Dare to dream concert in Houston, Texas

We’re dreaming of a concert in a beautiful 7,000 sq ft luxury house that looks more like an art gallery than a private home. Once upon a time, it was the weather museum in Houston.

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Seven years ago, my duo declared our dream to travel around the world at our first concerts in London. I’ve nearly forgotten that dream after full-time conservatory studies and the subsequent immersion in the portfolio career of a musician.

We all need to dream, for dreams are what keep us going. We shouldn’t be afraid to dream, even if the dream may never come true.

Future house concert in Houston, Texas
Future house concert in Houston, Texas

We’re dreaming of a concert in a beautiful 7,000 sq ft luxury house that looks more like an art gallery than a private home. Once upon a time, it was the weather museum in Houston, and just a stone’s throw away from the loft apartment where I used to live, when I was working as a non-musician driving a red convertible.

Dream house in Houston, Texas
Dream house in Houston, Texas

On our last visit to Houston (Robert’s first to the USA) in December 2007, the owner had shown us this building — before the renovation. She led us through the empty space and pointed to the kitchen, the bathroom, and shared her dreams of turning it into another fantasy home. Her previous house had already dazzled me. What could be next?

It was her hobby to create beautiful places to live and entertain. As a cultural connoisseur, she wanted space to display art works of painters she admired. In her previous palatial home, she even supported musicians through organising fundraising concerts.

7,000 sq ft of space in Houston, Texas
7,000 sq ft of space in Houston, Texas

Nothing in our imagination could prepare us for these pictures. Now we start dreaming of filling that space with our live music.

We set ourselves a deadline. We need to get there before 21st October 2010. We have to give a concert there before it gets sold.

Outside the dream house in Texas
Outside the dream house in Texas

Limburg in April

All was quiet after the first concert in a small village in Limburg on Tuesday 20th April 2010. Even the southern most province in the Netherlands saw clear skies, free of airplane trails.

We were running on empty — of both petrol and food — as we searched first for a gas station to “tank up.”

All was quiet after the first concert in a small village in Limburg on Tuesday 20th April 2010. The Icelandic volcanic eruption had stilled the skies after all airports had shut down on this part of Northern Europe. Even the southern-most province in the Netherlands saw clear skies, free of airplane trails.

We were running on empty — of both petrol and food — as we searched first for a gas station to “tank up.”

It’s the hilly part of the Netherlands where spoken Dutch is noticeably different from the north. Robert had spent at least 7 years of his life studying and playing music in this region. The roads and scenery were familiar to him.

Not me.

I paused to point to one of many old churches that tower over the small villages and towns.

A church in Limburg, Netherlands
A church in Limburg, Netherlands

Occasionally a magnificent mansion protruded from gentle rolling fields. We made several U-turns before we spotted a gas station. Our 1.2 Renault Clio commanded nearly 60 euros of petrol.

The price of a full tank of petrol at a Limburg gas station
The price of a full tank of petrol at a Limburg gas station

After the car was fed, it was time to feed us. What could be open at 5:30 pm?

It made sense to give at least two concerts when it takes 2 hours to drive from Utrecht each way. I insisted that we do a Limburg tour spanning several days next time, like the forthcoming September tour of Zeeland, the southwestern-most province in the Netherlands.

Before the second concert in Limburg, 20 April 2010
Before the second concert in Limburg, 20 April 2010

Silhouettes in Limburg sunset

If a picture paints a thousand words, how many do silhouettes?

Before the second concert in Limburg on Tuesday 20th April, I saw an opportunity to stand in the Limburg sun.

If a picture paints a thousand words, how many do silhouettes?

Before the second concert in Limburg on Tuesday 20th April, I saw an opportunity to stand in the Limburg sun. I was wearing a turquoise Laura Ashley dress I bought in London many moons ago.

Anne Ku against the Limburg sunset
Anne Ku against the Limburg sun

It was my turn to take photos of Robert Bekkers.

Robert Bekkers silhouette against the setting sun
Robert Bekkers silhouette against the setting sun

Dutch Indian celebration of Spring Festival and Queen’s Birthday in Voorschoten

How wonderful it is to receive photos from someone else who had also enjoyed that marvelous cultural programme of the Spring Festival and Queen’s Birthday of the Netherlands India Association

The realisation that there might be many cultural associations where our piano guitar duo could participate dawned on me when Robert appeared on stage. He represented the Dutch part of the cultural programme, after the Indian classical dance.

How wonderful it is to receive photos from someone else who had also enjoyed that marvelous cultural programme of the Spring Festival and Queen’s Birthday of the Netherlands India Association! This past Sunday 25th April in a village between Utrecht and the Hague, about 100 people gathered to enjoy a meeting of two cultures. I mingled among the members of this cultural association, while Robert waited in the dressing room for the show to begin.

A tall Dutch gentleman told me about the kind people he befriended in India. It’s like a second home to him, and he encouraged me to go there. Today I received his e-mail with three photos of the performances that evening. He wrote:

“We hebben elkaar afgelopen zondag ontmoet tijdens de bijeenkomst van the Netherlands-India Association. Het was leuk om je te leren kennen en wat gedachten en ervaringen uit te wisselen.” We met each other last Sunday at the event of the Netherlands India Association. It was interesting to get to know each other.

