Kickstart Streetlight Cadence beyond paradise: from Waikiki to Los Angeles

Honolulu-based Streetlight Cadence crowdfunds their next album Beyond Paradise for next destination: California


The exciting Honolulu-based quartet Streetlight Cadence announced their plans to leave for Los Angeles earlier this year. More recently they launched a Kickstarter Campaign to fund their next album “Beyond Paradise.” Having heard them perform LIVE on Maui and purchased their CDs, I am curious what they are up to next.

Continue reading “Kickstart Streetlight Cadence beyond paradise: from Waikiki to Los Angeles”

3 things I dislike about long haul travel

Long haul travel is great except for three things: it takes time to …..

As much as I love to travel, there are several things I dislike about long haul travel.

First, it takes time to get ready.

Not only do you have to prepare for the trip, you also have to clear and clean up your home so that you can have a peace of mind while you’re gone. I’ve often made the mistake of hiding important documents for safe keeping only to forget where I’ve put them upon my return.

For my most recent trip, I had to pack the right clothes for the different weather: warm in Knoxville, possibly cool in Boston, cold in London, hot and dry in Davis, and variable in San Francisco. It was spring and the pollen forecast was important for hayfever sufferers. I carried sufficient antihistamines to ward off allergies that are nearly non-existent in Hawaii.

Second, it takes time to unpack after you return.

For the same reasons that it takes a long time to prepare for your trip, it will take time to unpack all that you’ve accumulated and attend to the backlog built up during your absence.

It took me a day to do two loads of laundry, clean the floor, and unpack my two suitcases. It took another day to review my snail mail, water the garden, and get myself back on track.

Third, it takes time to shed the weight you’ve gained during your travels.

What a paradox it is to gain weight while traveling! The lack of routine and exercise combined with the temptation of eating out all cause water retention and the build up of fat. On this trip, I attributed the weight gain to having to wear a lot of clothes to keep warm — and subconsciously having to consume more food to feel warm and comfortable.

So now I am on a strict regimen. I wake up by dawn. Walk to the office. Do the one-hour workout class. Yoga. Swim if possible. Eat often but little. Abstain from alcohol. Aim to lose 10 pounds.

If it takes 2 days to pack, 2 days to unpack, and 2 weeks to lose weight for a 4 week trip, I suppose it’s worth it. Oh — did I mention jetlag? Time to get over your jetlag?

Other than these three items, I could list a hundred things I love about traveling. I will save that for another blog post.

Virtuoso pianist in San Francisco loft concert

There is something special about sitting among strangers in someone else’s home. We weren’t here to attend a birthday party or other personal celebration. We all came for the specific goal of experiencing a live performance in a private space.

It reminded me of the last house concert I organized, in which my reward (for organizing the concert) was enjoying the occasion from the first row seat, or rather, just behind the pianist. What did the hosts of tonight consider their reward? In the first half, all the seats were taken. They sat on the last few steps of the staircase. In the second half, they walked downstairs to free up the staircase for two couples and then stood in the kitchen, barely able to see above the others who were standing or sitting.

After the concert, I asked the Austrian lady sitting next to me if she was going to buy the Bulgarian pianist’s CDs. She had not brought any cash other than the $20 suggested donation. I did the same. I only had a credit card left. I suggested that we band together and leave an IOU for the pianist who had 4 CDs for sale. The gentleman next to me bought two. That whetted my appetite and made me want to get a CD.

The Austrian lady shook her head. She said the concert was well worth the $20, but she didn’t think she could fathom an IOU. It was not the custom. Instead she joined the queue to thank her personally.

There was a long line of people wanting to buy her CDs and talk to her. I looked around and observed. I didn’t know anyone except the hosts. Anybody would think that the hosts opened their loft apartment in this part of San Francisco, South of Market, on a regular basis for intimate occasions like this. It was a concert hall in a home.

The owner conceded that he hadn’t organized a concert in 6 months. He even gave the classical music Meet-Up online group that he had started to someone else. Where once organizing house concerts took mainstream in his life, he was now preoccupied with something else, something quite different. It was still community building but it was something much bigger.

“Next time,” I said to the owner, “you will have to open up the balcony seats.” This was the biggest turnout they had ever had. “You have set a standard. People will expect this from now on.”

During the intermission, someone asked him. “How did you know Nadejda?” He looked around and pointed at me. Later someone asked me, “Where is she from?” I didn’t know. I hadn’t met her in person.

I had come to this concert because it was Chong Kee’s invitation and it was the pianist that I had introduced to him via e-mail. In fact, I arranged my travel so that I would return to Maui via San Francisco —- to see her give this concert.

I knew Nadejda Vlaeva would not disappoint from perusing her website and watching her videos. Her discography was impressive, her repertoire outstanding. All this research begged a final resolution — to see her live in concert.

She began the evening telling the story of how little known Johann Sebastian Bach’s music was during the romantic era. Camille Saint-Saens subscribed to his music and transcribed them for his piano students. These became known as Saint-Saens’ Bach transcriptions. In playing the selections, Nadejda made an orchestra out of the piano, ending the 6 piece set with the well-known Overture from Cantata No. 29.

Next she introduced another set of lesser known works. Hans von Bulow dedicated his Carnivale di Milano to a ballerina. The mark of a great pianist is one who makes a difficult piece sound simple, causing the audience relax and enjoy the music. Several people were nodding their heads and moving their bodies, dancing with the rhythmic pulse.

After the intermission, Nadejda shared the challenge of interpreting a piece that was written for her. “Most of the time, I have to choose something to play. But this time the piece chose me.” Lowell Liebermann’s Variations on a Theme by Schubert, Op. 100, began with that simple but melodious Rosaline. Each variation got a bit more adventurous. With that, she brought us to the 21st century.

But then she confessed. She still preferred the Romantic Era. The remaining 3 pieces and 2 encores took us back to that age of nostalgia.

I was probably the last person to get my CDs signed. “Chopin Works for Piano and Orchestra” will be a gift for my mother. “A Treasury of Russian Romantic Piano” contains her first encore — Rebikov’s Musical Snuff Box and her second encore, Liadov’s Prelude in B minor Op. 11 No. 1. I can’t wait to listen to them.

I once heard a fellow classical music connoisseur lament that winners of piano competitions didn’t do so well in intimate, private spaces like house concerts. They don’t train performers to tell stories or develop a rapport with their listeners. Audience engagement is a skill that takes practice. Today’s audience demands more.

Obviously Nadejda is a seasoned performer. She engaged the audience. She made us laugh. This explained the long queue after the concert.

I left at 11 pm, satisfied that the concert hosts were happy.

Sacramento Guitar Society’s Guitar Sampler, Volume One

Sacramento Guitar Society gives its new members a 22-track CD called the Guitar Sampler, Volume One, containing works performed by Brandon Yip, Jamey Bellizzi, Daniel Roest, Louis Valentine Johnson, Ray Zhou, Greg Williams, Elizabeth Busch, Matthew Grasso, Gabriel Becker, Harold Sexton, Sean O’Connor, George England with Dr Cathie Apple, Gilda Taffet, and Anatoliy Yevsyukov. Wonderful gift of classical guitar!

It’s a lazy Saturday afternoon in Maui. All public swimming pools and libraries are closed because of Prince Kuhio’s birthday yesterday. While Robert is judging a guitar competition in Tucson, Arizona, I am doing filing and inserting various CDs we’ve acquired on our concert tour into the Mac Powerbook I’m typing on now.

One CD caused me to stop what I’m doing and listen. It’s the “Guitar Sampler, Volume One” from the Sacramento Guitar Society.

Daniel Roest, president of Sacramento Guitar Society, gave this CD to us when we appeared at their meeting in November 2010. The CD contains 22 tracks of beautiful guitar music by different members of this active guitar society in northern California. It’s one of the perks of joining the society as a member (and a gift if you give a concert there).

I am taking the liberty of linking the guitarists to their websites, below.  Where absent, I beg the guitarists to contact me with their links.

  1. Brandon Yip – Introduction from Valses Poeticos, Enrique Granados
  2. Brandon Yip – Melodico, from Valses Poeticos, Enrique Granados
  3. Jamey Bellizzi – Mantillas de Feria, Esteban Sanlucar
  4. Daniel Roest – Mazurka, Daniel Fortea
  5. Daniel Roest – Caçique, Attilio Bernardini
  6. Louis Valentine Johnson – Rumóres de la Caleta, Isaac Albéniz
  7. Ray Zhou – Fantasia 1a, John Dowland
  8. Ray Zhou – Passacaglia, Silvius Leopold Weiss
  9. Greg Williams – For Francesca, Greg Williams
  10. Greg Williams – So Lovely, So Lonely, Greg Williams
  11. Elizabeth Busch – La Catedral: Preludio (Saudade), Agustín Barrios Mangoré
  12. Elizabeth Busch – La Catedral: Andante Religioso, Agustín Barrios Mangoré
  13. Elizabeth Busch – La Catedral: Allegro Solemne, Agustín Barrios Mangoré
  14. Matthew Grasso – Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte, Maurice Ravel
  15. Harold Sexton – Sonata in B Minor, Domenico Cimarosa
  16. Harold Sexton – Prelude, BWV 998, Johann Sebastian Bach
  17. Gabriel Becker – Madroños, Federico Moreno Torroba
  18. Sean O’Connor – Fantasía, Luys de Narvaez
  19. Sean O’Connor – Prelude from the First Cello Suite, Johann Sebastian Bach
  20. George England with Dr. Cathie Apple, Flute – Bordel 1900, Astor Piazzolla
  21. Gilda Taffet –  raw time, Gilda Taffet
  22. Anatoliy Yevsyukov – Cuban Dance

In the process of looking for their links, I recalled that I had met Elizabeth Busch at our piano guitar concert the same evening in Carmichael. When musicians meet, they exchange CDs. Earlier at the guitar society meeting, I chatted with Anatoliy Yevsyukov who could not come to our evening concert because of his teaching commitments.

