There is something extremely liberating about being able to travel. Knowing that you can get away, whether it’s work-related (at someone else’s expense) or vacation-related (a well-deserved, hard-earned holiday), the change of environment and pace will allow you to gain a new perspective.
The journey begins when you book the ticket. Then you are mentally committed to going forward — you have to wind down, close shop, start the preparations for your absence, compose your auto-responder e-mail for the time you’re away, clean up, and pack.
In the 11 hours of getting onboard the plane, delight at getting two seats to myself, dosing off to the usual flight take-off, waking up to the smell of a cooked tray lunch, watching Korean movies between reading two consecutive days of the Star Advertiser (Hawaii newspaper), amid falling asleep and walking to the loo, I went through an amazing transformation.
I left behind the cough and headache of a two-week cold that accompanied a bottomless to-do list. Everyday I wrote a list of things to do for tomorrow. The next day I’d follow the list I wrote the day before so that my list would be finite. What I didn’t manage to finish that day, I’d carry over to the next day. Needless to say, my lists never ended. Neither did my cough.
Now sitting at this nice, clean, and naturally-lit Incheon Airport, I’m wondering why my cough has suddenly stopped. My headache has also stopped. Was it the 11-hour journey from Honolulu to Seoul? Or was it simply a need to have a vacation after so many weekdays and weekends of working for someone else?
Perhaps it’s simply not talking. Not rushing against a deadline. Or not having a list of things that must get done. [Or maybe it’s just the antibiotics and codeine-laden cough syrup taking their effect!]
Alas! Travel is only liberating for as long as the time I’ve set aside for it. In the background, a backlog of e-mails, voice mails, and expectations is building. Enjoy being a stranger in another world while it lasts!
Reflecting on the concert of Dame Kiri on 1st October 2011 in Maui, Anne Ku reminisces the pure unamplified sound of classical music she misses. The population of Maui is simply too small to attract the big stars on a regular basis. What else is there?
For those of you that are curious what Dame Kiri sang in her one-off concert in Maui on 1st October 2011, read this review of the same programme in Honolulu two nights earlier. I didn’t recognise any of the pieces listed except the English songs and the encore of Puccini’s O Mio Babino Caro.
The first thing she did when she got on stage was to address us and praise the hall. Clad in her full and long purple dress, Dame Kiri charmed the audience first by saying “How lucky you are to have Castle Theatre.” We were indeed privileged to have such a world-class concert hall, fully air-conditioned with a 1,200 seating capacity. She mentioned the professionalism. Indeed the Steinway concert grand was professionally moved and tuned.
But how sad for Maui that stars like Dame Kiri are few and very far between.
In the run up to her concert at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, I learned that the population of Maui was around 150,000. Despite millions of visitors, Maui permanent residents number half of Utrecht, Netherlands — where I had been living since 2006. It’s also half of the London Borough of Ealing. One question lurks: “can such a small population attract international stars to perform here?”
Elton John did. His two concerts were also sold out in advance. I sat across the road on the Maui College campus to hear him last February.
Can we tap the millions of tourists to support a unique genre like classical music or even operatic music?
There are too many other activities that tourists would do — for free. The weather. The beach. The surf. The ocean. The mountains. Tourists have already paid dearly in $$ and time to get here. At $75, Dame Kiri was more expensive than hanging out on the beach.
Conclusion: there are too many competing activities to attract visitors while the permanent population of Maui is too small to attract the big stars.
What about classical musicians that are not famous? Can they draw an audience?
This past April, I turned pages for the opening concert of the annual Maui Classical Music Festival. It was well-attended by ticket holders. In its 30th year, the festival continues to draw a full house in various locations. But it’s just one week per year!
What does it take to have high quality classical music on this island? It is so rare that one attendee of the Dame Kiri concert in Maui asked me, “Does she have a microphone?”
