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What is Zo?

It's a series of small, informal piano concerts in Paul Cantrell's living room. This is what people sometimes call a house concert, or if they're being all fancy, a hausmusik or salon concert. But it is basically just a concert in a cosy living room.

What does "Zo" mean?

Japanese haiku are traditionally associated with one of the four seasons, and traditional haiku collections thus have four seasonal sections. As haiku poets stretched the form, however, they began to write poems that didn't clearly belong to any single season — so the collections added a fifth section, the "zo" section (meaning "miscellaneous"), for those poems that defied categorization. Defying categories is my perpetual aspiration, so the name suited me.

In addition to "miscellaneous", the character "zo" also means "rough" or "crude" — and oddly, that suits me too. Zo is a venue where I can take risks — risks with pieces I'm still learning, risks with new compositions, and risks with interpretation. Free from the poisonous competitiveness of the classical performance world, which always insists on making music that's correct, I can focus on what matters to me: making music that's passionate, absorbing, magical, and honest.

Plus "Zo" is easy to spell.

How long are the concerts?

About 45 minutes, give or take a few. Short and informal is the idea. Some people linger afterwards for a cup of tea or coffee. Sometimes there's a group outing for ice cream.

What kind of music will you play?

It depends entirely on what I've been practicing, and what sort of mood I'm in — the music varies from one day to the next. Odds are you'll hear some Chopin and some Brahms, and something of my own. (You can read the set lists from past concerts and listen to my recordings over at In the Hands.)

Wait ... Chopin? Brahms? Do I have to be some kind of musical expert to come?

Good heavens, no. These concerts are for you to enjoy the music, and often it's the people who aren't big musical experts who enjoy the concerts the most. So if you don't have any idea who Chopin and Brahms even are, well, come on over! I'd love to introduce you. All I ask of my audience is that they're willing to listen.

But seriously, don't you have to have some kind of fancy music education to appreciate that stuff?


It's sort of like taking a hot bath: you could study the physics of hot water, the biology of expanding blood vessels and nerve signals to the brain, the psychology and social history of water and personal grooming rituals ... in fact, you could spend your whole life studying any one of those things. But you don't have to have one bit of that knowledge to step into a hot bath and say "aaaaaah."

It's not understanding the experience that's the point, but the experience itself.

The concerts are fun. If you just come to enjoy them, you probably will.

Should I bring my kids?

The one think I ask of audience members is that they sit and listen silently for 45 minutes. There's a particular magic in this music when it emerges from silence, and that can't happen without the help of the entire audience. It's a kind of group meditation, really. So use your good judgment: this whole "listening silently" thing rules many people out, but anyone of any age who's up to it is most welcome to come!

Does that mean I should turn my cell phone off?

Yes, yes, oh please for the love of all that is good and decent, yes.

What should I wear?

Clothes. Any clothes. Ripped jeans, a tuxedo, a sari ... whatever you find pleasant and comfortable.

How much does it cost?

The standard price is $10 a seat. With some luck, that should cover keeping the piano in tune, and even some part of keeping the pianist fed. If you're broke and five dollars is a stretch, come anyway and pay what you can.

Some people go beyond the default $10, because they're strong supporters of the arts and really want this music to keep going. You are welcome to do that, too.

OK, nifty. So how do I hear one of these concerts?

You reserve seats online. You also might want to read what other people have said about Zo. .