Anne Ku connects the themes of rose, Father’s Day, the brain, and Alzheimer’s Disease to pay tribute and raise awareness at the Rose Concert 2015. She premieres Emre Aki’s “Little Angel” dedicated to his daughter.
Two years ago, I gave my first Rose Concert at Roselani Place, a home named after the rose in central Maui for elderly residents. When I ran out of songs about the rose, I ventured into songs about other flowers like jasmine, cherry blossoms, etc.
This time, on Friday June 19th, I also paid tribute to Father’s Day (Sunday June 21st) and National Alzheimer’s Disease and Brain Awareness Month. Call it a concert to celebrate the beautiful minds of Aaron Copland, Maurice Ravel, and Scott Joplin.
Anne Ku arranges Mozart’s famous Eine Kleine Nacht Musik for easy piano for four different levels, for solo or ensemble playing.
Mozart’s “Little Night Music” was originally written for string ensemble, consisting of string quartet plus an optional bass. I played the quatre-mains version with my classmate Jeff Beaudry one summer at New College, Oxford for a talent contest. We won a bottle of champagne which we shared with the other team at our next bridge game.
Halloween music can come from horror movies or those with ghosts, vampires, monsters, and other fantasy creatures. Anne Ku gives a piano concert to celebrate this occasion on Maui.
In the spirit of themed piano concerts, I decided to do one for Halloween, after my previous one for Earth Day in April 2014. Because Halloween is so popular in the USA, rather than run away and hide from trick-or-treaters as I usually do, I thought I’d face the music and celebrate with an audience that may appreciate a journey down memory lane.
The word Halloween originates from “All Hallows’ Even” or “the eve of All Hallows’ Day.” All Hallows’ Day is simply another name for All Saints’ Day, the day the Catholics commemorate all the saints.
Karl Paulnack’s speech at Boston Conservatory triggers a memory.
On reading Karl Paulnack’s welcome address at Boston Conservatory, I am reminded of the reasons why I stopped my income-producing career midway to enroll in full-time music education for four years. Those were some of the best years of my life. — the passionate pursuit of beauty and perfection, art for art’s sake only, long hours of practice, insane obsession with finishing a composition, weekly lessons with multi-lingual teachers well versed in their art, …. living and breathing music 24/7.
Karl Paulnack recalls the Greeks seeing music as the study of the relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. “Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us.”
Indeed music has a way of drawing out our emotions and soothing our souls. When I was sent to work in Houston in 1996, I rented a piano for my loft apartment. At first I merely wanted to play piano after a long day of number crunching. But something else happened. The memory of a dying friend triggered me to write. I felt the urge to compose. When I did, I couldn’t stop.
And then came a yearning. I wanted to know why, all of a sudden, I was composing. I sought out a composition teacher at Vanderbilt University when I was visiting Nashville, Tennessee in 1997. As I sat outside his office waiting for my turn, I struck up a conversation with a lady my age. I asked if she was also enquiring about admissions to study music. She replied yes and asked how old my child was. Until then it had not occurred to me that I might be too old to study music.
Dr Michael Rose was kind to meet me. I was confused and needed direction. He looked at my piano solo composition “St Valentine” which I dedicated to my friend Hiroko who had passed away in December 1996. He suggested that I listen to a C# minor prelude of J.S. Bach. He then proceeded to tell me that a musician is a doctor of souls.
Karl Paulnack’s welcome speech reminded me of that visit to Dr Michael Rose’s office in 1997. Two years later, on my first trip to Maui, I saw a woman dance to my impromptu piano playing at one of the hotels. She burst into tears when I stopped playing.
Indeed I have seen how live music affects the listener. It is ever so powerful when it connects the invisible, internal, hidden objects — things you did not know existed or had meaning or significance. Somehow music summarises it all.
But my own music has stopped. Like the chef in “Eat Drink Man Woman” who lost his sense of taste, I have lost that yearning to compose. Yet I must not forget my own journey to find myself in the music within. And this is why it does not make sense to question the economics of music making.
