The Rose Concert

The Rose Concert is a one-hour performance of music, lyrics, poems, and movies to do with the flower — the rose, in celebration of the Rose Month at Roselani Place in Maui. The concert was free but not recorded on Friday 14th June 2013, given by Anne Ku.

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If you read my earlier blog post about preparing for a concert of roses and flowers, you might be curious what happened on 14th June 2013, the day of the one-hour concert.

As usual, I over-prepared in terms of research and under-prepared in terms of actual practice. I got carried away by the content. There were so many interesting stories about poems mentioning “the rose” set to music. I had more than enough music about roses. The extra music I had collected about other flowers, including the jasmine flower, plum blossom, cherry blossom, and tulip could fill another 1 hour!

I decided that it was important to give meaning to the audience rather than entertain. I wanted to weave a thread through time as well as connect well-understood themes such as love, beauty, longing, and all those connotations that a rose represented through time. In this respect, it’s similar to my previous attempts at producing themed concerts.

In focussing on the rose, I introduced poems that centered on the rose as well as mentioned the rose as an analogy. I suspect the words came before the music, such as “my love is like a red, red rose.” Some poems were set to music with very sticky melodies that inspired composers to transcribe and arrange for other instruments, e.g. Thomas More’s “The Last Rose of Summer.” Some of these melodies were so haunting that the transcriptions and improvisations became a show of virtuosity. From words to music to movies, some of these titles became names of movies, such as “Days of Wine and Roses” and “The Rose.”

As a pianist who sightreads for fun, I searched for interesting arrangements for solo piano. I did find a nice arrangement for “Sakura Nagashi” but it was not the traditional Sakura tune until I played it. Similarly, when I received the full arrangement for “Days of Wine and Roses” from a piano transcription website, I discovered I needed to spend time studying the music before I could give it the appropriate level of execution. There were other interesting arrangements available on the Youtube as tutorials, but not as a downloadable print music.

Click on “play” in the following video while you read the rest of this blog post.

So there you have it:  the context, the words, the title, the melody, the music, the arrangement, the interpretation of what’s heard, and a transcription of that interpretation.

Below is the final play list – the concert I gave on Friday 14th June 2013 from 3 to 4 pm at Roselani Place, where the audience sipped fragrant rose tea and nibbled on wonderfully delicious but sweet rose-macaroons from their gourmet chef. It was a full house.


As children, we learned to create poems starting with “Roses are red, violets are blue, ….. ”

I ask you to think about your poem by the end of this concert.

The rose is associated with love – ancient symbols of love and beauty. Rose also means pink or red. Medieval Christians identified the five petals of the rose with the five wounds of Christ.  The White Rose was a World War II non violent resistance group in Germany.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,

Are heaped for the belovèd’s bed;

And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,

Love itself shall slumber on.

~Percy Shelley


Let’s start by visiting famous poems have been turned into songs. One of the earliest is based on a poem by the 18th century Scottish poet Robert Burns:

A Red, Red Rose

MY love is like a red, red rose

That’s newly sprung in June:

My love is like the melodie

That’s sweetly played in tune.

So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

So deep in love am I :

And I will love thee still, my dear,

Till all the seas gang dry.

Till all the seas gang dry, my dear,

And the rocks melt with the sun:

And I will love thee still, my dear,

While the sands of life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only love.

And fare thee weel awhile!

And I will come again, my love,

Though it were ten thousand mile.

 Robert Burns (1759–1796)


A beautiful, sticky and haunting melody invites composers to arrange for their instruments, such as the “last rose of summer” – an Irish tune that has been used in various piano transcriptions. Beethoven wrote a theme and variations for flute and piano, for instance.

The last rose of summer by Thomas More

Tis the last rose of summer

Left blooming alone;

All her lovely companions

Are faded and gone:

No flower of her kindred,

No rose-bud is nigh,

To reflect back her blushes,

Or give sigh for sigh.

I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!

To pine on the stem;

Since the lovely are sleeping,

Go, sleep thou with them.

Thus kindly I scatter

Thy leaves o’er the bed,

Where thy mates of the garden

Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,

When friendships decay,

And from Love’s shining circle

The gems drop away.

When true hearts lie wither’d,

And fond ones are flown,

Oh! who would inhabit

This bleak world alone?

Listen to Mendelssohn’s fantasia on the last rose of summer. (Download PDF)


“Heidenröslein” or “Heideröslein” (“Rose on the Heath” or “Little Rose of the Field”)  or Hedge Rose is a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, published in 1799.

“Heidenröslein” tells of a young man’s rejected love; the female is represented by a rose. There is a companion poem by Goethe, “Das Veilchen“, in which the man is represented by a violet. It has been set to music by a number of composers, most notably in 1815 by Franz Schubert

Saw a boy a little rose,

little red rose on the heath,

young and lovely like the morning.

So he ran to have a close

look at it, and gladly did.

Little rose, little rose,

little red rose on the heath.

Said the boy: I will pick

you, my red rose on the heath!

Said the rose: I will prick

you and I won’t stand it,

and you won’t forget me.

Little rose, little rose,

little red rose on the heath.

And the rough boy picked the rose,

little red rose on the heath,

and the red rose fought and pricked,

yet she cried and sighed in vain,

and had to let it happen.

Little rose, little rose,

little red rose on the heath.


Next let’s hear some instrumental pieces on the theme of the rose. Enjoy your tea.

