College students react to “Following the Ninth”

Part two of Kerry Candaele’s Beethoven trilogy is under way. I pledged $35 for the Kickstarter Project which ends on May 19th, 2016. The way this crowd funding works is that if the goal is not reached, the fundraiser gets nothing. It’s my sincere hope that my friends and readers click on the above link and preview the next film in the making. It’s about Beethoven’s only opera – Fidelio.
Continue reading “College students react to “Following the Ninth””


Crowd funding: get the music to my orchestra

The title “get the music to my orchestra” begs for attention. The orchestra produces music how does one get the music to the orchestra? Read about crowd funding that’s needed to get the scores to the orchestra.

An orchestra produces music. Why would you need to get music to the orchestra?

The title of Robert Bekkers’ crowd funding project begs attention. He needs to raise enough funds to rent the sheet music of the blind composer Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” or the “Aranjuez Guitar Concerto” so that the musicians can read from the score and perform it for his Doctorate of Musical Arts recital at the New England Conservatory (NEC) in Boston on Sunday May 11th, 2014.

Continue reading “Crowd funding: get the music to my orchestra”

Transferrable skills: from music to ?

Four years ago, Anne Ku faced the daunting task of getting 40 musicians to play her music. She learned that those skills are transferrable.

This time four years ago, in the historic city of Utrecht, Netherlands, I was contemplating “how am I to do it.”

The task of recruiting musicians to study my music and perform (or rather, premiere) it for the first time and only once — without compensation — was a daunting one.

It would have been easiest to have just one performer play my music. And that performer could be me. After all, I know my own music. I wouldn’t need to find other musicians, convince them to rehearse, and take the risk of playing music that’s never been performed or heard before. And to play it just once?  After all that studying?

Next easiest would be to write music for a duo or a limited number of players. Why did I challenge myself with producing a half-hour-long opera with a sizable ensemble, choir, and soloists? There had to be separate rehearsals with the choir. This was not the path of least resistance.

Where could I find these musicians? Ask their teachers? Approach them one at a time?

How would I get musicians to do it? I asked other composition students. How did they do it? Nobody had written a chamber opera with so many performers before. Orchestra yes. But not opera.

Conductor Henk Alkema greets first violinist and soloists, June 2008. Photo: Some 40 musicians performed in my final exam in composition on 2 June 2008 at Utrecht Conservatory. These photos were taken by Fokke van der Meer
Conductor Henk Alkema greets first violinist and soloists, June 2008. Photo: Fokke van der Meer

What I learned from those months from February to June 2008 was how to produce a concert with no budget. What was involved? It was a collaborative effort.

  • recruiting musicians
  • scheduling rehearsals
  • getting the musicians to arrive on time
  • getting the musicians to show up
  • getting the musicians to commit
  • organizing the music (making the part scores)
  • changing and editing the music
  • preparing the programming notes
  • preparing the slides for the overhead projector
  • setting put the stage
  • getting the event photographed and recorded
  • doing the publicity
  • getting help (stage manager, stagehands, usher)
  • ordering flowers to thank the musicians and selecting wine to thank the conductors
  • arranging post-concert refreshments for the audience
  • arranging dinner for the musicians
  • getting sponsors to pay for printing programs (PDF) and posters and the rest
  • getting the posters and programs printed

Thinking back, these skills are transferrable, for now I am managing an expanding team of volunteers. I am not paying them. They are not paying me. But we all work to the same goal.

The audience at the final exam concert of 2 June 2008. Photo: Fokke v.d. Meer
The audience at the final exam concert of 2 June 2008. Photo: Fokke v.d. Meer

Concert poster speaks a thousand words

Compare text to image to get people to come to a concert — a colour poster is needed to summarise all relevant information at a glance!

In my vain attempt to describe the upcoming house concerts we are organising for pianists Nathanael May and Brendan Kinsella, I completely underestimated the power of a single page image that says it all.

Here are the various e-mails and texts I sent out. Compare these words to a single image which speaks a thousand words. Thanks, Thera for asking yesterday, “Do you have a poster or something I can include in my invitations?” I persuaded Robert Bekkers to drop everything, stop practising, stop arranging music, and create a colourful image that contains all the information at a glance.

Summer greetings!

Robert and I have returned from our coast-to-coast concert tour & sabbatical in the USA for just a few months before we travel again in August. In our adventures through 9 states in 7 months, we learned much about American philanthropy and fundraising and successful approaches to house concerts. We would like to try them here, in our home, in welcoming two American pianists who are traveling to Italy for a festival, using the opportunity to fundraise for Robert’s graduate studies with Eliot Fisk in the Fall.