I am aching to write about the pure sound of classical music, unfiltered and unamplified. Or I should say the RARE sound of such pure music. I would have to fly to Honolulu to get it live.
Anne Ku met composer John Carollo in Cortona, Italy in 2006 and in Honolulu in 2011. Carollo’s Waltz written in 1986 evokes Satie and Debussy. Listen to a recording from the Netherlands.
On Sunday 3rd April 2011, while sightreading 81 short piano pieces entitled “80th Birthday Jingles” by the Honolulu-based composer John Carollo, I came across an old work of his from 1986. John, whom I first met in Cortona, Italy in July 2006, walked out of his kitchen and came towards me.
“I haven’t heard that in awhile.” He seemed caught off guard. Later, I learned that he had forgotten about this piece.
It was tonal music from his pre-serial days.
“Play it again,” he mused.
John had written this Satie-like waltz for his friend Bill whose surprise birthday party I had attended two nights earlier in a million dollar home in Hanepepe Loop. On Sunday in a penthouse in central Honolulu, we were just eating the leftovers from that executive chef-catered dinner when my playing of his Waltz evoked even earlier memories of his journey as a composer.
I liked it so much that I took it to Utrecht, Netherlands and recorded it on my grand piano on 4th August 2011.
Just yesterday afternoon I found the three of John’s CDs: the award-winning Ampersand, Starry Night for String Orchestra, and Transcendence in the Age of War. Now that I have time in Maui, I will listen to his works, although I have already heard one performed in my house on 1st July 2011. Pianist Nathanael May played his Prelude as the last piece of a set of five by the composers Antheil, Chopin, Gershwin, and Debussy as the opening to a house concert. (Programme 2-page PDF) It was well chosen before John Cage’s dream-like “In a Landscape.”
Immediately after I left Honolulu, John began composing a 9-movement work for my piano guitar duo. While we have not yet had time to rehearse the piece, I have already requested John to extend the second movement which is so addictive!
Born in Torino, Italy, John Carollo was brought to the U.S. by his adoptive parents. John took piano lessons and began composing his first piano works while at San Diego State University where he graduated with a Masters Degree in Psychology. Shortly thereafter, John moved to Honolulu, began a full-time mental health career for the State of Hawaii and started private composition lessons with Dr. Robert Wehrman. So great was his passion for composing that he quit his day job to compose full-time. Since then his works have been performed in Italy, Netherlands, and elsewhere. Website: http://www.johncarollocomposer.com
To get performers to want your music before they even get together to play it — that is the true calling of a composer.
Since my last blog post of 24th April — after a great day of giving the Easter Sunday lunch concert, I stopped writing. Why? I had a car accident that very evening.
I had wanted to write about the choral concert of 30th April and the silent auction, the 42 new multi-hand piano duets I had received from 30 composers, my visit to George Kahumoku’s farm in Maui, and more…. and my upcoming travels to meet musicians in San Francisco, Denver, New York, and beyond. I will have to catch up during my 2 weeks of traveling.
Meanwhile, something can’t wait.
Tonight I received an mp3 of part 2 of a new piano guitar duo piece by the Honolulu-based composer John Carollo, who has also submitted a multi-hand duet to the sightreading piano soiree in San Francisco 15th May 2011. It is absolutely addictive to listen to, and I’m sure, even more addictive to play it.
When I first received it a few weeks ago, I complained that it was too short. Carollo made it a bit longer. I complained again. Minimalist music deserves an extended play. I actually confessed, “I hate to say it —- but I dig this music.”
It will be another 2 weeks before I get together with Robert Bekkers to try the 5-movement piano guitar duo. I can only imagine how the guitar part sounds as I play the piano part.
United breaks guitars — sound familiar? United Airlines broke a guitar case. Another tune? Another rhyme?
If music performance is your livelihood, you cannot afford to compromise on your instrument. Airlines are obliged to provide safe travel for you and your luggage. If the airline does not allow you to carry on your instrument, it has an obligation to return your possession intact. If your instrument case gets damaged, you cannot depend on the case to protect or carry your instrument.