Rose Leaf Rag – Scott Joplin (1907)

Coming at the beginning of Joplin’s most productive period around the turn of the last century, the Rose Leaf Rag contains well developed experiments that help set his rags aside from more common pieces. It is deceivingly complex to perform properly, yet ultimately simple in construction. The A section is half made up of parallel and contrary motion figures between the hands. This was a pattern usually reserved for an interlude or trio, and starting out a rag with this device showed continuing innovation on the part of Joplin. The B section contains an often used syncopated pattern, but in a refreshing manner. The trio is largely in thirds, a device used sparingly but effectively in his later rags, and with sophisticated harmonies in this case. The D section is typical Joplin of the period; very strong and uplifting. Download the 4-page PDF score.

Broadway Rose by Fats Waller – original dixieland jazz


Which comes first the title, the lyrics, the music, or the movie? Here is Keith Jarrett’s piano solo interpretation of the lovely tune (download 2-page PDF).

My Wild Irish Rose (1947) – life of the Irish tenor Chauncey Olcott

My wild Irish Rose

The sweetest flower that grows

You may search everywhere

But none can compare with my wild Irish Rose

My wild Irish Rose

The dearest flower that grows

And some day for my sake

She may let me take the bloom from my wild Irish Rose


Days of Wine and Roses – from the movie of the same name in 1962, starring Jack Lemmon. The song won an Oscar for the best original song.

The days of wine and roses laugh and run away like a child at play

Through a meadow land toward a closing door

A door marked “nevermore” that wasn’t there before

The lonely night discloses just a passing breeze filled with memories

Of the golden smile that introduced me to

The days of wine and roses and you

(The lonely night discloses) Just a passing breeze filled with memories

Of the golden smile that introduced me to

The days of wine and roses and you-oo-oo.


The Rose (Bette Midler) – 1979 movie of the same name

The story of the tragic life of a self destructive female rock star, modeled after Janis Joplin

Some say love, it is a river

That drowns the tender reed.

Some say love, it is a razor

That leaves your soul to bleed.

Some say love, it is a hunger,

An endless aching need.

I say love, it is a flower,

And you its only seed.

It’s the heart afraid of breaking

That never learns to dance.

It’s the dream afraid of waking

That never takes the chance.

It’s the one who won’t be taken,

Who cannot seem to give,

And the soul afraid of dyin’

That never learns to live.

When the night has been too lonely

And the road has been too long,

And you think that love is only

For the lucky and the strong,

Just remember in the winter

Far beneath the bitter snows

Lies the seed that with the sun’s love

In the spring becomes the rose.

[Download the sheet music PDF.]


La Vie En Rose – signature song of Edith Piaf (1945) – which became a movie in 2007 about her life. The song’s title can be translated as “Life in Rosy Hues” or “Life Through Rose-Colored Glasses”; its literal meaning is “Life in Pink.” 

Hold me close and hold me fast

The magic spell you cast

This is la vie en rose

When you kiss me heaven sighs

And tho I close my eyes

I see la vie en rose

When you press me to your heart

I’m in a world apart

A world where roses bloom

And when you speak…angels sing from above

Everyday words seem…to turn into love songs

Give your heart and soul to me

And life will always be

La vie en rose

[Download the sheet music PDF for “La Vie En Rose.”]


Finally, modern day we have pop songs such as Neil Diamond’s “Cracklin’ Rosie”, Seal’s “Kissed by Rose” and Bon Jovi’s “Bed of Roses”

Bed of Roses (Bon Jovi)  late January 1993 wrote the song in a hotel room while suffering from a hangover and the lyrics reflects his feelings at the time.

Sitting here wasted and wounded

At this old piano

Trying hard to capture

The moment this morning I don’t know

‘Cause a bottle of vodka

Is still lodged in my head

And some blonde gave me nightmares

I think that she’s still in my bed

As I dream about movies

They won’t make of me when I’m dead

With an ironclad fist I wake up and

French kiss the morning

While some marching band keeps

Its own beat in my head

While we’re talking

About all of the things that I long to believe

About love and the truth and

What you mean to me

And the truth is baby you’re all that I need

I want to lay you down in a bed of roses

For tonite I sleep on a bed of nails

I want to be just as close as the Holy Ghost is

And lay you down on a bed of roses

Well I’m so far away

That each step that I take is on my way home

A king’s ransom in dimes I’d given each night

Just to see through this payphone

Still I run out of time

Or it’s hard to get through

Till the bird on the wire flies me back to you

I’ll just close my eyes and whisper,

Baby blind love is true

I want to lay you down in a bed of roses

For tonite I sleep on a bed of nails

I want to be just as close as the Holy Ghost is

And lay you down on a bed of roses

The hotel bar hangover whiskey’s gone dry

The barkeeper’s wig’s crooked

And she’s giving me the eye

I might have said yeah

But I laughed so hard I think I died

Now as you close your eyes

Know I’ll be thinking about you

While my mistress she calls me

To stand in her spotlight again

Tonite I won’t be alone

But you know that don’t

Mean I’m not lonely I’ve got nothing to prove

For it’s you that I’d die to defend

I want to lay you down in a bed of roses

For tonite I sleep on a bed of nails

I want to be just as close as the Holy Ghost is

And lay you down on a bed of roses


The rose in all its varieties is very popular as a symbol and emblem. It is the national flower of England and Equador. The rose is the state flower of New York. The wild prairie rose is the state flower of Iowa. The cherokee rose is the state flower of Georgia? What is the state flower of Hawaii? Pua Aloalo  or the hibiscus. The yellow rose is not the state flower of Texas, but the bluebonnet.

We end today with “The Waltz of the Flowers” from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. (Download pdf, page 27 to p. 37, the end, “Valse des fleurs” – piano solo).

Anne Ku, pianist. Photo credit: A. Ahmad, London 2002
Anne Ku, pianist. Photo: A. Ahmad, London June 2002

Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

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