Tag Archives: house concerts

Wanted: home for a Steinway

My relocation to the Netherlands in 2003/2004 coincided with a refund of monies from Singapore. It was a milestone for change.

Frustrated by the daily challenge of finding a good piano to practise at the conservatory in Utrecht and the inadequate upright piano at home in Bussum, I decided to find a grand piano of my own.

First I visited the local piano shop whose owner led me to a room full of Yamahas. I could not find a piano that was special enough to be different. I abandoned the idea of a Yamaha and went for a Steinway instead. The story of how I found that piano and the piano technician who helped me negotiate the price is an interesting one, perhaps for another blog post. He did request that I visit his atelier after I got back from Taiwan. A month later, the French polished, restrung Steinway grand arrived in Bussum.

It was a glorious moment — to finally have a Steinway Grand Piano in my home. The Steinway was not from Hamburg but from New York. Made in 1909. All 188 CM of it. Model A. Ivory keys. One celebrated concert pianist, Dutch winner of the Liszt Piano Competition who commuted between Vienna and Utrecht, remarked that it was a Rachmaninoff piano for it had that romantic sound.

Here’s how the Steinway sounds: Intermezzo by Allan Segall, performed by Anne Ku, recorded by Robert Bekkers.

I held a Steinway Warming party for my piano friends. With the upright piano, four pianists could play on both pianos. We tried all sorts of duets.

Once I got accustomed to being the proud owner of a Steinway, it was time to let go of my Gerhard Adam, a German mahogany grand piano from the 1920’s which I left behind in London. I wrote a decision making guide to buying a second-hand piano to help sell that piano online. Once again I walked down my memory lane of buying a piano. I wrote an Adieu which used all 88 keys on the piano, a way for me to say goodbye thru the new owner I did not meet.

Here is a recording of my playing on my Steinway. Adieu to a Piano by Anne Ku

Steinway Grand Model A 188cm, 1909 New York, before recording session

Steinway Grand Model A 188cm, 1909 New York, before recording session

In summer 2006, the Steinway moved with me to Utrecht. We launched the Monument House Concert Series with a violin and guitar concert by Duo 46. That December we chose the theme Piano as Orchestra, featuring several concertos (harp, euphonium, guitar). The following year we combined food with music in Chamber Music Tapas Style. Every year we committed to organizing two house concerts. Often we had several mini concerts, including a kitchen concert, garden concert, impromptu concert. Each time we became more adventurous and more professional. We outsourced food and wine to professional chefs and wine sommeliers. We included art exhibitions.

On my last trip back to the Netherlands, I felt compelled to host two concerts back to back. Despite being time-challenged with only 2.5 months to sort out my things, I felt it was important to organize these concerts for two American pianists on their way to the Italian alps. Why? Maybe instinctively I knew it was the last time my grand piano would be heard in a concert setting. Sure enough, 2nd July 2011 became the last house concert.

And the last recordings were that of piano duets I had collected from a Call for Scores from Hawaii to Holland. Here’s Brendan Kinsella and I playing my late composition teacher Henk Alkema’s piece.

APPEAL:

This Steinway Grand, made in New York in 1909, model A – 188 cm – needs a home. SALE. RENT. or LOAN.

Steinway for Sale with new photos and sound clips.

Interested parties please use the LEAVE A REPLY field below.

Steinway Grand at the Monument House, Utrecht

Steinway Grand at the Monument House, Utrecht

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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

Impasse or interruption?

Sometimes life feels like a rock in your way, refusing to move no matter how much you push at it.

Pushing against a rock in the Garden of Gods in Colorado Springs. Photo credit: J. Kormanik

Pushing against a rock in the Garden of Gods in Colorado Springs. Photo credit: J. Kormanik

My involvement in classical music appears that way. I have created new events, produced concerts to full-house reception, involved musicians, visual artists, and local businesses —  and continued to experiment with new ideas, new collaborations, while building new communities and relationships — all without a budget.

My last project — call for scores of multi-hand duets from living composers and performance / feedback in San Francisco on 15th May 2011 — is not yet over. I have yet to document the results of the sightreading, the performances, the feedback, and various details that I want to share.

My next project — piano house concerts and career management discussion panel in Utrecht, Netherlands on 1 – 3 July 2011 — needs to begin. I have booked organic wine tasting for that weekend. Two concert pianists are traveling from the USA to Italy, stopping in Utrecht just for this occasion.

Yet right this moment, after 2 weeks of traveling from Hawaii to Holland and a week of getting used to life on the ground again, I feel like doing nothing but play my piano that I’ve left behind since mid-October 2010 when my duo embarked on a concert tour of the United States to end in an experiment on that tropical paradise called Maui.

