Review: Classical Uke by Paul Mansell

Most newcomers to the ukulele jam scene that’s popping up all over the world use their instruments to accompany themselves singing songs they already know. These strummers may eventually cross to the other side where the instrument becomes the focus of attention. Welcome to the the world of pluckers, also known as fingerstyle playing. As a first step, they may start by reading tablature, where each number indicates the fret to press on the corresponding string.

Classical guitarist and ukulele expert Paul Mansell’s “Classical Uke” contains twenty short pieces transcribed for the beginning ukulele plucker. Easy to sight read and follow, these pieces whet the appetite of any ukulele enthusiast.

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Successful business models in music

How do you make money in music? To understand how musicians make money, I turn to successful business models. My paternal grandfather made a living teaching English. Teaching music is one of several ways to earn a living in music.

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Guitar and mandolin duo and trio at Great Falls Coffeehouse, Massachusetts

The guitar duo of Mark and Beverly Davis gave a memorable performance at Great Falls Discovery Center in Western Massachusetts, featuring the beloved “Lass of Patey’s Mill”

Robert and I were thrilled to see the announcement of Mark and Beverly Davis’ Duo concert on Facebook: Friday August 14th, 2015 at Great Falls Coffeehouse, in Turners Falls in Western Massachusetts. We were in Boston, five years after we first made contact with Mark on Skype from London to book our concert in their home in Connecticut. In planning our road trip, we remembered fondly of their hospitality and their beautiful CD which accompanied us on our long drives in autumn in New England through our five week concert tour that ended in Maui on Thanksgiving Day in 2010.

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Mozart’s Requiem to mourn a loss

Listen to Mozart’s Requiem on full blast to experience and mourn a loss.

Can anyone tell me the name of the movie in which a man and a woman date, get into a relationship, and split — the man listens to Mozart’s Requiem to cope with the break-up? The woman can read minds, so he is never private?

I watched that movie a long time ago — and developed a habit of listening to Mozart’s Requiem whenever I wanted to feel the sadness and tragedy of a situation.

When I returned to Maui recently, I came upon such an occasion. But my CD of Herbert von Karajan’s conducting Mozart’s Requiem was no longer with me. It’s probably among the entire collection of CDs that have vanished from my life — in Utrecht.

That in itself is cause for mourning.

Thanks to the Internet, I googled “Mozart’s Requiem” and listened to a version on Youtube. Much to my dissatisfaction at the slower pace and thinner texture, I searched for “Mozart’s Requiem Karajan” to find that particular version I knew and yearned.

Not only was I able to listen to the entire Requiem but also see the performers on Youtube. This nearly beats listening to the CD, except I have no stereo system. That too is gone.

What am I mourning? The loss of what is meaningful because the situation dictates it. What is meaningful comes from intention, be it a gift or purposeful acquisition. Over time, even that which was not intentionally and deliberately acquired could become meaningful if dwelled upon and appreciated.

Two weeks ago, I returned to London and took out what I had stored in suitcases, photo albums, and boxes — everything that I had wanted to keep and preserve in the secret loft. I was like a child again, returning home, surrounding myself with everything familiar and nearly forgotten in the years I’ve been away.

Sadly, after reducing my possessions by half, I had to store the remaining half away, boxed up and sealed. I don’t know when I will return again.

In the 10 hour flight to San Francisco, I bid farewell via two onboard movies and a nap. Flying westbound was a journey of goodbye, mourning of a reluctant loss.

Listen to Mozart’s Requiem on full blast — and you will experience a great tragedy.

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

Live recording of concerts on CD

Listening to live recording of a concert is different from that of a studio recording.

Releasing CDs of live recordings of concerts is a scary thing. You can’t edit the recording of a concert like you can of studio takes. It has to sound live — the way the music has been performed. There will be mistakes. There will be audience intervention such as coughs and background noise. A live recording is never perfect, but it is live.

When we decided to make CDs out of live recordings of two concerts, we joined other musicians in embracing this brave new world.

As concert producer, reviewer, promoter, and now talent scout, I get CDs in the post and as gifts. On tour, it’s not been possible to listen to these CDs in optimal acoustical surroundings. I have no stereo system in the rented apartment in Maui where I’m taking a sabbatical from my usual existence (in the Netherlands).

When I received a package from Italy recently, I was astonished to find just how powerful the Vatican radio broadcast recording was from my laptop. It’s the bicentennial of Franz Liszt’s birth and music festivals celebrating his music are springing up everywhere. Coincidentally the International Liszt Piano Competition is also held this year in Utrecht, where I normally live.

Pianist Leonora Baldelli’s interpretation of Liszt is sizzling on the Vatican radio broadcast CD that I received. Soprano Alessandra Benedetti joins her from track 6 onwards, not music of Liszt but of arias from operas of Mozart, Puccini, Rossini, and Verdi. Such a powerful voice Benedetti has! Such powerful playing of Baldelli! I have yet to meet either musician, but I feel I already know them from the live recording. More than anything, listening to their music reminds me of how much work and dedication it is to produce something so magnificent.

Million dollar view in Cortona, Italy July 2007
Million dollar view in Cortona, Italy July 2007 (click to get Tuscany tour)

Preparing for Maine in Maui: making 3 CDs for concert tour

Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers races against time to finish producing three CDs for his upcoming solo concert tour of Boston, Wells, Pelham, Houston, and Phoenix.

Dutch classical guitarist Robert Bekkers is preparing three new CDs for his upcoming solo concert tour of Boston, Wells (Maine), Pelham (New York), Houston, and Phoenix. The first two are live recordings of the Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo in concert in Maui (2007) and Durham, North Carolina (2010). The third is a new solo CD still being recorded from the bedroom of the apartment below.

Combining breakfast with making the artwork for the 2nd CD in Maui
Combining breakfast with making the artwork for the 2nd CD in Maui

Before the sun appears above the slopes of the volcano Haleakala, he is already awake, preparing coffee and breakfast. He usually reads his music history book while it is still cool in the apartment.

On Saturday 29th January 2011, he turns on his laptop and imports the new photos from the previous evening —  a private viewing of a newly commissioned painting Maui-based artist Frances Ku. He crops and re-sizes the image of the unframed watercolor of guitar and piano.

All preparations for this second CD, the live recording of his duo’s concert at Duke University on 2nd November 2010, have been made, except for the artwork.

The 10 tracks from the Duke CD have been uploaded onto CDBABY. The CD itself is being copied in upper Kula, in a house on the path to the crater of Haleakala. All he has to do now is to make the CD cover and send it to the CD presser and at the same time upload the album artwork onto CDBABY.

Meanwhile he is practising his solo repertoire to finish the third CD which contains the one-hour programme he will play on his solo concert tour. After the recording, he will listen to each track, edit, and master them to create a CD.

For the first CD, Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo LIVE in Makawao, he used a photo of the new painting “Piano and guitar in acryllic” by Georgia-based artist Rob Judkins. He extracted pieces of the photo image for the poster for the house concert in Maine. He also cropped part of Judkins’ painting for the CD label, which appears on the physical CD itself.

In the week that remains on Maui, he will be racing against time to finish recording his solo album, finish the artwork for the second CD, and assemble the envelopes (CD sleeves) for the first CD.

Next blog posts: CDs, music, collaboration with artists and composers.