Body of Your Dreams Concert

The Body of Your Dreams Concert by American pianist Nathanael May takes place on Friday 1st July 2011 at the Monument House in Utrecht, Netherlands. Organic wine will be served. Limited seating by reservation only through High Note Live.

Acryllic by Rob Judkins
"Rings" 24"x48" acrylic on board by Rob Judkins (2009)

Everyone wants to have the body of your dreams. It requires conscious regular exercise and attention to a balanced diet. Without concerted effort, the body of your dreams remains in your dreams.

Dutch composer  Jacob ter Veldhuis (affectionately known in the USA as Jacob TV) wrote a piano solo work in which the pianist needs to listen to a click track tape of his remixed American television advertisement of a slimming weight-loss belt. The so-named “Body of Your Dreams” for piano and boom box has made its way into the concert repertoire of a new generation of pianists, further made popular by the body-builder pianist Andrew Russo.

The tape, CD, and now video broadcasts: “It’s one of the ea­siest ways ever to get your bo­dy in the sha­pe you want it. It helps to to­ne and tigh­ten your up­per abs, lo­wer abs, arms and legs with no sweat at all!. It’s one of the simplest, smal­lest and most com­for­ta­ble to­ning de­vi­ces ever. You can use it whi­le wat­ching te­le­vi­si­on, do­ing the dis­hes, mo­wing the lawn.”

In short, Jacob TV’s “Body of Your Dreams” is a clever take on the American finesse in marketing and obsession with fitness.

When American pianist  Nathanael May told me he had included “Body of Your Dreams” in his programme for the house concert we are organising for him on Friday 1st July 2011, I just had to give the concert this name. I met Nathanael in 2003 when he invited me to give a sightreading workshop in North Cyprus. Since then, he has invited our duo to Italy where he founded an annual festival of contemporary music, first in Cortona and now in its third location in the alps. The Soundscape Contemporary Music Festival has now expanded to offer scholarships for composers and performers each year.

The concert will take place in the Monument House, in the multi-cultural neighbourhood of Lombok in Utrecht, the fourth largest city in the Netherlands, and also known as the creative capital and home of the oldest Dutch university.

Along with the theme of “Body of Your Dreams,” we have booked Eveline Scheren to provide tasting of organic wines she has carefully selected from Italy, Spain, France, and Chile. I met Eveline at a Rotary club meeting, before she started her own business of introducing organic wines to the Netherlands.

Each ticket will be entered into a raffle draw after the concert for prizes such as CDs, the limited edition of Monument House Glass Beer Mugs, and more. There will be also be a Silent Auction (to be linked to a blog yet to be posted) to raise funding for an artist-in-residence fellowship. Besides items from the Monument House, we are happy to receive donations for this cause.

** Breaking news: We are pleased to have Chef Alberto, who was born in a small village in Cordoba, to cater for a pre-concert dinner at 6 pm. He will be serving canapes, tapas, and a main course from the traditional Andalucian cuisine at 6 pm. This optional dinner before the concert can be reserved by indicating it in your email.

For more information and to reserve a seat, visit High Note Live, a web-based concert management and audience development website I am testing for use outside of the USA. Thus all $$ are actually in Euros for this concert.

This is the first of several concerts at the Monument House featuring music of American pianists and composers. The next one is on 2nd July 2011. [Watch this space.]

Friday 1st July 2011

6:00 pm: doors open – Traditional Andalucian dinner (optional) **

7:30 pm: doors open

organic wine tasting, view of silent auction items & bidding

 New! Panel discussions

New! Robert Bekkers, guitar, support act

8:15 pm concert starts (no intermission)

9:30 pm raffle draw (prizes include CDs, Monument House beer mug, and more)

9:45 pm silent auction results

The above painting by Rob Judkins, my classmate from Kubasaki High School in Okinawa, comes from his private collection. I will display more of his work in forthcoming posts of this Concertblog.

Parking until 9 pm is euro 2.29 per hour. But I expect most people will cycle or walk along the canal.

Call for pianists: new multi-hand duets on one piano

A second attempt at getting pianists to sightread and study and perform new piano duets by living composers: 3rd July 2011 in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Several months ago, I posted a “Call for Scores” to composers to submit multi-hand duets that could be sightread on one piano. My blog was picked up by several composition newsletters and websites. Even Google was keen to let the world know about this quest. [Just google “multi-hand duets” and you’ll get the drift.]

Unfortunately, several things happened that prevented a full-scale sightreading competition.

  1. Most of the scores I accepted because they looked interesting to play turned out to be not easily sightreadable.
  2. The pianists that liked to play in a soiree preferred to play pieces they have studied for performance. Few such pianists would like to attend a sightreading event, much less be judged in a sightreading competition.
  3. Listening to work that is being sightread is not as enjoyable as listening to work that has been studied, rehearsed, and perfected for performance.