CRACKED GUITAR CASE
Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers returned from his 3-week solo tour with a cracked guitar case. It got damaged on the United Airlines UA1108 flight from Phoenix (dep. 2:55 pm) to Honolulu (6:49 pm HST) on 28th February 2011.
Why does it sound familiar? I have have never had a problem with United Airlines. But I have heard of a famous song about “United breaking guitars.” In fact, just googling those three words led me to Dave Carroll’s web page about the trilogy. There you can play the song that made him famous and United Airlines infamous. The three videos are cleverly done, the tune is sticky — even I find myself humming it when I think of United Airlines. It’s a David vs Goliath story that has made headlines.
I asked Bekkers why he hasn’t complained. He said that he had enquired as soon as he landed in Honolulu and saw the damage but there was not enough time to walk to the other terminal (to the United Airlines desk) before catching his connecting flight to Maui. Once in Kahului Airport, he discovered it was too late to report the damage. The next day he called and e-mailed to find out how to make a complaint. Three weeks later, he still has not heard anything.
Tomorrow (Thursday 24th March 2011) Bekkers catches the “red-eye” to Phoenix. Because of the cracked guitar case, he will have to keep it next to him at all times. No tape or rope will undo the cracks. Next week he flies to London and Amsterdam. Will the cracked guitar case save his Jeroen Hilhorst 2005 concert guitar from damage? No one knows. But he is not flying United.
What can we conclude from this? United continues to break guitars? No, United now has moved on to breaking guitar cases.
Robert Bekkers and Anne Ku give a short concert in Kahului on Tuesday 14th December 2010. What else will they do on Maui on a Tuesday?
Last Tuesday 7th December 2010, Robert Bekkers gave a short solo guitar concert to the residents in the senior housing area where we have been staying since Thanksgiving Day. He was thanked not by a bouquet of flowers as is the custom in the Netherlands but a lei — a necklace of fresh fragrant flowers.
He gave it to me to wear the rest of the day as we drove around in our “new” second-hand car which we endearingly call the “Silver Surfer.” We drove to nearby Wailuku to register ourselves at the public library and check out books to keep us amused.
The audience at his concert invited him to perform again. He recruited me for tomorrow: Tuesday 14th December 2010 at 10 am. It’s a free concert for the residents, but I’m not sure everyone here knows about it. My mother likes to keep a low profile, I think.
It’s been 3 weeks since I last touched the piano. There were no pianos available to me after our last concert in Carmichael, near Sacramento, California, on 21st November 2010. None in Honolulu while we were in transit to Maui.
On that fateful day of 29th November 2010, I cut my left index finger while slicing fish for my mother. We rushed to the emergency clinic to get 3 stitches that cost me $580 (which I hope the Dutch insurance will reimburse eventually). I could not use that finger until the stitches came out in Honolulu (another story). And that was my excuse for not playing the piano for 3 weeks: no piano and no left index finger.
Tomorrow is the third Tuesday we are spending on this island that my brother calls the best place on earth. We shall get up, skip the morning run in the park and the lap swimming in the free public pool nearby (it’s closed on Tuesdays). We shall finally rehearse together, after 3 weeks of “chilling out.”
After our short concert, we shall attend to the weekly ritual of visiting “Ross Dress for Less” where we shall go through discounted aloha shirts and summer dresses to acclimatise ourselves to the glorious tropical weather that never manages to disappoint.
Tuesday is also Farmer’s Market day in Kahului where farmers bring their local grown vegetables and fruit from upcountry Haiku and Kula to sell. I can’t complain about my daily breakfast of freshly cut papaya, pineapple, mango, apple banana (those cute baby-like bananas), and juicy persimmon.
In the afternoon, Robert will insist on going to the north beach to practise surfing. I will dive into my book: “Eat, Pray, Love.”