Could it be that the mountain of classical music is not an impasse but a mere interruption?

Perhaps I should consider music to be the rock that supports me while I tackle the rest of life’s challenges. Certainly I have been looking for a cause to serve — one that is greater than music itself, for music is not an end in itself but a means to a greater end.

Garden of Gods in Colorado Springs. Photo credit: J. Kormanik

Garden of Gods in Colorado Springs. Photo credit: J. Kormanik

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Live recording for radio Houston

What a surprise to discover  Houston Public Radio KUHF chose us for their final programme of the Front Row in 2010! We had pre-recorded it on Friday 12th November 2010, a busy day that began at 6:30 am with interview at another Houston radio station, followed by a free public concert at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The nearly one hour programme is on the KUHF webpage. “Husband-and-wife musicians, guitarist Robert Bekkers and pianist Anne Ku treat us to a salon concert from the Geary Performance Studio! Based in The Netherlands, …” more

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo in Warmond, Netherlands Photo: Humphrey Daniels

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo in Warmond, Netherlands Photo: Humphrey Daniels

The program previews our forthcoming CD Winter — which follows our first CD Summer! The producer Bob Stevenson asked us to play the first and last (skipping the slow second) movement of Vivaldi’s Winter from his Four Seasons. We gave this programme during 2010 in the Netherlands and on our 5-week USA tour.

Included on this show was a short guitar solo cadenza of the Dutch national anthem which Robert invented for the lengthy Grand Potpourri National. The other original work for piano and guitar was the second half of Amsterdam-based composer Gijs van Dijk’s “Abstract and Dance.” Robert Bekkers had arranged Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (first piece on the KUHF programme and played in its entirety). Another arranged piece for our duo was Fritz Kreisler’s version of Manuel de Falla’s Spanish Dance from La Vida Breve which we both adapted for piano and guitar (also the entire piece).

Order of works on the Front Row Program:

first part: (mp3)

  • Arrival of the Queen of Sheba Handel, arr. Bekkers
  • Spanish Dance from La Vida Breve, de Falla, arr. Kreisler, Bekkers, Ku

second part: (mp3)

  • Winter, Vivaldi, arr. Bekkers (1st and 3rd movement only)

third part: (mp3)

What’s interesting about this recording session was that we were playing to an invisible and unknown audience that would listen in the future — an unknown date in the future on which it would be broadcasted and an unknown date on which people would listen online. There was no applause in the recording studio of the radio station. You could say we had only two people in the audience in the studio: the producer Bob Stevenson interviewing us, and sound engineer Todd Hulslander on the other side of the glass window.

Some corrections: I didn’t graduate from Utrecht University but Utrecht Conservatory in 2008, two completely different institutions both located in Utrecht, Netherlands. Robert mentioned he had to bring down “Winter” one whole note — what he meant was whole tone — a Dutchism.

The radio programmers chose a photo of us taken by the Dutch photographer Humphrey Daniels in a monastic church in Warmond, Netherlands where we had recorded a concert towards the end of 2008. One of those pieces (recorded by Dutch sound engineer Boy Griffioen) found its way to our first CD Summer — Romance from Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nacht Musik, arranged for our duo by Robert Bekkers.

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo at Utrecht Conservatory K108 Photo: Olaf Hornes

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo at Utrecht Conservatory K108 Photo: Olaf Hornes

We noticed a huge difference between our second recording at KUHF in 2010 and the first in 2007! The first live recording and interview in December 2007 was also the first time Robert and I had ever appeared on radio. We thought we would pre-record it and thus arrived an hour early. Little did we know that it was going to be a LIVE broadcast! We were less talkative and less knowledgeable about being interviewed in 2007.

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House concerts: a cottage industry

I’m very happy to see someone else writing about house concerts for classical musicians, showing that we’re not the only ones doing it and pushing for it. Collaborative Piano Blog has a page to various links. I’d like to add my own.

House concerts for art music: multiple stake holders, audience development, and sustainability (14-page PDF) – introduction to house concerts through summary of interviews with house concert producers, home owners, musicians, etc.

House concert for your friends: how to get your friends to organise a concert for you in their home

House concert kit: guides to producing a house concert with links to other great starter articles

Audience development: the art of creating demand

What I really should do is to categorise and index various self-help articles for musicians, instead of writing new articles. Perhaps I could make these into an e-book?