What is so very special about house concerts for art music (see 14-page PDF of my paper on this subject) is not just the live music in an intimate setting but also the community-building, networking, sharing of great food and conversation. We commit to organising 2 concerts from our home each year to revive that special 19th century European salon tradition.

Hope you will join us for these festivities of the first weekend of July 2011, each of them completely different except for the organic wine tasting, raffle, and silent auction.

Friday 1st July 2011 7:30 pm doors open for 8:15 pm
Body of Your Dreams Concert by Nathanael May, founder and artistic director of the Soundscape Contemporary Music Festival in Italy, since 2005. Optional Andalucian dinner at 6 pm.

Saturday 2nd July 2011 7:30 pm doors open for 8:15 pm
Kinsella Concert from Beethoven to Rzewski by Brendan Kinsella. Optional Vietnamese dinner at 6 pm.

The concerts of 1st and 2nd July are 12 euros (prepaid) – including a glass of wine. Optional dinners at 6 pm are 18 euros (prepaid, reservations).

We will have a raffle draw (lotterij) for prizes such as CDs, Monument House Glass Mugs, sportsclub passes, and more.

Please feel free to forward this email to others who may be interested. We are also accepting donations of items or services for the Silent Auction of value over 150 euros each.

Hope to see you & catch up!

Warmest regards,


Body of Your Dreams Concert Weekend at the Monument House, Utrecht
Body of Your Dreams Concert Weekend at the Monument House, Utrecht

Question is – how do I reduce the 1 page PDF to a file size below 1.7MB — perhaps to a manageable 300 kB?

Breaking news! Here is the reduced one page PDF with links (just 340 kB).

Next wish: if only I have a budget to print these posters in colour and the manpower to put them up at various locations in Utrecht! We will never say no to sponsorship!

A one-off opera production in Maui: Elixir of Love

Producing an opera is one of the most expensive projects in the classical music world. One-off productions do not benefit from economy of scale. Concert performance, doubling up, and piggy-backing a gala dinner after an opera are ways to reduce cost and increase attendance. Maui Pops Orchestra and Olinda Chorale collaborated with San Francisco Pocket Opera to produce Donizetti’s Elixir of Love on Maui on 13 March 2011.

Producing an opera is one of the most expensive feats in classical music, for it requires soloists, choir (often), orchestra, costume, choreography, stage prop, and more. The singers don’t just sing, they must also act or overact. Without economy of scale, one-off productions are even more expensive. These are only a few of the reasons why opera is so expensive. Some opera companies, particularly the touring kind, reduce their essentials to a minimum. In the extreme, an opera can be performed with just the singers and an accompanying instrument such as a piano or guitar.

When I first heard about the opera “The Elixir of Love” coming to Maui, I could scarcely believe it. What an ambitious endeavor to fly the singers from San Francisco to Maui, never mind paying members of the chorus and the orchestra in Maui! And to do all this just for one performance? There must be serious opera lovers in Maui besides myself, I concluded. Opera on Maui is extremely rare. In fact, I daresay, classical music performances are already rare on this island. Will opera lovers be flying from other islands to see this show?

Gaetano Donizetti’s (1797 – 1848) famous comedy opera “L’elisir d’amour” also known as “The Elixir of Love” opened on Sunday 13th March 2011 afternoon at the Castle Theater of the Maui Arts and Cultural Centre.

Cleverly translated into English by Donald Pippin, the founder and librettist of the San Francisco Pocket Opera, “The Elixir of Love” is a funny story about a magic love potion and a love triangle.

Sunday’s concert production of “The Elixir of Love” was a collaboration of the seven members of the San Francisco Pocket Opera (the narrator Donald Pippin, 5 soloists, and the executive director Dianna Shuster), the expanded 22-member opera ensemble of Olinda Chorale and Friends, and the Maui Pops Orchestra conducted by James Durham. All the soloists and most members of the chorus were dressed in period costume, acting with stage props but no stage set. The rest of the chorus sat on the main stage with the orchestra behind the actors.

Whereas Elton John’s concert sold out within 2 days to warrant a second concert in February 2011, the 1,200-seat Castle Theatre was far from full for the opera. Earlier in the week of Elton John’s concert, Hawaiian Youth Symphony’s concert with local talent Uncle Willie K was nearly full, with free entry. Tickets for Elton John ranged from $25 to nearly $300. In contrast, the opera was far more affordable, tickets from $15 to $55 each.

