Tag Archives: harp

Maui College Chorus: Earth Songs

First I met the conductor, Celia Canty. Then I saw the college choir perform. Next I wrote reviews.

Now I accompany the singers, arrange for them to perform, and blog about their upcoming performances.

Maui College Chorus, April 2012. Photo: Lloyd Canty

Maui College Chorus, April 2012. Photo: Lloyd Canty

I asked Celia about her choice of songs for the Spring 2012 concert. “They all have to do with the earth,” she replied in a recent interview. “The songs are from all over the world, and the choir sings them in original language. But ‘earth’ also has another meaning, too — as in planting trees, jasmine flower, etc.”

In the beginning, the choir was a collection of  individuals with separate voices and universes. After weeks of rehearsing, they blend into one single sound. It requires hearing oneself and hearing others. Celia Canty, who has perfect pitch, can hear if someone sings out of tune. She says it’s both a blessing and a curse to have this ability to hear absolute pitch, as it’s sometimes called.

When we arranged to have the college cable TV crew film the singers, it was intended as a concert performance with no audience. I would have preferred a video of a rehearsal, for that’s far more interesting than a concert. At a rehearsal, one gets to learn. One gets to see how the raw material becomes refined into something beautiful. See the video below of a rehearsal of the popular Chinese folk song — Jasmine Flower, which Puccini used in the opera Turandot and which I once arranged for harp (PDF) because I loved it so much and wanted to play it.

Watch short video clip: Celia Canty rehearses Maui College Chorus on harp

Maui College Chorus, Spring 2012. Photo: Lloyd Canty

Maui College Chorus, Spring 2012. Photo: Lloyd Canty

Performances (all free):

  • 13 April 2012 @2:45 pm Preview for Academic Senate Meeting, UHMC
  • 19 April 2012 @3:45 pm Roselani Place, Kahului
  • 27 April 2012 @7 pm Iao Congregational Church, Wailuku
  • 3 May 2012 @4 pm Kalama Heights, Kihei
Maui College Chorus Concert Program, Spring 2012

Maui College Chorus Concert Program, Spring 2012


Filed under arrangement, audience, concert, photos, piano, recording, rehearsal, travel, venues

When busking becomes an outdoor concert

In my previous blog post, I mentioned busking as a barrier-free way to perform to an audience without the guarantee of payment. In Utrecht, Netherlands and the London Underground, a busking license is required. Aside from adverse weather conditions and the odd listener, busking has much lower transaction costs than a concert, which has to be organised, publicised, etc.

My harpist friend Peter Murphy uses busking as a shopfront for listeners to hear him play, chat with him, and book him for higher-revenue gigs of greater certainty, e.g. weddings. He became so successful in London that he appeared in a special documentary on UK television.

When does busking become a concert?

Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers and the soprano Mirella Reiche had agreed in advance when, where, and what they would be playing. Yesterday, he gave me their set list for this afternoon’s performance outside the central library in Utrecht. He told me they would play at 2 pm.

I am now free to publicise it and draw an audience. I can even tell them to donate into his guitar case. I can tell this audience that his share of the donations goes towards his forthcoming studies with maestro Eliot Fisk in Boston where he is headed next. All this additional information dispersed in advance for publicity to draw an interested crowd on Market Day (Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday in Utrecht) large enough to make an outdoor performance worthwhile is what turns busking into an outdoor concert.

As with all outdoor performances, good weather is key to entice people to come and stay. Unfortunately summer in Utrecht, Netherlands is not winter in Tucson, Arizona.

Consider a pre-notified and publicised event: an outdoor concert outside a restaurant in Tucson in February 2011. That was not busking — but where was the audience?

Robert Bekkers gives solo guitar concert outside a restaurant in Tucson, February 2011

Robert Bekkers gives solo guitar concert outside a restaurant in Tucson, February 2011 Photo: J.Rhoads

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Filed under audience, communication, concert, economics, guitar, personality, photos, planning, travel, venues

Afternoon Tea Trio and Duets

Also known as Trio Afternoon Tea and Piano Duets

subtitled: Musicians Open Day

What do we want to do after hosting two consecutive concerts from our home? Chill out.

I want to hear the brand new trio of French horn, concert harp, and soprano — an unusual combination.

Trio Afternoon Tea: Emile Kaper, Kitty de Geus, Maria Pozdynakova

Trio Afternoon Tea: Emile Kaper, Kitty de Geus, Maria Pozdynakova

I want to play and hear the new multi-hand piano duets that did not get performed in San Francisco.