The sightreading competition of Sunday 15th May 2011 in San Francisco was rebranded as a sightreading workshop and piano soiree. Still, the rumour that some composers may come deterred some pianists to participate. As much as I wanted to broadcast to invite the 30 composers (and they in turn to extend the invitation to their friends, family, and fans), I had to refrain from doing so. In the end, just two composers who lived near the venue came to the event. [Visit the webpage for details about the 15th May piano soiree and feedback.]

Most of the duets did not get played. I still intend to write about those that did.

I carried the heavy binder from Hawaii to Holland, and along with it, the responsibility of getting pianists to look at the new works by living composers and try them.

At the end of June, two American pianists, Nathanael May and Brendan Kinsella, will come to the Netherlands to give concerts from our Monument House in Utrecht. Besides organising the house concerts of 1st July and 2nd July, I am calling pianists to look through my collection and choose pieces to study and perform for 3rd of July.

Details of the Sunday 3rd July 2011 concert is given on High Note Live, a new concert and audience management web application.

Gardens of the famous Dome Church in Utrecht, The Netherlands
Gardens of the famous Dome Church in Utrecht, The Netherlands

Build a relationship before you meet

Planning an event with people you have not met offers the unique opportunity to build new relationships. Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo shares their experience with collaborating with musicians, concert producers, and music lovers in planning their 40-day USA concert tour in 2010.

Half of our 40-day concert tour through the USA was a trip down memory lane. I was reconnecting with high school and college classmates as well as friends I had not seen for years.

The other half of the tour felt like online dating. Robert Bekkers and I were building relationships with people we had never met or known through e-mail, skype, Facebook, and phone calls BEFORE the actual concerts took place.

How does this work when you organise a concert tour without an agent?

We did not have all 20 concerts and 2 radio interviews arranged before we left the Netherlands. In fact, only a handful were definite. The first three and last four concerts were organised by people we had never met before. We continued e-mailing each other to fine-tune the concert arrangements, e.g. date, time, duration, seating capacity, publicity, invitations, announcements, payment, etc.

How do you build a relationship before you meet?

How do relationships get formed?

Through transactions, through communication, opinions get formed. Expectations are managed. Anticipation is built in the run up to an event. When you’re working towards the same goal, that is, to make an event happen successfully, you become partners in collaboration. How you work, how your communicate and react tells the other person something about you and vice versa.

There are no drawn out theses or lengthy biographies about each other. How do we trust someone we’ve never met?

The first person was introduced to us from someone we respect — a doctor in the community. His reputation was validated by someone who knew someone who knew him. We asked if he knew someone else who could arrange a concert for us. The person he suggested turned out to be someone that somebody else we knew also knew of. This triangulation is important for trust-building. A kind of validation, if you will.

The next concert producer came about through the introduction of someone we never met before but had contacted through a google search.

I guess what I’m trying to say in this blog is this:

You don’t have to know the person who helps you make a concert happen. You don’t have to hire the person. The music business is about collaborations. We all have something to gain from working with each other.

The concert producer gets musicians to play for his audience. Musicians get a chance to perform in a concert. The venue gets used. The audience gets to hear and meet the musicians.

The single benefit of not using an agent is that you get to build relationships directly with the people involved in making your concert happen. The drawback is that you have to spend a lot of time online, on the phone, and ensuring everything is agreed and put together, all down to the last detail. This means managing uncertainty and stress on top of the performing and traveling. As time-consuming as it may be, you get to learn about the other person and the process.

During our tour, we met and got to know the following individuals who love music as much as we do. There were many more we met in the audience. How marvelous that planning the concerts gave us the opportunity to meet and build new relationships!

New England

  • Peter Terry, concert producer of JP Concert Series in Boston and Yakov Zamir, countertenor
  • Linda Kernohan, pianist, composer, music director, St John Episcopal Church, and blogger
  • Karen Parsons, Suzuki piano teacher
  • Jonathan Parsons, music connoisseur
  • Frank Wallace, guitarist, baritone, composer
  • Mark Davis, guitarist and mandolin player & conductor, producer of North Meadows House Concert Series
  • Beverly Davis, guitarist

Durham, North Carolina

Phoenix, Arizona

Houston, Texas

Denver, Colorado

San Francisco, CA

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo house concert in Carmichael, CA Photo: Daniel Roest
Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo house concert in Carmichael, CA Photo: Daniel Roest

From concerts to discussion panels

A pre-concert talk and string quartet interview in Den Haag inspired Anne Ku to follow suit in Phoenix and San Francisco in her duo concerts.

At the opening night of the International Chamber Music Festival in the Hague in September 2010, I witnessed a format I liked very much. The founder and artistic director, Eva Stegeman, inspired by TED talks, invited conductor Itay Talgam to give a pre-concert talk. Talgam went on to interview Dutch violinist Stegeman and her quartet, interrupting them after the first 10 minutes of Beethoven’s Quartet in F Major (opus 59 no. 1).

Stegeman called it “Chamber Music X-rayed.”

I call it —- thinking outside the box. Talgam asked the string quartet questions such as

  • If you don’t have a conductor, how do you know when to begin or end? Who leads?
  • Which passage do you like best?
  • How do you indicate the right tempo?

These are questions we don’t ask ourselves when we are rehearsing. How musicians communicate with each other in rehearsals is a mystery to most non-musicians. As performers, we don’t dissect the way we get our messages across. We indicate. We interpret. We might discuss. We compromise. It is not a science. We simply take it for granted, as musicians.

I had intended to write a review of that pre-concert talk and opening concert of the string quartet, but I got swept away by the momentum of preparing for our concert tour of the USA. Talgam and Stegeman’s on-stage “quartet discussion panel” brewed on my back burner until I got a chance to re-enact it in Phoenix, Arizona in early November and again in San Francisco.

At the Spirit of the Senses event in a loft apartment in Phoenix, Arizona, we gave a duo performance before the intermission. Afterwards, I invited Tom Houlon, the organiser, and guitarists Robert Bekkers and Matt Gould to sit in front of the audience. I moderated a discussion panel on house concerts.

Bekkers Duo in a loft apartment in Phoenix, Arizona
Bekkers Duo in a loft apartment in Phoenix, Arizona

Two weeks later, something similar happened in another loft apartment. After a chef-catered gourmet dinner, I invited the concert host Dr Chong Kee Tan to talk about his activities as amateur pianist, founder of his piano club, and founder/developer of High Note Live, an online software to manage artists, concerts, and audiences. I contrasted this against the view of the next panellist — composer, software-developer, and artistic manager Marc Parella. Only after the discussion panel did Robert Bekkers and I give our duo concert.

Because of the energy economists in the audience in San Francisco, I deliberately referred to cultural economics. While energy is a commodity, music is anything but. The half-hour discussion allowed the audience to participate. Perhaps this is a possible formula for future house concerts.

Loft apartment concert in Phoenix, Arizona
Loft apartment concert in Phoenix, Arizona

Concert booking and reservation in San Francisco

Dr Chong Kee Tan’s High Note Live, is a new kind of concert management system for booking artists, inviting guests, and confirming attendance. Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo used it for their loft apartment concert in San Francisco.

Our concert in a loft apartment in San Francisco was an experiment in a new kind of concert booking and reservation. The host and I used a bespoke web-based software under beta test to book the performers (our piano guitar duo), invite guests, interact, specify number of seats and amount of payment, and confirm through payment.

This web-based mechanism is called High Note Live conceptualised and developed by the multi-facetted and multi-talented Dr Chong Kee Tan.

From left: Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo with concert hosts Chong Kee Tan & Doug
From left: Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo with concert hosts Chong Kee Tan & Doug

How does one book an artist for a performance? How does one keep track of an artist’s popularity or reliability?

How does one invite guests and ensure they show up? How does one guarantee an artist a certain income before the concert begins?

How do different stake-holders in the run up to a concert track how many people are attending? In my 14-page paper (PDF) on “house concerts for art music,” I specifically describe the different stakeholders: owner of the concert venue, concert host, concert producer, performer(s), guests, collaborators, sponsors, patrons, etc. They each have their own interests and needs. A successful concert is one that meets everyone’s expectations.

From one perspective, producing a concert is a risky business. To remove the risk, the concert producers needs to ensure what is expected to happen will happen. Those people who said they wanted to come to the concert actually do. The performers would prefer to know beforehand whether the venue is filled and whether they will get paid what they expect. In essence, how does one get a peace of mind?

These were the questions that led Dr Tan to research the market for software that would help concert producers, be they house concerts or bigger venues, to achieve greater efficiency and minimise risk.

Loft concert in San Francisco
Loft concert in San Francisco

High Note Live removes the stress of tracking various e-mails between different counterparties, i.e. between the different stakeholders. In the week of our loft concert in San Francisco,  I saw the number of attendees go up until there were no seats left. What a great feeling!

Without such a central system, we resort to disparate ways to invite people to a concert: Facebook event (but not everyone is on Facebook and clicking ATTENDING does not oblige one to attend), LINKED-IN announcement, e-mail invitation, phone calls, face-to-face, and paper invitation.

The confirmation process is also iffy. People don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say. How do you oblige someone to show up? Make them pay. Use it or lose it. That’s how airlines fill up their seats. That’s how concert halls fill up their theatres. An empty seat is a disappointment and a failure to fill it.

Watch this space for future updates to this new concert management system.