OXFORD - The building on the Oxford Square has been everything from a post-Civil War dry goods store to, today, office space for attorneys and artists.
Never in its history has it been a concert hall - until Daniel Morrow came along.
Morrow, a software developer and self-described "Oxford music snob," saw the tiny hall in his law office as an intimate, if slightly awkward, venue in which the bands he wanted to hear could be enjoyed by his fellow music fiends.
Since starting Music in the Hall in late 2008, Morrow has hosted private concerts in the hallway, filmed them and shipped the concert DVDs across the world.
At the last Music in the Hall on Oct. 6, Morrow welcomed Mississippi music legend Cary Hudson, Memphis folk-pop band Star amp& Micey and Oxford supergroup The Minor Adjustments.
Morrow, sporting a Felice Brothers T-shirt, welcomed the crowd.
"We've got a great show for you," he said.
Hudson's colorful Americana had the audience hanging on every word, while the six-piece Star amp& Micey challenged the small space with its rowdy performance. After an intermission, the Minor Adjustments closed the night with its thick country sound.
Almost every seat was taken in the hall, with some music lovers standing, and each audience member was silent during the performances. The only sound they made was the gentle tapping of their toes. Cameras caught the entire night.
It was the 16th Music in the Hall, but as smoothly as it ran, it might as well have been the 100th.
Just the right crowd
Music in the Hall is a private show. A sign on the stairs leading to the venue reads, "Private party - invited guests only."
"For a space like this, it needs to be just the right crowd," Morrow said. "People who sit down and listen, and people who aren't there to socialize."
The venue allows 85 plastic chairs and standing room for about 15 or so.
Those who can't attend can watch clips online or buy the DVDs of each Music in the Hall. "Members" can pay to see entire shows online or to get a monthly DVD.
The videos are really as important as the music.
When Morrow started his music blog, the Oxford Music Snob, he noticed almost no Oxford band had any professionally made videos. Live performance clips help promote groups and land them gigs.
Morrow saw the win-win opportunity: He could host and film his favorite bands, and the bands could use the videos in promotion. Music in the Hall was born from that idea.
Music in the Hall is beginning to spread its wings.
A few shows have been staged elsewhere - "Basically, it's not the room, it's the attitude," Morrow said - and just this month he helped host the first Out for Lunch concert at The Lyric Oxford.
Out for Lunch is a free, open-to-the-public concert that takes place during lunchtime on a Friday. Morrow hopes that idea will grow into a weekly event.
Feeling the love
Kevin Guyer has been on both sides of Music in the Hall: His band, the Okratones, has performed in the space, and he's attended almost all of the Music in the Hall performances.
"It's a great venue, where the audience is always hanging on your every word," he said. "It's a tiny bit of an awkward space, but not in a very bad way."
As a music fan, he loves hearing the diverse musical acts Morrow brings in.
"We've seen some great stuff," Guyer said. "It's a grassroots way to provide music, and I'm a fan of that in pretty much any form. It's people who love music bringing music to other people."
Music in the Hall has hosted Oxford bands such as Rocket 88, Avenue Hearts and Tate Moore amp& the Cosmic Door, as well as traveling acts such as Mister Baby and Grace Askew.
While the attendees appreciate the music and the bands love the promotion, Music in the Hall helps fulfill Morrow's need for music in his life.
"My mind flows a lot easier when there's music," he said. "It's like the Shakespeare quote on the blog: 'If music be the food of love, play on.'"
Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal