Getting close to 94,000

Whenever visitor numbers gets to the next 1,000, I am compelled to write something.

Whenever the total number of visitors inches towards the next notch of 1,000, I feel an urge to write a blog post.

Somehow, knowing that I can influence my blog statistics gives me a sense of urgency and power.

But the visitors that arrive at the Concertblog are not necessarily lured by the latest blog post. There is a time lag. Search engines drive the traffic here.

Originally this blog was intended to chart the adventures of our piano guitar duo as we travel and perform in Europe, USA, and Asia.

Except, we are now on sabbatical.

Robert is pursuing his doctorate in the musical arts (DMA, for short) at the New England Conservatory in Massachusetts. I am teaching piano and running a electric vehicle project in Hawaii. We don’t get to perform or rehearse together.

You can find our music online in video format (youtube) and discography.

Below is probably one of our earliest rehearsals captured on video — in Ealing, London, 2003.

Birthday concert in Amsterdam

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo recalls the birthday concert in Amsterdam, including the well-received piano-guitar premiere of Mark Francis’ Guitar Concerto.

Unlike the Chinese who consider a birthday worth celebrating only if the age ends in a zero after retirement, the Dutch happily celebrate every single birthday. It’s the one day in the year, your family and close friends can turn up at your door uninvited and unannounced. When you arrive, you’d congratulate everyone else — not just “happy birthday” to the one whose birthday it is.

Our first booking for a birthday concert was made by our next-door neighbour as a surprise 50-year birthday gift to his wife who loved classical music. He hired us to give a one hour concert in our own home. Afterwards we were invited to join them in their home for a chef-catered dinner and festivities.

Last month, we were asked by the producers of the Funen Concerts Art Productions in Amsterdam to provide a half-hour programme (1 page PDF) for a private concert for the birthday of an architect. We have given many one-hour performances at Funen Concerts or FCAP for short. Each time there was a different art exhibition, for the owners turned their home into an art gallery.

While it was easy to include the more popular pieces from our 2011 and 2010 concerts, we thought we’d add something entirely new: a movement of a new guitar concerto. Award-winning American composer Mark Francis had written his second guitar concerto for an orchestra in Jackson, Mississippi. Unbeknownst to us, our performance on Sunday 17th July 2011 was the world premiere of the piano and guitar version of the concerto.

Before the music, the birthday gentleman announces. Photo: FCAP
The birthday announcements. Photo: FCAP

There was a buzz not commonly found in our audiences. Because it was a birthday celebration and a gift of the birthday gentleman to his guests, the concert was received as a gift. These were not ticket-holders but recipients of a gift. We, as performers, felt the buzz.

When we announced that we were premiering a new piece, we felt that buzz again. We mentioned that new music was not as well received by general audiences in the USA as it was here in the Netherlands. In other words, we dared to include a new piece by a composer not known in this country at a privately commissioned concert.

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo, birthday concert in Amsterdam. Photo: FCAP
Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo, birthday concert in Amsterdam. Photo: FCAP

To our surprise, the audience smiled. They welcomed such a new work. They felt privileged that we’d select this occasion to premiere a new piece whose orchestral debut was less than two months before. After the 45-minute concert, one lady approached us as we were leaving to tell us that she specifically enjoyed the modern piece.

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo, birthday concert in Amsterdam. Photo: FCAP
Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo, birthday concert in Amsterdam. Photo: FCAP

We did not know enough about the work or the composer to share with the audience. As with good works of art, each time you visit, you enjoy it more than the previous. The first time we played it, we thought there was potential. But we had only rehearsed it three times together before we performed the first movement which we thought was the shortest and easiest of all three. What does the guitar concerto sound like with a real orchestra? We had no idea.

Robert Bekkers on Jeroen Hilhorst concert guitar in Amsterdam. Photo: FCAP
Robert Bekkers on Jeroen Hilhorst concert guitar in Amsterdam. Photo: FCAP

Peter Cottontail sheet music piano, guitar, lyrics

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo’s own arrangement from Gene Autry’s version of Peter Cottontail song is now available.

In the quest for sheet music for “Here comes Peter Cottontail,” the song made famous by Gene Autry in 1950, I discovered I could not download the plug-in successfully to a computer attached to a printer. Thus I could not order the sheet music for the Easter Sunday lunch concert tomorrow.

That version is not the one I heard on youtube.

A Dutch oboeist friend commented on my Facebook status that a Dutch French horn player friend had the wind quintet version of “Peter Cottontail.” This led me to suspect that wind instruments were used in the original version.

Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers captured that in his transcription from the Gene Autry (1950) version of this popular song.

Click on the image below to get page 1 of the 3-page arrangement in PDF. This is a result of a cross-world collaboration through Facebook, phone, email, Sibelius notation software, Adobe PDF-maker, …. Utrecht — 12 hour time zone difference — Hawaii.

Peter Cottontail arranged by Robert Bekkers and Anne Ku (April 2011)
Peter Cottontail arranged by Robert Bekkers and Anne Ku (April 2011)

If you would like the remaining 2 pages of the above piano arrangement with guitar chords and lyrics, simply order a CD from us via CDBABY, and I will be happy to email you a copy of the PDF for free.

Musicians exchange CDs

Musicians exchange CDs when they meet each other. CDs convey more than business cards. Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo exchanged many CDs on their USA tour.

The practice of exchanging business cards is translated into the exchange of CDs when musicians meet.

A CD says more about your music than your business card.

The first CD we received on our 5-week USA tour in 2010 was the solo guitar compositions played by Frank Wallace, the composer himself. The second was Duo Live Oak, the duo with his wife Nancy Knowles whom we’ve yet to meet. Frank organised our second concert in Boston, in the home of Karen Parsons in Newton, Massachusetts. That CD marked the beginning of our journey in discovering remarkable individuals who took time from their passionate pursuit of music making to help us with ours.

Frank Wallace, composer and guitarist
Frank Wallace, composer and guitarist

In fact, our first three concerts were organised by musicians: Peter Terry of JP Concerts in Boston, Frank Wallace, and Mark and Beverly Davis of Hampton, Connecticut. We listened to the CDs of Frank Wallace and “Ayres and Dances” CD of the guitar duo of Mark and Beverly during our drive through Massachusetts and Connecticut: autumn in New England.

In Durham, North Carolina, we exchanged CDs with Elaine Funaro, master harpischordist and executive director of the Aliénor Harpsichord Competition. The Aliénor Sampler is a demo CD of live recordings of selected pieces from the competition, recorded in 2008 and 2009. Elaine also gave us “Incantations & Inspirations Duo d’amore” a nicely wrapped CD of new music for baroque oboe and harpsichord.

By the time we ended our mainland USA tour and arrived in Maui, we had exchanged many CDs with our “Summer CD” — our first album. Only then, after we had found a place to live and produce the next 3 albums, did we have time to listen to the CDs that we collected. Only then did we put the music to the names and faces of those musicians we met on tour.

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo first album: Summer
Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo first album: Summer

Two year anniversary of Concert Blog today!

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo’s concertblog on wordpress.com began 2 years ago. Time to categorise the topics.

Hard to believe that it has been exactly 2 years since we launched the Concert Blog on WordPress.com to document our adventures and discoveries in music. Since our first blog on 24th March 2009, we have evolved from writing about our duo to reviewing concerts and sharing insights into cultural economics of concertizing.

The two-year journey has taken us from the Netherlands to England, Crete, Belgium, Spain, Finland, Denmark, Italy, France, Taiwan, and the USA. In addition to the musicians and composers who have actively contributed to our concertizing and exploration in the world of live and recorded music, we have worked with artists, photographers, film makers, and other interesting people from all walks of life to make concerts happen. What we learned, we shared. We are grateful to all the feedback from readers and audiences everywhere.

It is now time to categorise the different topics and make it easier for readers to access from our Blog Page.

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo in Wailea, March 2011. Photo: Dennis O'Keefe
Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo in Wailea, 16 March 2011. Photo: Dennis O'Keefe

Time to celebrate! But Robert flies to Phoenix tonight and Anne to San Francisco in mid-May.

Count down to guitar solo concert tour

Robert Bekkers, guitarist, prepares his three week solo concert tour of Boston to Phoenix in February.

Five hours before Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers boards the airplane for his trans-Pacific and coast-to-coast red-eye (overnight) flight from Maui to Boston, he finishes a hearty meal at the cafeteria of Maui College famous for its award-winning Culinary Academy. Every Monday to Thursday between 11 am and 1 pm, Paina Meals at $5 a plate are served. Today he chose the more expensive $7.90 swordfish with purple potato as a send-off meal. He knows that there will be NO complimentary meals served on Hawaiian Airlines and Delta Airlines for the long journey.

Guitarist Robert Bekkers at Maui College in Hawaii
Guitarist Robert Bekkers at Maui College in Hawaii

An e-mail from the concert host in Wells, Maine brings a reality check:

“As the day draws near, I’m praying for NO MORE SNOW! We’ve had so much with more expected, and I’m concerned about parking. There is just no more room to push the mountains of snow that have accumulated around the driveway.”

That concert of “Guitar meets Piano” will take place on Sunday 13th February, a day of travel for Robert Bekkers on the Boston T-line and the Amtrak. Before then, he will have given two house concerts in Boston. Valentine’s Day on Monday 14th February will be another day of travel, by Amtrak from Wells, Maine to Boston and then the Peter Pan coach to Manhattan.

What he brings to these concert hosts and their guests are three new CDs he produced in Maui: a solo guitar album and two live recordings of his Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo concerts in Maui and at Duke University. He hopes and expects the sale of these CDs to support this 3 week tour of Boston, Wells, Pelham, Houston, and Phoenix.

Makawao concert poster and CD

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo releases Live in Makawao CD of their first public concert in the USA — 29th December 2007. Included are music for piano and guitar for 3 centuries.

A framed poster of our first public concert in the USA hangs on my mother’s wall. It’s the only one that survives today.

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo concert at Makawao Union Church, December 2007
Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo concert at Makawao Union Church, December 2007

The CD will soon be available on CDBaby and at all concerts that Robert Bekkers plays on his solo concert tour. Our hope is that it will sell out to enable us to reinvest in arranging more music for piano guitar, collaborate with other enthusiastic music lovers and musicians, and encourage more composers to write for this combination.

The piano and the guitar are rarely heard today as a classical duo. At this concert in December 2007, which has been recorded and released on CD Live in Makawao, you can hear original music written for piano and guitar from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

While we have to research the origins of the earlier works, we have only to e-mail or speak to the composers in the 21st century.

Haarlem-based guitarist and composer Erik Otte was the first person to write for our duo. He dedicated the 4-part Rio de la Plata to us. With South American influences, the music is about love. The first movement opens with a bang, symbolising a break-up. The fourth movement is very energetic (below).

We invited Amsterdam-based composer Allan Segall to the premiere of Rio de la Plata at the “Mustard Seed” in Santpoort for he could not believe that a piano and guitar could be a feasible duo. After hearing Otte’s piece, Allan stood up and announced that he would write something for us.

Segall’s “When JS Bach, Igor Stravinsky, and the Who Met” is a challenging and terribly exciting piece. It’s extremely demanding to get it together. Segall suggested that we watch “Tommy” to get the feel of the rock musical which is embedded in the piece. It’s the only work in which the guitar overpowers the piano.

Once these pieces were added to our repertoire, we started actively looking for composers to write for our duo. Utrecht-based Henk Alkema wrote “Sailor Talk” on a programmatic subject he knew well for he loves sailing. We premiered it at the Cortona Contemporary Music Festival in 2007.

At the same festival, we played Toronto-based Lan Chee Lam’s “Drizzle.” The Dutch audience especially love this piece — kind of oriental and exotic. Lan Chee is the youngest composer to have written for our duo. She finally came to the Netherlands in January 2010, for the premiere of another work of hers.

Lan Chee Lam, composer of "Drizzle" in Utrecht, Feb 2010
Lan Chee Lam, composer of "Drizzle" in Utrecht, January 2010

Rob Judkins art for Rob Bekkers music

An original artwork such as the acrylic painting of piano and guitar by Georgia-based artist Rob Judkins gets used for CD cover art and concert posters, inspire musicians and music lovers.

“Where shall I send your painting?” asked Georgia-based artist Rob Judkins.

Before I answer that question, let me share with you what we have done with images of that maginificent acrylic painting of piano and guitar — a painting which we have yet to see and touch in real life. We musicians are in Maui, 5 hour time zones from Georgia and an overnight flight away. I have not seen Rob Judkins since high school. I desperately want to see the painting, but I also want to display it in a location where I can show it to others. In fact, I want to show this 32″x48″ painting wherever I go, not just in Maui, but also San Francisco, London, Amsterdam, and Utrecht. Can I take the painting on the road like the way I can with our music?

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo Live in Makawao CD label
Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo Live in Makawao CD label

The stack of 99 CDs sit on the shelf. The first person to buy this CD was the host of a house concert in upper Kula. Who will be the lucky 2nd, 3rd, etc?

We will, of course, give copies to the living composers whose works we played in the Makawao Union Church concert in Maui in December 2007: Allan Segall in Amsterdam, Henk Alkema in Utrecht, Erik Otte in Haarlem, and Lan-Chee Lam in Toronto. We will send copies to the artist Rob Judkins in Columbus, Georgia.

We will post 5 copies to CDBABY where the physical album will be sold for $39 each — limited edition. We want to encourage people to come to our concerts or, better, organise concerts for us. At these live concerts, we will sell them for $20 to $25 each. Bulk orders get a discount.

We will bring them to the Maui Rotary Club this coming Thursday 3rd February 2011 when Robert Bekkers gives a solo concert at their weekly luncheon.

Images of Rob Judkins’ acryllic painting were also used in the publicity for the forthcoming house concert in Wells, Maine.

Guitar meets piano at Meetinghouse concert in Wells, Maine
Guitar meets piano at Meetinghouse concert in Wells, Maine

Download the one page colour PDF of the above poster here. How wonderful to have original artwork to promote music both recorded and live!

Piano and guitar in acryllic by Rob Judkins

Anne Ku’s high school friend Rob Judkins painted his vision of piano and guitar in acryllic for the Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo’s next CD: Live in Makawao, Maui.

I have not seen or spoken to my friend Robby Judkins, as he was called then, since our graduation from Kubasaki High School in Okinawa. His Japanese wood cut print “Kokoro Kara” still hangs in my London home, reminding me of his extraordinary talent for creating something beautiful. It was Keats who said “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Everyone who has visited or stayed in that Victorian Cottage in Ealing has seen and experienced the beauty that Robby created.

Kokoro kara by Robby Judkins
Kokoro kara wood block print by Robby Judkins

“Kokoro kara” means from the heart. When one creates from the heart, one shares what one feels. I have often wondered about the Japanese wood block print. What were the two figures looking at? What was Robby’s inspiration?

Many years later, I found Robby on Facebook as Rob Judkins. Glancing through his photo album, I saw that he has continued to paint with a clear development into his own style.

I was relieved to see this, for I had heard of too many adults who gave up pursuing their childhood hobby or passion. I nearly did, only to return to music to find myself again. In doing so, I also remembered my dream to be free to travel the world.

I daresay that I am extremely privileged to be on Rob Judkin’s private mailing list — as a recipient of his latest works of art by e-mail.

His latest work is a colourful vision of piano and guitar. Although Rob Judkins has not heard or seen us perform, he has imagined it well. Our music is very exciting –as though the strings fly off the guitar and keys pop out the piano. We always get an adrenaline rush when we play.

Piano and Guitar in acryllic by Rob Judkins (2011)
Piano and Guitar in acryllic by Rob Judkins (2011)

The painting is 32″x48″ acrylic on boxed panel. Rob Judkins calls it “Anne’s instruments” since it was painted specifically for the Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo and the purpose of an album cover. It will be on the cover of our next CD: Makawao Live — a recording of our first public concert in the USA — at the Makawao Union Church in Maui on 29th December 2007.

When asked what inspired him to paint this, Rob wrote, “I wanted to do something different from your last album cover which by the way I thought was very beautiful, highly styled and cool. But this image is free and uninhibited, a feeling of anything goes…..guitar strings popping and piano keys flying. The instruments are alive. Its like the feeling of the music flowing through your body.”

Rob Judkins loves to paint. The majority of his paintings are in acrylics but he has many oils and some water colors. He has a range of sizes from 8″x10″ canvas to pieces as large as a 36″x80″. The majority of his work is hanging at D’Allens Salon and the Columbus Hospice, in Columbus, GA and some pieces at the Joseph House Art Gallery in Columbus, GA.

Rob spent a year and a half at Auburn University School of Arts but changed his career to the school of business. His passion for the arts still drives him to create and achieve interest and quality in his work. He spent his high school years in Okinawa, Japan taking Chinese painting and Japanese wood block printing classes. That influence can be seen in some of his work. Rob likes a wide variety of styles in painting. He will strive to paint a realistic landscape or an abstract painting. He says it doesn’t matter what the results as long as it speaks to someone or provokes a feeling in the individual viewer he has accomplished his purpose.

Rob Judkins’ art portfolio can be viewed from his website at http://www.robjudkinsartgallery.com/gallery.html 

Live recording for radio Houston

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo returned to Houston in 2010 and appeared on Houston Public Radio KUHF Front Row Programme for the second time with previews of their forthcoming second CD Winter!

What a surprise to discover  Houston Public Radio KUHF chose us for their final programme of the Front Row in 2010! We had pre-recorded it on Friday 12th November 2010, a busy day that began at 6:30 am with interview at another Houston radio station, followed by a free public concert at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The nearly one hour programme is on the KUHF webpage. “Husband-and-wife musicians, guitarist Robert Bekkers and pianist Anne Ku treat us to a salon concert from the Geary Performance Studio! Based in The Netherlands, …” more

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo in Warmond, Netherlands Photo: Humphrey Daniels
Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo in Warmond, Netherlands Photo: Humphrey Daniels

The program previews our forthcoming CD Winter — which follows our first CD Summer! The producer Bob Stevenson asked us to play the first and last (skipping the slow second) movement of Vivaldi’s Winter from his Four Seasons. We gave this programme during 2010 in the Netherlands and on our 5-week USA tour.

Included on this show was a short guitar solo cadenza of the Dutch national anthem which Robert invented for the lengthy Grand Potpourri National. The other original work for piano and guitar was the second half of Amsterdam-based composer Gijs van Dijk’s “Abstract and Dance.” Robert Bekkers had arranged Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (first piece on the KUHF programme and played in its entirety). Another arranged piece for our duo was Fritz Kreisler’s version of Manuel de Falla’s Spanish Dance from La Vida Breve which we both adapted for piano and guitar (also the entire piece).

Order of works on the Front Row Program:

first part: (mp3)

  • Arrival of the Queen of Sheba Handel, arr. Bekkers
  • Spanish Dance from La Vida Breve, de Falla, arr. Kreisler, Bekkers, Ku

second part: (mp3)

  • Winter, Vivaldi, arr. Bekkers (1st and 3rd movement only)

third part: (mp3)

What’s interesting about this recording session was that we were playing to an invisible and unknown audience that would listen in the future — an unknown date in the future on which it would be broadcasted and an unknown date on which people would listen online. There was no applause in the recording studio of the radio station. You could say we had only two people in the audience in the studio: the producer Bob Stevenson interviewing us, and sound engineer Todd Hulslander on the other side of the glass window.

Some corrections: I didn’t graduate from Utrecht University but Utrecht Conservatory in 2008, two completely different institutions both located in Utrecht, Netherlands. Robert mentioned he had to bring down “Winter” one whole note — what he meant was whole tone — a Dutchism.

The radio programmers chose a photo of us taken by the Dutch photographer Humphrey Daniels in a monastic church in Warmond, Netherlands where we had recorded a concert towards the end of 2008. One of those pieces (recorded by Dutch sound engineer Boy Griffioen) found its way to our first CD Summer — Romance from Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nacht Musik, arranged for our duo by Robert Bekkers.

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo at Utrecht Conservatory K108 Photo: Olaf Hornes
Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo at Utrecht Conservatory K108 Photo: Olaf Hornes

We noticed a huge difference between our second recording at KUHF in 2010 and the first in 2007! The first live recording and interview in December 2007 was also the first time Robert and I had ever appeared on radio. We thought we would pre-record it and thus arrived an hour early. Little did we know that it was going to be a LIVE broadcast! We were less talkative and less knowledgeable about being interviewed in 2007.