But most of all, I’d like to get the two pianists Nathanael May and Brendan Kinsella to share their views on the future for professional classically-trained musicians and conduct a career workshop. To lure musicians to participate in the discussions on topics close to their hearts, I am inviting a professional photographer and videographer to make press photographs and videos. I am inviting Chef Hany to once again provide an Egyptian feast for all. We will have workshops on how to launch a concert tour, writing professional biographies, and advanced networking skills.

Like the two previous events in this weekend of house concerts at the Monument House, there will be organic wine tasting, raffle draw, and silent auction. What’s different is that the performances are FREE to the public. The dinner is again 18 euros (but including a glass of organic wine).

Musicians get a discount of 10 euros if they recruit 1 dinner guest; 5 euros if they recruit 2 dinner guests; and a free dinner if they recruit 3 dinner guests. Otherwise, they pay 15 euros (not including wine, which is 2 euros per glass). In other words, musicians (performer, composer, conductor, teacher) pay nothing if they get 3 guests to reserve/pay dinners, 5 euros if 2 guests, 10 euros if 1 guest.

Discussion panels topics:

  • future of classical musicians’ career (given budget cuts), i.e. how to survive as a musician after budget cuts
  • work life balance: how to have a career in music and have a family
  • concert touring: how to do this, costs and benefits, contacts
  • house concerts: variety of approaches, audience development
  • music for a cause: fundraising, publicity, and the new revenue model
  • what do you need to have a career in music? website? photographs? social media networking?

To reserve, visit the High Note Live website.

The concert itself is FREE — or rather, by donations only — similar to the Glass Vase Concert of 2011 concept.

"Blue and White Vases"  24x36 acrylic on hard board by Rob Judkins (2011)

"Blue and White Vases" 24x36 acrylic on hard board by Rob Judkins (2011)

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Filed under art, audience, composer, composition, concert, economics, food, fundraising, photos, piano, sight reading, travel, trio, venues, video

From entertainment to art: review of Maui Choral Arts

Last December I reviewed the Christmas concert of the Maui Choral Arts Association (MCAA) in Kihei. It was an entertaining performance, launching the holiday season for me and my partner who had just arrived in Maui the previous month for a long sabbatical.

Last Saturday 19th March 2011, on the eve of the biggest full moon in 24 years, we attended the spring concert of MCAA “Sing On, Sing On!”  The location was the same — Kihei Baptist Chapel. The choir members were largely the same — same size, same make-up. Yet the Lei of Stars Maui Choral Festival Concert was entirely different from the December concert.

How best to put it? My partner said, “There is a thin line between entertainment and art. They have crossed it.”

There was no question of the entertainment value of this well-attended concert. The programme was varied enough to please anyone. From the opening blessing and chant of deep voiced Jimmy Aarona to the familiar “If Music Be the Food of Love” that was also sung at the December concert, we heard famous choral works of Verdi’s Nabucco and La Traviata as well as Haydn’s The Creation. The harp was awakened with two solo harp interludes by artistic and executive director Celia Canty, who is the founder and resident conductor of the Festival Chorus and Paradise Singers. Several soloists stepped out of the choir to sing Verdi and Haydn.

Maui Choral Arts Spring Concert 2011 in Kihei, Maui

Maui Choral Arts Spring Concert 2011 in Kihei, Maui

From the flowing Hawaiian song “No Ka Beauty O Honokohau” with a young hula dancer Makena Pang on stage to the exciting and syncopated Israeli folksong “Zum Gali,” the singers sang with unmistakenable passion and love. It was sheer joy to see, hear, and feel their enthusiasm.

We as the audience were not mere onlookers. The conductors spoke to us and involved us. In recognition of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Canty invited us to sing the first piece “E Ho’omaluhia” or Dona Nobis Pacem. We were also invited to sing the last piece “Aloha ‘Oe.”

The singers sang to us. Audience engagement led to a very appreciative audience, particularly of the conductors’ acknowledgment of the accompanist Angie Carr behind the Baldwin grand piano and the individual soloists.

If an interesting and diverse programme coupled with audience engagement is essential to entertainment, then what is art?

Guest conductor Dr Donald Neuen from UCLA worked with the choir for several consecutive days before the concert. Although we were not present for the intensive rehearsals, we imagine them to be somewhat like those from the movie “As It is in Heaven” in which a conductor changes the choir, the way they perceive themselves, the way the view the music, and the result is art not entertainment.

