In the late 1990s singer-songwriter and voice teacher Ruth Gerson ’92 discovered the benefits of performing in people’s living rooms versus in clubs — she wasn’t pushed on and off stage, the audience members really listened to the music, and she enjoyed the relaxed, intimate setting. She also found it more lucrative than club playing. “By the end of the night, we were all singing together,” said Gerson, who remains friends with some of the people she met at her first living room concert in Washington, D.C.
Several years ago she performed living room concerts for charity – asking the hosts to pick a cause they cared about. During that year, she helped raise $100,000 for various organizations through some 50 concerts.
This year, with the release of her latest album, Deceived, she aims to help raise $100,000 for one particular cause: the prevention of domestic violence. She’s donating proceeds from the album and performing a series of living room concerts and shows to benefit domestic violence prevention organizations.
Released in May, Deceived, which has been called a “beautiful record” by NPR critic Ann Powers, is a selection of traditional, country, and folk songs, half of which are murder ballads that tell stories of domestic violence. “You could listen to it while eating dinner by candlelight,” wrote Powers. “Gerson keeps her powerful voice whispery and calm for these renditions. … The effect is to cast new light on familiar songs.”
Gerson picked the prevention of domestic and family violence because of her own experience. “I grew up in a violent household,” she says. “I feel gratitude for the individuals and organizations that supported me. And I want to do the same. I want to give something back.”
A religion major at Princeton, Gerson believes “if we are a culture that aspires for peace, we can’t have that until there’s peace in the home.”
To listen to clips from her album, go to ruthgerson.com.