Singer / guitarist Jimi Canha and keyboard-player Gilbert Emata visit Maui College with their music. Karyn Sarring invites Anne Ku to hear them in her piano and voice classes.
“You’re the third accountant I know who has become a full-time professional musician,” I said to singer/guitarist Jimi Canha over lunch this afternoon.
To his gig partner, Gilbert Emata who started taking lessons on the organ and piano from age 6 and who grew up in the Filipino equivalent of the Jackson Five, I said, “I took piano lessons from a music academy run by Filipino teachers on Okinawa. They’re the best musicians in Singapore I later discovered when I worked there.”
But I had more things in common than the accountant and Filipino teacher connection. Gilbert Emata and Jimi Canha are a duo — a keyboard and guitar/voice duo who plays regularly on Maui. On Thursday evenings, they play at the Grand Wailea. More recently they were flown to the island of Kauai to play for a Google convention.
Today they appeared in three consecutive music classes at the University of Hawaii Maui College as professional musicians and guest lecturers. I walked into the second class (a piano class) around 10:50 am. The performance was in full swing. It was as if they had brought their gig from a five star hotel into a class room. The front was set up with two amplified speakers and cables connecting keyboards, synthesizers, microphone, and other equipment.
In between their songs, Karyn Sarring, who teaches the piano and voice classes at the college, interviewed the musicians.
Jimi Canha told the story of how he learned music by ear and very quickly too. If a guest requested a song he didn’t know, he’d learn it overnight to play it the next day. At college he took a slack key guitar class but otherwise he was mostly self-taught — on the guitar, trumpet, drums, and keyboards. He worked as an accountant for some 20 years before turning his part-time hobby into a full-time profession.
Between his guitar and his microphone sat a small and nearly invisible iPad on a small stand. Jimi Canha showed the class that the iPad stored just the lyrics of songs he sang. No chords. No notes. Just lyrics. When asked which key he sang in, he replied, “It depends on the mood. I choose a low key if I want to be mellow. For a full band sound, I choose a higher key. This morning I started in A. After I’ve warmed up, I might move to B.”
Gilbert Emata elaborated. “By the time we finish our gig at the Grand Wailea, it’s 9 pm. We pack up and drive home. It’s 10 or 10:30 pm. I shower and eat, and it’s already 11:30.” Jimi Canha added, “This is the earliest we’ve had to get up to perform. We were here at, what? – 9 am?”
Once the original keyboard player for Ekolu, Gilbert brought the synthesizer to the group. When he left, Ekolu replaced him with two horn players. Since then he has played with various groups. His recording credits include Uncle Willie K’s red Christmas CD and also a forthcoming blues CD. As he introduced his bass keyboard, main keyboard, synthesizer, drum kit, and speakers that altogether gave him a full band sound, he played riffs that I recognised immediately: the Hammond organ and a familiar rock and roll sound. The grand piano and a nostalgic melody. The bass and drum kit producing a rhythm that made you dance. Here was a musician with an obviously huge repertoire and an ability to follow and accompany anything and everything.
An exchange student asked,”How do you get gigs?”
It’s the typical and most asked question of any musician who wants to perform. Jimi replied,”You start by playing for free. Play for your church. Play at family gatherings.” In other words, don’t expect to be paid when you first start out.
Gilbert added,”We had a guy from the Big Island come to our gigs. He watched us. Then he asked if he could sit in with us. We heard him. Now he plays four nights a week.” In other words, you have to be heard. Show up. This was an informal audition.
In a nutshell, the music scene is small on Maui. Everybody knows everybody (who is a musician). Jimi describes good musicians as those you can “see their heart through their music.” He played the Tahitian drums with a fire knife dancer during Uncle Willie K’s 15-minute performance in the Oakland Raiders football game. It was a great opportunity to share the aloha spirit — the essence of Hawaiian music.
