Remembering the Body of Your Dreams Concert on 1st July 2011

Anne Ku remembers the 1st July 2011 concert of Nathanael May the way she planned it and invites the guests to comment.

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Rather than writing a review of the two back-to-back concerts on the first weekend of July 2011 at the Monument House, I would like to invite the guests to LEAVE A REPLY below with their comments. Already I’d like to thank Susan Raddatz for her photos and blog reviews.

What led me to organise solo concerts for two different artists on two consecutive evenings with two different caterers, plus fundraising activities, masterclass, panel discussion, and an opening act? Never at the Monument House, had we undertaken such variety besides the live music. Could it be a desire to reciprocate and replicate all that we learned on our 24-concert coast-to-coast tour of the USA since October 2010? Or simply a desire to share with audiences in the Netherlands?

There was the option to have the two American pianists to share a programme, each giving half a concert, and simply repeat it the next evening. Being a culture vulture, I wanted all of one artist, not twice of two halves. I mistakenly assumed that others could afford the time to indulge in two separate concerts on two consecutive evenings at the beginning of the summer holiday season.

There was no grand plan in organising these concerts. It was rather ad hoc and piecemeal, largely due to the fact that I was on the other side of the world when the planning began. In January 2011, I spoke to Nathanael May about his travel plans for Europe. For the first time since 2005 when he first launched his music festival in Italy, Utrecht was on his way.

Knowing how busy and popular organic wine tasting was, I booked Eveline Scheren immediately. Nathanael told me about Texas-based pianist Brendan Kinsella, who was a guest faculty at the same festival. I reserved 1st and 2nd July 2011 on my calendar. When I returned to the Netherlands on 28th May 2011, I started looking at the details of what Nathanael and Brendan were going to play. The one piece that stood out above others was Dutch composer Jacob ter Veldhuis‘ “Body Of Your Dreams,” which I had first seen performed by Thomas Rosenkranz in Cortona, Italy in 2006.

By mid-June, with less than 3 weeks before the concerts, I considered adding a pre-concert dinner. Where would I get a chef? On Sunday 12th June 2011, just before my outdoor yoga event in the back garden, I attended a house concert of Carol Ruiz Gandia who mentioned that her friend had catered for more than 30 people not long ago. This was just what I needed to attract more people to come. Chef Alberto prepared an authentic Andalucian meal for 20 people on 1st July 2011.

Chef Alberto prepares a traditional meal from Andalucia, Spain. Photo: Susan Raddatz
Chef Alberto prepares a traditional meal from Andalucia, Spain. Photo: Susan Raddatz

As I wanted to try some of the fundraising techniques I learned in the USA, I decided to include a Raffle Draw, Silent Auction, and CD sales. Not everything translated culturally I soon discovered. Local merchants, unlike those in the USA, were not used to being asked to donate items for auction or raffle. I managed to get my fitness club on the other side of the canal, BodySports, to donate several summer passes (unlimited group lessons for 2 consecutive weeks) and Ton van den Ijssel, the bicycle shop behind our home, to donate several 100% T-shirts. The closest word in Dutch to “raffle” was “lotterij” or “lottery,” and the concept was strange in the context of a classical concert. Silent auction was even more foreign. Nonetheless, we did manage to encourage several risk-taking guests to put their bids for a barbecue dinner with us, guitar lesson, sightreading workshop, our 3-CDs produced in Maui, a set of speakers and amplifier, and Paul Richards “Fables, Forms, and Fears” CD (with Nathanael May’s Strung Out Trio).

Raffle table at the Monument House Utrecht. Photo: Susan Raddatz
Raffle table at the Monument House Utrecht. Photo: Susan Raddatz

Thankfully wine tasting was popular, and organic wine even more intriguing. By asking Ms Scheren to provide the wines, we hosts freed ourselves to attend to the artists and the guests. In the past when we purchased the wines ourselves and allowed the guests to pour their own, we risked certain guests drinking too much, staying too late, and causing problems with other guests. Verdict: wines should be served and not self-served.

Organic wine tasting from Biowijnclub.nl   Photo: Susan Raddatz
Organic wine tasting from Biowijnclub.nl Photo: Susan Raddatz

Quite late in the planning, I suddenly remembered that we had offered master class and workshop at two previous house concerts. Would anyone be interested in participating? The Dutch are fond of master classes, but the inclusion in the publicity was too late. Tom Rose, who recently launched his own blog for learning to play the piano as an adult, was the lucky recipient of the coaching of both pianists on 1st July 2011 from 5 to 6 pm. He played Haydn:  Sonata in F Hob XVI No. 23 1st and 2nd Movements and Martinu: Etude in F.  Last piece in Book 3 of Etudes and Polkas.

Masterclass: Tom Rose with Nathanael May and Brendan Kinsella. Photo: Susan Raddatz
Masterclass: Tom Rose with Nathanael May (left) and Brendan Kinsella. Photo: Susan Raddatz

The changing weather in the Netherlands was kind on 1st July 2011. We were able to hold the Andalucian dinner outdoors in the back garden. The highlight of Chef Alberto’s menu was the Pisto Cordobes acompanado con pan en aceite de la tierra: vegetables cooked for hours with tender loving care, resulting in irresistible mouth-watering heavenly goodness.