One example of this was demonstrated in the prequel to Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria. After briefly introducing the composer’s background, Neuen asked the men to sing a passage with crescendo and decrescendo. Because it was so repetitive, he asked them to sing the same passage again, adhering strictly to correct rhythm and articulation but without any variation in dynamics whatsoever. He did the same with the female singers. This short exercise gave a glimpse into the sort of extensive nuances Neuen asked of the choir members in the rehearsals —-  weaving colourful layers upon each other to paint an art work that does not just impress but take us on a journey far from the familiar.

After the concert: Celia Canty, David Neuen, and Angie Carr

After the concert: Celia Canty, David Neuen, and Angie Carr

For those of you who missed this concert, mark your diaries for their season finale concert on Saturday 30th April 2011 at 7 pm in the same location: Kihei Baptist Chapel. Strangers in Paradise will present an evening of music from broadway, movies, and opera. More info, visit Maui Choral Arts Association.


Filed under art, audience, composer, concert, culture, rehearsal, venues

Making her dream come true: a harp for a harpist

The door bell rang while I was chatting on the phone with an artist about surviving as independent artists. I was writing a blog on making your dreams come true and couldn’t resist asking him to divulge the secret to living a dream as an artist.

Before I turned professional (as in depending on income from music rather than for fun), I thought musicians and artists had it easy. They get paid to do what they love while the rest of us try to love what we do, follow other people’s agendas, and get taxed heavily for it.

Now that I’m a full-time musician, I find myself saying things like

When you’re in survival mode, you can’t think of the big picture. You can’t afford to experiment and take risks. You stick to what works and what is certain. You may resort to teaching instead of trying to get gigs. Before long, you’re no longer living your dream but dreaming how to continue to live.

My skype conversation at 12/07/2010 10:30 PM

I have sussed out a lot of truths about the music world.

  1. a lot of arts administration – chasing gigs, following up, — none of which is paid
  2. a lot of time practising and rehearsing — again, not paid
  3. a lot of time traveing — not always paid
  4. performing – not always paid or paid well enough to cover everything else

My observations seem dismal until I spoke to the Russian harpist Maria Pozdnyakova who visited me today. Maria has given three different solo concerts to different audiences in our Monument House Concert Series. In 2008, she performed in a joint afternoon concert with other musicians in the main monument house. In 2009, she gave a solo concert of music by Russian composers at the spillover venue nearby. Recently, in May 2010, she gave first (and so far, the only) outdoor concert in back garden of the monument house.

Maria Pozdnyakova, harpist. Photo: R. Tjoelker

Maria Pozdnyakova, harpist. Photo: R. Tjoelker

Having now obtained her Master in Performance degree, Maria now needs a harp in Utrecht where she lives. When she was still studying at conservatory, she could borrow the harps for practice and performance. Now that she has graduated, she not only needs a harp but also a place to practise, not to mention a harp trolley and transport for harp.

Maria’s 100-year old harp in Moscow is neither adequate for her current needs (45 instead of 47 strings) nor transportable (cannot survive the journey and also prohibited by Russian law to leave the country). She has tried to sell her harp with not much success because harp builders in Moscow prefer to sell new harps which are cheaper than old ones. What are her options? Rent a harp. Borrow a harp. Apply for funding to borrow or buy a harp.

Concert harps cost around euro 15,000. She could rent a harp for 70 euros per month. She has several concerts lined up the rest of the year that require her to have a harp. If she can get enough concerts to pay her in advance, then she can pay to rent a harp.

Maria’s story is not unlike that of many talented musicians who have gone through a lifetime of rigorous training to become professional musicians. It’s an expensive career path. Musical instruments need upgrading. My concert pianist friend in Bath, England wants to sell her 5 ft Steinway Grand for a bigger instrument because she has outgrown it. To do so, she needs to move to a bigger house.

Does anybody have a better solution? A pool of resources and funding to help conservatory graduates launch their careers? How about workshops on making your dreams come true? What they don’t teach you at conservatory but need after you graduate?

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Jasmine Flower in Turandot Amsterdam

My German friend Thomas told me the story of the evil Chinese princess Turandot. The way he described it some 10 years ago made me feel as though all Chinese princesses were evil.

Later I heard the famous tenor aria “Nessum Dorma” and decided that I had to see the opera.

Today I saw it at the Muziektheatre (Music Theatre) in Amsterdam. It is always confusing to find the right exit from Waterloo metro stop. I took some photos to write a blog about it in the near future.