Why a one-off production? It was difficult to fill 1,200 seats.

Not that L’elisir d’Amour is not a famous opera. The aria “Una Furtiva Lagrima” (a furtive tear) is perhaps one of the most famous bel canto arias of all time. Every world-famous tenor has sung it: Domingo, Pavarotti, Carreras, Bocelli, Caruso. Even sopranos like Izzy and violinists like Joshua Bell have taken the heart-wrenching melody as their own. I heard it before I knew it came from Donizetti’s opera. After attending the opera, I listened to every single version of “Una Furtiva Lagrima” on youtube. It is THAT addictive.

Lee Strawn’s performance as Doctor Dulcamara was excellent. He was the perfect quick-get-away con artist. But it was the peasant Nemorino played by Charles Michael Belle that we were most sympathetic for, particularly when he sang “Una furtiva lagrima.” Was it deliberate that Belle shaved his head for this role? He could tear his hair out, he cries. Baritone Jason Sarten as Sergeant Belcore immediately pries of his bald despair. View the clip below for another performance of soprano Heidi Moss as Adina singing in original Italian.

I recognised fellow Rotarian and tenor Paul Janes Brown initially as one of the peasants and later as the notary summoned to marry Adina and Belcore. Doubling up is another way to manage the economics of an opera production.

Unlike in London and Amsterdam, where I hardly ever meet anyone I know at the opera, I was pleasantly surprised to count around 5 people I’ve met before. Although I did not stay for the gala dinner that followed, I thought it was a most enjoyable afternoon, definitely something I’d offer discounts to the 4,000 students of Maui College across the street.

[UPDATE 23 March 2011, official review published in Le Bon Journal:]

Maui Choral Arts in Kihei

Besides sharing our music with audiences in America, I realised then that we have much to learn from American philanthropy and methods of fund raising. If ticket sales cover only 40%, who will fund the remaining 60% if no one donates or volunteers? Maui Choral Arts has shown me how.

I stopped going to choral concerts unless I was personally invited by someone who was performing or the programme contained works I wanted to hear. Back in the Netherlands, I was constantly racing against time, juggling various activities and struggling to set aside time to play the piano. I had to be selective in attending concerts where I was not personally involved.

With the shopping malls already playing Christmas songs since the day after Thanksgiving, I didn’t want to get an overdose too early. So I had tuned out to Christmas music.

If not for my sister who knew the director of Maui Choral Arts, I probably would not have gone.

Sometimes last minute plans turn out to be the best. Tonight we drove south to Kihei for an evening concert performed by the Maui Concert Chorus, University of Hawaii Maui College Chorus, and Petite Orchestra. It was our first “cultural” event on the island since we arrived on Thanksgiving Day.

A more comprehensive review of this concert is due. For now, let me share my first impressions with you.

We arrived 20 minutes before the concert was expected to start. Yet, the Kihei Baptist Chapel was already half-full. The church was air conditioned and even had a creche with glass windows for parents to see their children being looked after.  It’s the first time I’ve seen such an arrangement.

The artistic director and principal conductor Celia Canty wrote in the nicely printed colour programme booklet: “Without you, the people who listen to music, buy tickets to music events, and volunteer with and donate to organizations that produce live music here on Maui, the variety of musical nourishment accessible to the people who call this island home would be diminished.”

I have never seen such an acknowledgment of the audience — upfront — and repeated at the end of the concert. “Thank you for supporting those who support the arts.” Ms Canty went on to invite the audience to volunteer and tell others about Maui Choral Arts. The audience IS very important. She obviously appreciates the audience, as she spoke directly to the audience during the programme.

Before the intermission, Canty asked everyone to read the programme booklet and see the businesses and entities who are supporting the concert. The notifications and ads of the sponsors were also projected on screen before the concert began. She also invited everyone to fill out the survey. This was not just a way to get feedback from the audience but also to recruit volunteers, enlarge the mailing list, and invite newcomers to audition for the next season. The surveys were also to be entered into a raffle for prizes at the end of the concert.

Before the final work of the Twelve Days of Christmas, Canty spoke once more to the audience. She stated something that was not so obvious to most people. Ticket sales typically cover 37 to 40% of the expenses needed to put on a concert. She also announced that an anonymous donor had offered to match the funds raised by Maui Choral Arts dollar-for-dollar if $1,111 is raised by 1-11-11 (11th January 2011). Coincidentally 1111 is also the PO Box number of the organisation.