Traditional Andalucian dinner by Chef Alberto. Photo: Susan Raddatz
Traditional Andalucian dinner by Chef Alberto. Photo: Susan Raddatz

In the back of my mind, I wanted to hold a panel discussion, much like the one I facilitated at the house concert in San Francisco last November after a pre-concert dinner and sightreading workshop. Given the budget cuts in the arts and the negative impact of global recession, I was very much interested in the survival of classically trained musicians. Clearly our conservatory education had not prepared us for this. Could we learn from successful musical entrepreneurs? I invited Amsterdam-based mezzo soprano Carla Regina to talk about her foundation Voice Actually and pianist Nathanael May to talk about the contemporary music festival he founded in Italy. Both musicians went beyond the usual career path of performance to establish new vehicles that served others.

Panel discussion by Carla Regina and Nathanael May. Photo: Susan Raddatz
Panel discussion by Carla Regina and Nathanael May. Photo: Susan Raddatz

5 pm Master class

6 pm Doors open for pre-concert dinner

7 pm – 7:45 pm Panel discussion

8:15 pm Opening Act: Robert Bekkers, guitar

  • Andante Religioso from El CATHEDRAL, Preludio A. Barrios Mangore
  • Allegro from BWV 998 Prelude J.S. Bach
  • CAPPRICHO DIABOLICO M. Castelnuovo-Tedesco

8:40 pm Concert: Nathanael May, piano

Five Preludes
by George Antheil (1900-1959)
Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)
George Gershwin (1898-1937)
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
John Carollo (b.1954)

In a Landscape (1948) by John Cage (1912-1992)

Any Resemblance is Purely Coincidental (1980) “for piano and tape” by Charles Dodge (b. 1942)

Intermission

Intermission. Photo: Susan Raddatz
Intermission. Photo: Susan Raddatz

Preludio (2011) by Ada Gentile (b. 1947)

Rain Tree Sketch II (1992) by Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996)

The Body of Your Dreams (2004) for piano and boombox” by Jacob Ter Veldhuis (b. 1951)

Nathanael May selects the first raffle prize. Photo: Susan Raddatz
Nathanael May selects the first raffle prize. Photo: Susan Raddatz


Competing against the weather in La Coruña, Spain

The Museum of Contemporary Arts in La Coruña (MACUF) is a spacious place housed within the compound of the electricity company Union Fenosa. Our new programme of 21st century music for piano guitar duo contains two world premieres, Gijs van Dijk’s Abstract and Dance and Heleen Verleur’s Fire from the Five Elements.

The weather in La Coruña, our host and pianist friend David Lopez, is typically windy, cold, wet, and grey — the kind that makes you want to stay indoors instead of braving the elements. Much to our surprise, it was sunny when we landed on 2nd May 2009, a public holiday weekend in Spain.

Our first view of La Coruna, from the taxi ride from the airport
Our first view of La Coruna, from the taxi ride from the airport

These two factors alone, sunny weather and public holiday, would prove risky, if not deadly, for audience development. In other words, don’t count on getting as many people as you’d normally expect to come to a live classical concert.

The third factor, I learned later, is that contemporary music, i.e. works of live composers, are not readily received in this part of Spain. For that reason, Ruben Somesa, the Spanish composer who proposed this series (in its 3rd year) deliberately made it a didactic one — i.e. to educate the public.

Our new programme of 21st century music for piano guitar duo contains two world premieres, Gijs van Dijk’s Abstract and Dance and Heleen Verleur’s Fire from the Five Elements. Both composers had come to our “Duo for Export” benefit concert in Utrecht to support our first trip to the USA in 2007. While it’s always exciting to have the composers at our premieres, it wasn’t possible on this occasion. We have thus planned on a repeat of this programme in Amsterdam, on Sunday 12 July 2009 (4-page PDF). Hopefully all the composers will be there.

The Museum of Contemporary Arts in La Coruña (MACUF) is a spacious place housed within the compound of the electricity company Union Fenosa. I would have liked to have met the employees, if not to reminisce those good ol’ days in the dawn of electricity deregulation when I was frantically completing my thesis and later interviewing energy executives about competition. Piano was a companion but not the focus in those days. Now, it’s the reverse with energy just a distant memory.

As with all concerts, we needed to test the acoustics beforehand. The modern building of MACUF has high ceilings and a lot more echo than we’re used to. I tried to warm up with a relatively unknown piece that sounds like Chopin (in the video below).

To prepare for Lan Chee Lam‘s “Drizzle” I labelled a few notes on scrap pieces of paper to put on the strings inside the piano so that I could easily find them the next day. Without the usual plastic guitar picks, I would have to pluck the high C, E, A, B, D, and highest E strings with my short fingernails.

Preparing the grand piano for Lan Chee Lams Drizzle
Preparing the grand piano for Lan Chee Lam's "Drizzle

After our rehearsal, I asked Robert Bekkers to play a solo piece while I experimented with the video function of my mobile telephone. The rainbow colours of the setting sun danced upon the white walls through the suspended crystal ball, creating a magical effect on this mystical work of Barrios.

By the time we finished rehearsing, it was well past 8 pm. Time to leave, return to the hotel, and rest for the big day. We were not hungry after a late lunch of authentic mouth-watering Galician octopus, prawns, and clams. Instead, we looked forward to an early night, in spite of the big game of Madrid vs Barcelona.

Encore: I just wanted to hear one of my favourite pieces, or rather, the tremolos in Tarrega’s Requerdos de Alhambra.

Note: coincidentally my article (5 page pdf) “Betting on the Weather” had nothing to do with risk management of weather and concerts. Perhaps there ought to be some way to hedge the effect of good weather on audience development! Nearly five years ago, I wrote an article of the same title, “Competing against the weather,” but in Den Haag!