My friend, a season ticket holder, invited me to this glorious occasion as her husband had gone to a guitar festival in Belgium. We met at Danzig restaurant for lunch and then proceeded to the pre-opera talk on the top floor of the theatre.

For those of you who missed it or may be tempted to go, please check out the video from the DNO site below.

The famous Chinese folk melody that Puccini used over and over again in his opera Turandot is none other than “Jasmine Flower.” Coincidentally I made an arrangement of it for harp when I was studying the instrument to compose for it.

Here is the PDF file for all to enjoy at http://www.pianoguitar.com/pianoles/jasmineharp.pdf

Maybe I should do a version for piano and guitar. Or at least for piano solo. But there are probably many improvisations already.


Filed under arrangement, composer, composition, concert, travel, venues

Music at the Glass Vase Concert 23 May 2010

What is the Glass Vase Concert? or rather, Glass Vase Concerts (with an s) as there are several different ones on Sunday 23 May 2010.

The glass vase is where you donate your euros for this free concert to support young musicians starting out in their careers. See illustration below.

Glass vase and Monument House Glass Mug

Glass vase and Monument House Glass Mug

The custom-designed Monument House glass mug, durable for hot and cold drinks, will be on sale at 10 euros each (including one serving of home brewed beer). This also supports the Monument House Concert Series in its 4th year, named for the renovated Dutch monument house next to the peaceful Merwedekanaal which runs into the Amsterdamrijn Canal. The latter connects the Amstel River to the Rhine river in Germany.

Doors open 14:00 with coffee, tea, and the usual greetings.

14:30 – 15:30 First Concert

Dutch pianist Leonie de Klerk will select from her Bachelor final exam concert which is already a well-balanced programme of Bach, Mozart, Prokofiev, Chopin, and Scriabin. What can be taken out to reduce 45 to 20 minutes? I certainly hope Chopin’s Ballade number 4 remains.

Chinese tenor Duo Pan, accompanied by Catalan pianist Carol Ruiz Gandia, will sing art songs of Mahler and an aria from Rossini’s Barber of Seville, among others from his forthcoming Bachelor final exam.

15:30 – 16:00 Break

16:00 – 17:00 Second Concert

In the second set, Russian harpist Maria Pozdynakova will play selections from her forthcoming Masters exam and competition. Hosokawa’s Gesine is a commissioned piece for a competition in Munich ARD, where Maria has participated. Legende was written by the famous harpist Henriette Renie and has a program – a poem about a knight,who’s being bewitched by elves. Pour le Tombeau de Orphee is a very atmospheric piece by Dutch composer Marius Flothuis.

The Baroque cello duo of American cellist Stephanie Hunt and Brazillian cellist Fernando Venturin will play selections from the following programme:

Giovanni Sammartini (1698-1750)  Sonata in a minor

  • Andante
  • Allegro
  • Minuet (Allegro)

Salvatore Lanzetti (1710-1780) Sonata XII in D Major from 12 Sonaten Op. 1 (1736)

  • Allegro
  • Andante Cantabile
  • Menuet

Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762) Sonata V in F major from Sonates pour le Violoncelle et Basse Continue, Op. 5 (1746)

  • Adagio
  • Allegro Moderato
  • Adagio
  • Allegro

17:00 – 17:30 Break

17:30 – 18:30 Third Concert

Dutch alto Nicky Bouwers will sing from Elgar’s Sea Pictures from her forthcoming Masters final exam concert. Accompanist Thijn Vermeulen will also give a piano solo programme of Poulenc and Ligeti from his forthcoming Bachelor final exam concert.

In each of the above concerts, the organisers will play a piece. French horn / piano, guitar solo, guitar / piano.

18:30 – 20:00 authentic Egyptian dinner will be served (please reserve in advance for headcount).

20:00 onwards, to 23:00

Dutch composer and vocalist Marianne Verbrugge will perform her own works, some in the jazz genre, accompanied by Dutch composer/pianist Henk Alkema and Austrian cellist Anna Schweizer. This will open the evening for a free-for-all “jam session” for the musicians and guests. The jam includes anything from old compositions to new improvisations.

For more information, visit http://www.pianoguitar.com/concerten/

Location: The Monument House, Keulsekade 25, 3531JX Utrecht, The Netherlands

Free parking

Max seating capacity (not including the dozen performers): 40


Filed under audience, composition, concert, planning, venues