Reasons for busking

Performers need to perform to an audience. Busking is a way to play outdoors to an audience though payment is not guaranteed.

Advertisements

My instinctive reaction to Bekkers’ declaration “I’m going into town to play on the streets” was multi-fold.

  • Don’t you have something better to do? Your list of joys is long and winding. We have so much to do before we travel again. Shouldn’t be rehearsing our new repertoire? Can you really afford the time to go busking?
  • Does it make economic sense? There’s no certainty how much you will make, why risk it?
  • Are you hoping someone important and influential will discover you and make you famous? What are the chances of someone like that being there just when you are playing?
  • Outdoors in town is noisy and not an ideal environment for the classical guitar. Will you play at your optimal? Will people be able to hear you?
  • Surely you should be playing in a concert, on a stage — inflated value of scarcity — and not out in the open where anyone can hear you and not pay for it.

Maybe I am just jealous that he can take his guitar anywhere he wants and play it. I need a piano which I cannot carry. When I stayed in hotels, I played on the pianos available but I didn’t expect to be paid. Before I bought my Steinway, every time I spotted a grand piano I’d want to try it. But that was not busking.

Bekkers sensed my reservations.

“I’m a musician,” he said. “I have to perform even when there are no concerts booked. I would rather be outside playing than indoors studying. You know it’s different playing to an audience than to yourself.”

Soon after he arrived on the island of Maui in late 2010, Bekkers practised his daily scales and exercises outdoors in the nearby park. Later he took the guitar to the beach. That was not busking. That was outdoor study. How is busking different? [See next post.]

Robert Bekkers at the beach in Wailea, Maui, March 2011
Robert Bekkers at the beach in Wailea, Maui, March 2011

 

 

A stage with a view — in Ferrol, Spain

The drive to Ferrol in Christina’s orange and grey car crossed over rolling hills, plush valleys, and panoramic ocean views. Ferrol is a coastal city east of La Coruña, where we had been staying the past few days. She asked if we wanted to see the conservatory before the beach. I had heard Miguel say that it was a special concert hall with a beautiful view.

After a hearty lunch of Galician octopus tentacles drowned in a sea of olive oil with pressed garlic and chillies, we were ready for the fourth and final concert on our first trip to Spain. The drive to Ferrol in Christina’s orange and grey car crossed over rolling hills, plush valleys, and panoramic ocean views. She asked if we wanted to see the conservatory before heading for the beach.

“Yes!” we answered simultaneously. After yesterday morning’s focussed rehearsal in the “professional” conservatory in La Coruña, we looked forward to something similar before the evening concert.

Ferrol is a coastal city east of La Coruña, where we had been staying since 2nd May 2009. Our host David, who teaches there, organised this concert for us. He greeted us at the busy reception area and led us to an air-conditioned room with a new upright piano. “Sorry, it’s not a grand,” he apologised. “You can practise here for an hour. I will be next door.”

In the Netherlands, this “professional conservatory” would be the equivalent of a music school. The kinds of conservatories I’m familiar with are called “conservatorio superiore.”

Exactly an hour later, a dark-haired lady opened the door and came in. I recognised her immediately.

“Alexandria! I didn’t know you’re here!” I exclaimed to the pianist who had played in the first composer-in-residence ensemble project at Utrecht Conservatory in 2006. She was shy then, even during the rehearsal of my “Fantasia on Vibrating G Strings” which I wrote for that project led by Chiel Meijering and conducted by Henk Alkema in the Vredenburg.

“This is my room. I teach here,” Alexandria replied self-assuredly.

“We’re playing tonight,” I announced.

“I know,” she responded. “I will be there.”

Alexandria was not the first familiar musician I ran into. Only yesterday I had spotted another dark-haired Galician pianist. Hector, who was in my arranging class in Utrecht, was chatting outside the conservatory in La Coruña where we had spent the morning practising. Earlier I had discovered the pianist Miguel walking just ahead of us on the boardwalk after our concert on 3rd May. He was equally surprised to see our photo in the newspaper that morning. “Contemporary music?” he had shaken his sleepy head at breakfast. “What are Anne and Robert doing here in La Coruña?”

David appeared at this point. “You can go to the hall now, and try the piano before the concert before yours begins.” Our concert was scheduled just after another concert. We were lucky to have any time at all in the hall.

I had heard Miguel, at our “Break a Leg” concert, say that it was a special hall with a beautiful view.

View behind the stage in the Concert Hall in Ferrol, Spain
View behind the stage in the Concert Hall in Ferrol, Spain

The acoustics were not bad either. “Christina!” I asked. “Would you take a video of us?”

Robert prefers to end our popular three-centuries programme with the last movement of Mauro Giuliani’s Variations Op 113 (65) because it is very demanding. It’s printed as “Polonoise” but we think it should be “Polonaise” though it doesn’t sound like one.

Time to go to the beach! But why do we need to go to Christina’s car? Isn’t the beach just outside? Behind the stage?