It was 3 pm. Lunch was over. Gilbert and Jimi had given most of their Wednesday to eager students and two teachers. Karyn had another class to get back to. I was grateful to be invited to hear two local musicians share a sample of their vast repertoire, from reggae to jazz, from pop to rock. Until my own piano guitar duo returns, I am rejuvenated by the musicianship in theirs.
Anne Ku catalogues new piano solo works by living composers on Concertblog
As a sightreader, I am always looking for new challenges, that is, to play new music I have not seen before. Before I entered the world of composers, I would search for published music of dead composers.
In my musical journey, I discover that the new music (of living composers) is just as interesting if not more. These days, if I come across music of a composer I like, whether it’s ensemble music or piano guitar duo, I’d ask if he or she had written anything for piano solo or piano duet. Similarly — vice versa.
Below is a catalogue of the piano solo works I have reviewed and introduced on Concertblog. I will continue to add to this list, arranged alphabetically by the composer’s last name.
Robert Bekkers wrote the solo guitar work “Prelude for Anne” shortly after meeting Anne Ku in Amsterdam in 2001.
When I changed the generic title of the mp3 file to “Prelude in d” while preparing the last blog post, the file list automatically reordered alphabetically in itunes. Just above the newly renamed file was “Prelude for Anne.”
Listening to it brought back memories of my early days with Robert Bekkers, who wrote and played the guitar solo piece for me.
It was the first time anyone had composed a work dedicated to me. I am pretty sure of that. I was not only flattered but genuinely taken by it. I suppose it’s like receiving a love letter, a love poem, or a gift that is totally original and unique. Such is the gift of music — a composition written for a person and dedicated to that person.
Shortly after I met Robert in Amsterdam, I organized a small house concert in my home in London in April 2001 in which Robert played several solo pieces. I cannot remember for sure if he included this prelude as I did not mention it in my blog. Nor did I list it in the subsequent house concerts.
Somehow I do recall a premiere and several performances. But when and where?
Would this blog post jog his memory? Or inspire him to find the sheet music?
Heleen Verleur’s Prelude and Fugue in D minor for solo piano brought back memories of Anne Ku’s first concert in Bussum, Netherlands. More than 10 years later, she records it on her Steinway in Utrecht, Netherlands while remembering it in Maui.
Before I left the Netherlands, I recorded a CD of three piano duets with Carol Ruiz Gandia for my Call for Scores project followed by several solo pieces that were easy to sightread. Three of the solos came from my collection of music by the Amsterdam-based composer Heleen Verleur.
What a joy it was to find Verleur’s Prelude and Fugue in D minor on my bookshelf! Sightreading the set brought back memories of my first concert in Bussum, Netherlands in March 2002. Back then, I was still working full-time as an energy magazine editor, shuffling between London where I was based to the New York head office and various conference locations. Music was a pastime, a favourite hobby, and an insatiable passion.
If you visit our Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo website, you’ll see that the very first concert is listed in 2002, a year after I met Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers. That “afternoon of diversity” concert in a Lutheran church in the town of Bussum (east of Amsterdam) featured the music of Heleen Verleur for piano solo and piano and violin as well as that of Astor Piazzolla. In preparing for that concert, I wrote of my expectations of that event where the guest of honour was my childhood friend Leslie from Seattle.
More than 10 years after I met Robert Bekkers and Heleen Verleur in Amsterdam, I would like to share my interpretation of the prelude and fugue, recorded on 4th August 2011 on my 1909 New York Steinway in Utrecht, Netherlands.
When I searched for “Verleur” on my e-mail programme, I discovered several e-mails of mp3 and concert announcements from Heleen. Now that I have more time in Hawaii, I hope to listen to this backlog of gifts of music, including CDs I received from various composers and performers. You could say that forthcoming entries in this Concertblog will introduce the music I have been collecting during the last 10 years of concertizing and arts management in the Netherlands.