Sunset in Ealing London with solo guitar

With my mobile phone, I recorded Robert Bekkers playing Tarrega’s famous Requerdos d’Alhambra. It was the last time I’d enjoy my garden with live music this year.

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Beyond my garden, a park and a school
Beyond my garden, a park and a school

I invited my neighbour Inge to see my garden before the adjoining fence got replaced. We sat down among the rubbish and debris to enjoy a glass of freshly squeezed orange and mango juice at sunset.

It had been more than six months since I last visited her. I wanted to tell her about our adventures in Spain, Belgium, and our forthcoming trips to Paris and Crete. As we recalled fondly the garden concert of June 2001, “Summer Solstice” and July 2002, “Spanish Summer Soiree,” Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers appeared.

Before the new fence was installed, my garden seemed boundless.
Before the new fence was installed, my garden seemed boundless.

“Bring your guitar down,” I begged.

“I’m still practising upstairs,” he protested.

“But it’s so nice out here,” I pleaded. “Give us a concert!”

He went indoors and brought out a bottle of beer instead of a guitar.

“Aren’t you going to play something?” I asked.

“First I’m going to take a break.”

Fence in progress in garden of Victorian Cottage London Ealing
Fence in progress in garden of Victorian Cottage London Ealing

He had boldly gone to the Great British Beer Festival the night before, which he regarded as the highlight of his working holiday week in London. I had brought him to London to inspect my Victorian cottage and fix anything that I couldn’t fix. [“Which,” exclaimed the guitarist, “is everything you can find.”]

Complaining that he did not have the proper tools, he asked me to hire a builder to repair the outside pipes, remove and replace the garden fences, and replace the kitchen drains. Between numerous minor chores, he tried to find time to practise while I fretted about the paperwork.

Inge interjected. “Let him have his beer, Anne. I should be going soon.”

“Don’t go yet,” I said. “I want to hear what his guitar sounds like out here. How often do you get to see across to my neighbour’s garden?”

Robert Bekkers in London Ealing
Robert Bekkers in London Ealing

With my mobile phone, I recorded Robert Bekkers playing Tarrega’s famous Requerdos d’Alhambra. It was the last time I’d enjoy my garden with live music this year.

Addendum:

The two builders returned the next morning to finish installing the adjoining hard-wood fence, a luxury beyond my imagination. These fences were unlike any other in this quaint neighbourhood of Victorian cottages.

With very little time left, Robert fixed the laundry lines in parallel while I cleaned the mahogany parquet floors. There was hardly enough time to pack and rush for the airport. The walk to the nearest Piccadilly tube station was compromised by having to pull an overweight suitcase containing two 4-packs of English West Country ciders, numerous second-hand sheet music and travel guides to Italy. And that was how we missed our flight back to Amsterdam.

The garden with new fence in London Ealing
The garden with new fences in London Ealing

Interpreting Daniel Abrams’ Chaconne on Dido’s Lament

When I listened to New York-based composer/pianist Daniel Abrams’ CD “Opera for Piano” earlier in the spring, I was immediately touched by his “Chaconne on Dido’s Lament.” I had to stop the CD and write to him for a copy of the score. Over the telephone Daniel Abrams asked, “Why does this lament have such an effect on you?”

One item on my backlog list is to introduce new music of living composers by recording them before our piano guitar duo concerts. These are also the pieces I am studying before actual performance.

When I listened to New York-based composer/pianist Daniel Abrams’ CD “Opera for Piano” earlier in the spring, I was immediately touched by his “Chaconne on Dido’s Lament.” I had to stop the CD and write to him for a copy of the score.

Dido’s Lament, from Henry Purcell’s opera “Dido and Aeneas” had struck a chord in me when my analysis teacher played the descending bass line as a famous example. Since then, I had lived in awe of the story of Dido and Aeneas and the lament that preceded the end of Queen Dido. I had even “borrowed” or “quoted” the descending line in my own chamber opera “Culture Shock!” You could say I am besotted with Dido’s Lament.

Over the telephone Daniel Abrams asked, “Why does this lament have such an effect on you?”

Is it duty over love? Do what’s expected of you rather than what you want? After all, I had been brought up to learn what is expected of me and had even written a poem entitled “Want.” For that reason, I feel the tragedy of life.

Or could it be simply the beauty of such a descending bass line?

I met Daniel Abrams and his wife Sonia this past April in Utrecht, between the two week-long trips to Seville and Madrid. Lamenting that I had no time to attend his master classes at Utrecht Conservatory or attend his concert with his former student Alan Weiss, I invited them to dinner (cooked by our friends Emily and Paulus) after a day of rehearsals. At parting, Daniel gave me his “Opera for Piano” CD.

Below is a first take of the first few pages of his 11 variations in “Chaconne on Dido’s Lament.” I will have to visit that restored 1880 Bechstein grand piano in Warmond again, when I’ve figured out the page turns.