In the search for the guitarists’ websites I also discovered a lovely interpretation of “Over the Rainbow” for solo guitar by Harold Sexton below.

The good news, for those who are curious, you can listen to excerpts as well as order this CD from CDBABY.

As for when Volume Two will be released, that will have wait until Volume One gets a wider distribution and definitely after the West Coast Guitar Societies Round Table on 16th April 2011. Daniel Roest is spearheading the creation of a network of guitar societies. Hopefully this would lead to more guitar samplers like this one, showcasing talented guitarists from the region.

Bekkers interview in Davis, California

Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers answers questions about Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo concert tour in the USA.

After an early Thanksgiving dinner, the first of three in a 24-hour period, our host Rachel interviewed Robert Bekkers regarding the Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo America tour.

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo America Tour 2010

“So how does it feel to be at the end of your tour?” asked Rachel.

Thanksgiving in Honolulu with Kubasaki alumni

Thanksgiving dinners in northern California, on the airplane, and in Honolulu and a surprise ending: a high school reunion.

alternative title: Thanksgiving Day Feast in Honolulu with Hawaii Dragons

How many people get to celebrate Thanksgiving three times in a 24 hour period? We did.

Warning: this blog post is not about music or concerts. It’s about food, travel, and high school reunions.

On Wednesday, 24th November 2010, our scientist friends Rachel and Jeff cooked a late afternoon Thanksgiving dinner for us in northern California. The next morning we boarded Hawaiian Airlines and consumed a turkey lunch on the 4 hour 44 minute flight to Honolulu. When we deplaned just after 12 noon for the 8 hour deliberate layover in Honolulu, we never expected to be treated to a feast and a high school reunion.

Three years ago, Rinsei met us at the Honolulu airport on our way from Maui to Houston. It was the first time we met after a lengthy correspondence. He was the Welcome Committee of the Hawaii Dragons, the graduates of Kubasaki High School who left Okinawa and moved to Hawaii. I learned that he was instrumental in finding and recruiting Kubasaki alumni. The Hawaii Dragons meet on the first Wednesday of every month.

Rinsei introduced us to Irene, who started cooking the day before. The 28-pound turkey with stuffing, ham, purple Okinawan potato, sweet potato casserole with tiny marshmallows on top, edamame vegetables, and other delights too numerous to mention overfilled her kitchen and dining table. One oven was not enough. Luckily her neighbour was away.

Two Kubasaki graduates, Robert H and Eddie, waved to us from the balcony of Irene’s home. Later, Mike P. joined us.

“All of you graduated from Kubasaki?” I exclaimed. What a coincidence!

“Why do you think we invited you here?” Rinsei had coordinated this mini-reunion obviously.

It was the beginning of an afternoon of discoveries. Robert H, Eddie, Irene, Mike, and Rinsei were big on reunions. They claimed that the reunions they planned were better than any other. They went on to describe and show me by way of photos and DVD videos.

I had three excuses for not attending high school reunions.

  1. So far, the reunions planned by my class or including my class always took place in the summer time when I was reluctant to leave Europe for the USA [after waiting a long cold winter for better weather, how could I possibly leave?]
  2. I didn’t think of attending reunions of other class years because I wouldn’t know anyone.
  3. I wanted to wait until I was “ready” as I imagined reunions to be a game of comparison and competition, i.e. how people turned out.

Robert H proved me wrong.

  1. The reunions are worth it. They are so much fun. Even non-Kubasaki graduates love them and attend year after year.
  2. It doesn’t matter which year you graduated. It’s the shared experience of having gone to the same high school that matters. [We were all third culture kids.]
  3. It’s not about who wins or how successful you are. It’s about a sharing of a journey and a common past.

Kubasaki High School was born in 1946 with just 25 students on the island of Okinawa. It graduated its first class in 1947. It suddenly dawned on me that I would be meeting more high school graduates in the Hawaiian Islands than anywhere else I’ve lived since I left Okinawa.

with Dr Ward at Kubasaki High School in 1999
with Dr Ward at Kubasaki High School in 1999

A musical extravaganza in San Francisco

A musical extravaganza in San Francisco!

Before we go, we sing:

“Are you going to San Francisco

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.

We are both going to San Francisco

We’re gonna meet some gentle people there.”

How will we get there?  Between Houston and San Francisco, we can fly direct or make a detour to Denver or Salt Lake City or any other place that beckons us with a concert.

We have to get to San Francisco no later than Saturday 20th November for a musical extravaganza in the home of a piano enthusiast and house concert initiator. [In fact, we want to get there earlier than the 20th to visit the San Francisco Conservatory.]

I’ve not met or spoken to Chong Kee, but I feel we both have the same mission — to get people to experience the fun of a house concert.  Rather than JUST an evening concert, there will also be dinner & conversation  and a piano sightreading masterclass. All these are optional. Just choose which one you want to come to. Or all.

When we leave San Francisco, we will be singing

“I left my heart in San Francisco

High in a loft apartment on 10th Street.”

For more booking information, visit HIGH NOTE EVENTS.