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2010: a year in reflection

As the last blog post in 2010, we would like to thank all readers for reading, referring, commenting, and supporting this blog. 2010 has been an incredible year for our piano guitar duo. We have never traveled as extensively in any year as this one. We have never collaborated with so many people as this year. We have never had such a variety of gigs.

Monument House in Utrecht, Netherlands

Monument House in Utrecht, Netherlands

We began the year in the Netherlands with our usual concerts.

In February, we made a weekend trip to Belgium to open a new exhibition with a selection of solo, duo, and improvisation in beautiful historic Brugge. It was one of several collaborations with other artists.

In April, we made a whirlwind tour of Taiwan, introducing ourselves to the Taipei Rotary Club and a string quartet in Taipei.

From January to April, we coached new house concert hosts on how to produce concerts from their homes, culminating in our debut of the 30-minute long Grand Potpourri National to open a new concert series and the release of our first CD Summer in the home of an artist.

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo CD Summer

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo CD Summer

In May, we organised our biggest house concert yet: a dozen musicians in 4 different concerts in one day! The Glass Vase Concert was free entry with cover art commissioned for auction. The bonus was the chef-catered Egyptian dinner for 50 people, who queued for seconds.

All the insights from our experience of producing house concerts and interviews with others were presented in a paper to economists at an international conference in Copenhagen in June.

Besides performing as a duo, we also worked with other musicians such as French horn player Emile Kaper and American cellist Stephanie Hunt. We found that piano and guitar worked well with other instruments and the audiences love the idea. We programmed one house concert in Amsterdam with our duo, Robert’s solo guitar of Bach Chaconne, piano and cello, and finally piano, guitar, and cello.

In September, we traveled to Zeeland in the southwest coast of the Netherlands to give 5 concerts in 3 days. It was a busy month, made busier by our reluctance to cancel any concerts including those that took us by surprise and decided upon last minute (impromptu).

The highlight of the year was undoubtedly the coast-to-coast America Tour, from Boston to Sacramento in 5.5 weeks. We thank our hosts, guests, and everyone who made this tour happen. We had no idea it would be so empowering and fantastic.

What next? Who knows? We bought ourselves one way tickets to paradise and started a new blog to lure our friends to come visit us. We look forward to seeing our friends from Davis, Houston, Seattle, and Nebraska in the first few months of 2011.

Hope you have enjoyed these blog posts. 2011 promises to be an entirely different year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

BEST WISHES TO ALL!!!

Piano and guitar in the Monument House Utrecht, Netherlands

Piano and guitar in the Monument House Utrecht, Netherlands

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Audience development: the art of creating demand

One of the worries a seller has is how to get buyers to want your stuff. The things you sell may bear history and laden with value to yourself, but they are absolutely meaningless to a stranger.

Similarly, musicians and concert producers love their music. They too worry whether enough people will show up. How do they get people to come to a concert? Posters and invitations may not suffice.

Audience development means getting people to come to an event. It’s also about creating demand. There are many alternative ways to spend a Saturday evening in a big city. How do you get someone to choose you over other possibilities?

The keyboard and guitar that found new homes

The keyboard and guitar that found new homes

How is this similar to a garage sale?

I spoke to a lady at a yard sale today about how I managed to get rid of my things to free myself to leave London for the Netherlands. I held an Open House, baked cakes and cookies, and invited my neighbours and friends to visit. All four rooms (living room, dining room, bedroom, and study) were filled with things I wanted to sell.

One man’s medicine is another man’s poison. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Nobody wanted to buy my flowery summer dresses or conservative business suits. I had to think of innovative ways to get rid of my stuff.

Spend at least 5 pounds and get the solar calculator for free. The solar calculator and various knick knacks were giveaways at the conferences I attended. I didn’t care about the calculator at all. I did not know that this offer was attractive until I spotted a bassoonist selecting various paperback books to get the 5 pound total. He got his solar calculator.

My friend, the late London-based architect Ayyub Malik desperately wanted a piece of cake. I told him he had to buy something first. There was nothing he wanted except for a piece of cake. I encouraged him to buy an umbrella that he might need (in case his broke). He got his cake.

How do you get people to want something? How do you get people to buy what they do not need? Or what they do not realise that they need or want?

The answer: find out what they really want.

A concert is not just about the music. An economist told me so. “If you think people come to your concerts just to hear you, you are wrong.”

People go to concerts for all sorts of reasons.

The trick is to find and give reasons for people to come to your concert.

[Note: this blog post was inspired by my visit to two yard sales in Maui. People go to yard sales to get things at a discount. Some people go to discover what they did not know they needed. For instance, I bought a shower curtain even though I already have one.]

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