local musicians.

And Mr. Gumerman's work as a sound engineer helped him forge several connections with area performers.

On Saturday, rock diva Niki Barr of Denton, Md., will perform at the Gumermans' residence.

Nearly 50 guests are expected to attend.

It will be the rising star's first house concert, and she's extremely excited.

"I've always wanted to play one," she said. "It's a very intimate show. It will be like playing in someone's living room, which will be a nice change from the usual smoky, loud clubs that I play."

Guests should e-mail the Gumermans at houseconcerts@cooldog.com if they want to attend one of their shows.

Performances usually cost $10, and proceeds go to the artists.

"We make no money from this," Mrs. Gumerman said.

Guests also are asked to bring a covered dish to the concerts, so audience members have something to munch on before, during and after the show.

It helps create more of a party atmosphere, where audience members can mingle with band members over hors d'oeuvres.

Mr. Gumerman said this helps performers develop a dedicated fan base.

"The intimacy of these shows means that the musicians will have a hard-core fan for life," he said. "People like to connect with the artists."

So far, the Cooldog House Concert Series has been a huge success.

The Gumermans said they love hosting concerts in their home and enjoy meeting music fans at each performance.

"After our first show, our reaction was, 'What the heck took us so long to do this?'" Mr. Gumerman said. "We had the equipment, the skill for mixing and the appreciation for music."

Eventually, the pair may expand the series and hold larger concerts in their back yard.

"Anything worth doing is worth overdoing," Mr. Gumerman quipped.

For now, their family room will suffice. It's a large area with cathedral ceilings and a tile floor that serves as a makeshift stage.

The couple have booked several more acts for 2004 and constantly receive requests from bands who want to perform in their home.

"I'm pretty impressed with the amount of people we're getting," Mrs. Gumerman said. "There's an intrigue factor. Just the curiosity itself is enough to bring people to our shows."

Staff writer Jenny Kania

can be reached at 741-8233

or jkania@newszap.com.

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