Active fundraising, incentives to participate (such as raffles) and feedback to enlarge the mailing list are activities I have not seen in choral concerts in the Netherlands or England. Such promotions are what’s needed to support the arts in communities. The concert was very well attended — nearly full, with $20 tickets.

At no point did I, as a listener, feel that the mention of “money” was inappropriate. I have experienced this in New York City at an off-broadway play. It seems to be well-understood that the arts needs additional help and that the arts cannot support itself.

Besides sharing our music with audiences in America, I realised then that we have much to learn from American philanthropy and methods of fundraising. If ticket sales cover only 40%, who will fund the remaining 60% if no one donates or volunteers? No wonder I could not bring myself to produce another house concert in Utrecht. It was too costly and time-consuming. There must be another way. Maui Choral Arts has shown me how.

Watch the encore (below) and read a review in Bon Journal (13 December 2010).

Passion and patronage for the arts

Arts patronage is necessary for the arts to thrive and flourish. There are many ways to support the arts. One example is someone who connects artists to opportunities. Linda Marroquin supports the arts by doing not only that but also turning her home into a venue and gallery called the Audley Society in Houston.

When you’re passionate about something, you do it. You tell people about it, and you share it. You support it by doing it and sharing it.

What if you’re a connoisseur of the arts? You may not necessarily engage in it as in drawing, painting, designing, composing, performing, or live as an artist, musician, writer, or any of those activities that are considered creative or artistic. However, you may very well attend gallery openings and concerts or be a regular museum visitor. There’s nothing wrong with that. But you can do more.

You can be a patron for the arts.

These are people who have the passion but who also support the arts through any of the following activities:

  • connect people by introducing artists to patrons, consumers, and others who provide opportunities
  • engage or hire artists such as concert producers, venue owners, and gallery owners
  • sponsor artists or events that employ artists
  • collaborate with artists or those that employ artists to make the events possible or affordable
  • create opportunities for artists
  • provide material for artists: photographs, video, transportation, accommodation, publicity, etc.

Our 5 week concert tour in the USA would not have been possible without these patrons. They may not even know they are patrons. Arts patronage is not a job or a recognised label but it is a necessary function for the arts to thrive.

One of the aims of this CONCERTBLOG is to explore the what it takes to allow the arts to flourish in our society. There will be another blog post on what economists call transaction costs — the cost of doing or making something happen. In the arts, such as producing a concert, the transaction costs are very high. As a result, not everyone involved in the arts are paid what they’re worth (or paid at all).

Arts patrons volunteer their time, service, intellect, contacts, and other resources to support the arts.

One example of an arts patron who has helped us greatly is a lady I met on the plane from Baltimore to Houston in July 2000. She is one of those people who exudes a presence without saying anything. She is a connector — someone who sees similarities, opportunities, and connects people to one another.

She made it possible for us to stopover in Houston to give two house concerts in December 2007. She introduced us to Jeff Abrams who hosted our last concert in Houston. She introduced us to Michael Woodson who interviewed us on KPFT Houston radio station. Through her connections, she found the right person to invite us to fly to Houston for a private concert.

She turned her beautiful home into a gallery and concert venue to support the arts. She is not an artist or a musician. But she loves the arts. She loves to support the arts.

She is Linda Marroquin. Her next event of the Audley Society is on Political Art, beginning on 19th December 2010.

Upstairs in the venue of Audley Society, Houston, Texas
Upstairs in the venue of Audley Society, Houston, Texas

Join the Audley Society and proprietor Linda Marroquin as they embark on a political journey; an adventure undertaken to celebrate the victorious artistic endeavors of 9 Texas Artists; an exhibition of individual theories and ideologies that shape the way in which these artist speak out about issues very dear to their hearts, and how these unique perspectives change the way they see the world and produce their artwork. The show is curated by Janet Hassinger.

Reveal the Lies: An Artistic Call to Action includes the works of Amita Bhatt, Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak, George Bowes, Gabriel Diego Delgado, Janet Hassinger, Maria Cristina Jadick, Bert Long, Keith J. R. Hollingsworth, and Mary Jenewein.

The Exhibition is on display from December 19, 2010 – January 31, 2011, with an artist reception on December 19, 2010 from 1 pm – 6 pm. The closing events with dates to be announced will include a salon style discussion with Renowned News Anchors.