Kalpana Raghuraman, Indian classical dancer. Photo: H. Fransen
Kalpana Raghuraman, Indian classical dancer. Photo: H. Fransen

While watching the Indian dancer on stage, I wondered whether there is a Dutch-Chinese cultural association, or a Dutch-Taiwanese, or Dutch-Singaporean, or other cultural associations that I could be part of.

True, I was fascinated by the Indian culture largely through movies I’ve watched and my Punjabi neighbours from Okinawa who introduced me to Indian food. Practising yoga brought me closer to India, but I have still not set foot in that country of a thousand scents and languages. Some ladies even asked if I came from the north eastern part of India near the Himalayas. Is India so vast that I, with my Chinese features, could be mistaken as an inhabitant?

Robert Bekkers introduces his programme. Photo: H. Fransen
Robert Bekkers introduces his programme. Photo: H. Fransen

The realisation that there might be many cultural associations where our piano guitar duo could participate dawned on me when Robert appeared on stage. He represented the Dutch part of the cultural programme, after the Indian classical dance.

Robert Bekkers, Dutch guitarist at Netherlands India Association. Photo: H. Fransen
Robert Bekkers, Dutch guitarist at Netherlands India Association. Photo: H. Fransen

Robert Bekkers did not mention that he was playing a concert guitar built by a Dutch man in Amsterdam. His programme was not Dutch though he did choose well-known guitar solos by non-Dutch composers, namely

  • Cappricho Arabe Francisco Tarréga
  • Decameron Noir -II Leo Brouwer
  • Ultimo Tremolo Augustín Barrios Mangore
  • Asturias Isaac Albéniz

Below is a short extract from Ultimo Tremolo of Barrios.

At the end of his programme, he paid tribute to the evening’s celebration with a guessing game of famous Dutch tunes. I particularly enjoyed his improvisation on the Dutch national anthem —- something I will video in the tulip gardens to share with the world.

The day before the concert in Utrecht

On the day before our sold out concert in Utrecht, we got our first CDs, moved the folding chairs, and fitted a room to maximum capacity…. and earned a parking ticket in the process.

Ding dong!

The door bell rang. I thought it was Elsbeth arriving early.

It was Robert with his hands full.

A box of our new CDs
A box of our new CDs

He had driven to Woerden to pick up the 500 CDs. We couldn’t wait to open them.

Ding dong!

Elsbeth arrived to help load the IKEA folding chairs into the car. We needed every single spare chair to cater to the sold out concert.

Folding chairs packed into the car
Folding chairs packed into the car

I cycled with Elsbeth to her house. It was a fine spring day with volcanic ash clouds threatening to darken the skies. I was glad to return to the Netherlands before the Icelandic volcano erupted.

Elsbeth had her August Forster grand piano tuned earlier. We moved it to the other side so that Robert would sit on my right. After we unloaded the chairs, we placed them to see how many we could fit. We needed to fit 65 people to be safe. But there were restricted views where you could either see me or Robert but not both. Who will be the lucky ones to sit there?

Chairs to fill a house before the sold out concert of 17 April in Utrecht
Chairs to fill a house before the sold out concert of 17 April in Utrecht

We were so engrossed in fitting the chairs in the room that we forgot about the car. When Robert and Elsbeth went upstairs, I spotted a traffic warden outside — ticketing Robert’s car. I called for Robert to come downstairs.

It was too late.

The warden gave him a 53 euro fine.

Robert got into the car and dashed off in anger.

“You did warn him several times,” I said to Elsbeth.

“It’s the third time this week someone got ticketed outside our house,” she said.

How many CDs do we need to sell to pay for it, I wonder.

Recording our first CD (part 4: release)

The CD printers and pressers in Woerden had promised that the work would take just one week. Naively I expected to see a stack of plastic wrapped CDs upon my return this past week.

The CDs were nowhere in sight.

In the mad rush to complete the CD before our trip to Taiwan at the end of March, I considered blogging about the final stages of proofreading and changing the CD text. When the proofs were returned via e-mail in PDF format, I spotted a tiny mistake that would make a world of difference. Without the original files, we had to improvise to change the small letter j into a capital letter J. This minor correction took a major portion of our travels in Taipei and Taichung.

The CD printers and pressers in Woerden had promised that the work would take just one week. Naively I expected to see a stack of plastic wrapped CDs upon my return this past week.

The CDs were nowhere in sight.

The delay was caused by a hiccup in the administration of so-called Buma/Stemra forms.

Although we recorded the works of long-dead composers, we were still required to fill out a form and pay Buma/Stemra royalties. This international guardian of musical intellectual property will determine the royalties due to any copyright still in place and refund any amount overcharged.

The Buma/Stemra forms were sent to the CD pressers who failed to forward to us, the performers.

It’s Friday, the last working day of the week. Tomorrow is our sold-out concert in the home of an artist — an event that took three years to realise. It would be a bonus to release our CD in such a special environment, but we hadn’t announced that we would in case we couldn’t.

Will we be able to release our first CD tomorrow?

New CD of Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo
New CD of Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo