Sheet music for sale

Why couldn’t I decide on which sheet music to keep earlier? Then I’d be able to find proper homes for each kind of sheet music. FOR SALE: SHEET MUSIC & 400 CDS & OTHER BOOKS Saturday 1st September at the Monument House, Utrecht

Books on bookshelf for sale
Books on bookshelf for sale

When Robert told me a few weeks ago that he had packed my sheet music into 12 moving boxes, I mentally switched off. What he really meant was, “What are we going to do about your 12 boxes of sheet music?”

These books and scores were stacked in 3 huge Ikea book cases. Every time he mentioned my music, I fell silent. Already I had to let go of 400 CDs. sheet music was even more precious. I was not ready to decide.

To make space to photograph the house for sale, he declared that he’d move the boxes into the bicycle shed. Out of sight, out of mind.

I have nowhere to put those 12 boxes in Maui. I don’t want to pay for shipping. I simply don’t want to deal with it. Why not?

I had gone through my music in London before I decided to pack them into boxes and move them to the Netherlands in 2003 and 2004. Thereafter I continued my curious hobby of visiting music bookstores and music libraries to select sheet music to buy or copy. This unusual pastime of a person who loves to sightread started a long time ago. It accompanied my travels. Every time I visited a city that had a music book store, I would treat myself to buying sheet music.

Houston. New York. London. Amsterdam. Paris. Milan. Prague. Taipei.

I began by collecting music for piano solo. When I discovered the joy of piano duets with my piano teacher at Duke University, I started collecting music for 4-hand, 1 piano and then 4-hand, 2-piano. When I discovered the joy of chamber music, I started seeking scores for piano and other instruments whose players I befriended: clarinet, flute, bassoon, oboe, French horn, violin, viola, cello, harp, guitar, recorder. I bought the music so that I could play them by myself or with others.

Once at conservatory, I reasoned that it was important to learn about different instruments so that I could compose for them. While pursuing my teaching diploma in piano, I began collecting piano pedagogy, methods, techniques, and other related books. Collecting sheet music was no longer merely to feed my insatiable thirst for sightreading. It was necessary for teaching piano, my composition degree, and performance. I discovered the buzz of performing long before composing and teaching. In the Netherlands, the world of getting paid to perform with guitar, French horn, cello, and voice opened up — as did the need to expand my chamber music repertoire.

I knew that I was the most loyal client of second-hand sheet music stores. There were two I visited on a regular basis: one in London and the other in Amsterdam. I also knew that the owners regularly scanned the obituary column in local newspapers, looking for famous musicians that had died. They knew that they could get their sheet music for next to nothing. They’d get them in bulk and price each piece individually.

Second-hand sheet music are typically cheaper than newly printed scores. However, often second-hand sheet music is no longer in print and thus no longer available. As a graduate student in London, I’d go after second-hand sheet music. As a full-time magazine editor traveling between London and New York, I’d go for first-hand music books and collections. Over time, I built a sizable library of sheet music that included composers from A to Z.

With less than 2 weeks before Robert’s return to Boston, I finally gave in. “Let’s take a look at those boxes,” I said.

There were now 15 boxes stacked in the garden house bicycle shed.

The first box took half an hour to go through. The second box a little less than half an hour. By the 3rd box, we had gained momentum and criteria. Say good-bye to anything that can be found on the Internet, too hard to play, boring, old, falling apart, or duplicated. Keep the really interesting pieces that I can’t get anywhere else, including out-of-print editions and those I paid dearly for.

We are now half way through my music. I’m letting go of all chamber music except for piano & guitar duos that we’ve yet to try but want to. I’m parting with that collection of Dutch composers, piano duets, piano methodology and technique books, easy piano for students, and countless binders full of photocopied sheet music — which Robert said is illegal to sell.

Out of 15 boxes, I expect to extract enough for just 3 boxes to ship over.

That’s a lot of music to say good-bye to. A lot of music I won’t be playing. A lot of time spent choosing and acquiring the music.

I just hope what I don’t keep will find a home very soon.

400 CDs and sheet music for piano, duets, piano methods, piano technique, chamber music with piano, dictionaries, travel guidebooks, and more!!

Saturday 1 September 2012 from 1 to 4 pm
Keulsekade 25, 3531 JX Utrecht
or by appointment (REPLY BELOW)

Piano duet by Robert Pollock

Maui-based composer Robert Pollock’s “A Little Transition Music, Please” is exciting and engaging to play. Listen to the recording and judge for yourself.

One of the reasons for calling composers to submit sheet music for multi-hand piano duets (i.e. my Call for Scores) was that I got tired of the predominance of the existing repertoire for 4-hand one piano music that’s easily available in libraries and in music stores. I was sure there was more music than the quartre mains of the bygone 18th and 19th centuries. Back then, composers readily arranged piano versions of chamber music and even orchestral works. Some began with duets and then orchestrated them.

When I told Maui-based composer and pianist Robert Pollock about my Call for Scores, he immediately gave me his “A Little Transition Music, Please” — quatre mains written for the occasion of 21st November 2010 – MACC presents E&FA. Robert Pollock founded Ebb & Flow Arts after he moved to Maui from New Jersey. Most recently the foundation organised a “Battle of the Pianists” on 16th July 2011 in which my multi-hand duet “Three on One” (6 hands on one piano) was performed.

As I could not participate in the “Battle of the Pianists” because I would be physically on the other side of the world, namely in the Netherlands not Hawaii, I carried his piano duet across the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco to sightread it with Chong Kee Tan and across the Atlantic Ocean to Utrecht, Netherlands where I finally recorded it with Brendan Kinsella on my Steinway on 4th July 2011.

What emerged was a duet we all found to be exciting, engaging, and fun. Click to listen to the recording below.

A Little Transition Music by Robert Pollock, performed by Anne Ku and Brendan Kinsella

The secundo starts with what seems like an ostinato on the left hand, setting the scene, or rather the pace and the anticipation. The primo joins in the second beat of the third bar, like a conversation. In fact, the entire piece is a conversation that gets more and more charged and exciting. The secundo never stays still but keeps the momentum going.

A Little Transition Music, Please - duet for 4 hands, one piano by Robert Pollock
A Little Transition Music, Please - duet for 4 hands, one piano by Robert Pollock

Music that has been performed is obviously more ready to be sightread and played than untested sheet music. Let’s hope works like these find their way into mainstream quatre-mains repertoire.

The Heartbeat Duet by Michael Christopher Churchyard

Michael Christopher Churchyard’s The Heartbeat Duet has parts of different difficulty levels, allowing players with different sightreading and playing levels to play together. Even so — and even with the slow tempo — players need to count well and play in sync.

The previous piano duets I have introduced and reviewed here on Concertblog from the multi-hand duet call for scores were written for pianists with equal sightreading and playing ability. In fact, it is one of the challenges of finding someone else with the same ability level as you to reach that “flow” in playing. Otherwise, as mentioned in the previous blog post, it is frustrating for both players. The more advanced player has to slow down or stop (get interrupted) while the less advanced player struggles to keep up, sometimes with just one hand.

“The Heartbeat Duet” by Michael Christopher Churchyard  is an example of a duet in which one part is more difficult than the other. The primo has to play octaval chords in a rhythmic pattern that is more challenging than the secundo part which is predictability repetitive. Appropriately titled, the work sounds like heart beats.

The Heartbeat Duet for 4 hands 1 piano by Michael Christopher Churchyard
The Heartbeat Duet for 4 hands 1 piano by Michael Christopher Churchyard

Churchyard writes:
Shortly after discovering your contest for multi-hand piano duets, I found myself interested in the possibility of uniting the pianists emotionally through a repetitive, droning, and melodically emotional soundscape. As both players create this sound within an intimate and personal atmosphere with only one another and the audience, there is a level of attachment and kinship formed between the performers. ‘The Heartbeat Duet’ proceeds with this concept; a bass pedal on C, together with repetitive chordal implications continuously sounded at strict intervals which frequently displace the notated meter, is symbolic of a heartbeat throughout the score. The second pianist responds with expressive melodies always developed in close accordance with previously established melodic material.

‘The Heartbeat Duet’ is minimalistic, and appropriate for pianists of moderate technical ability; the score instead focuses on precise melodic and rhythmic performance and expressive interpretation.

Having tried many fast pieces, Brendan Kinsella and I decided to slow down to a heart beat of this duet. The Lento (quarter note = 60) forced us to count carefully. Even so, you can hear that we were not quite together in the beginning. Dynamically it’s marked pianissimo and piano up to bar 14 and mezzo forte thereafter. I would have preferred a crescendo to the end, somewhat like John Carollo’s “Completely Clothed in Sound” for three players.

Listen below for an extract — sightread by Brendan and me on Monday 4th July 2011 – and recorded on the 1909 New York Steinway Grand at the Monument House in Utrecht, Netherlands.

The Heartbeat Duet by Michael Christopher Churchyard

Kinsella Concert 2nd July 2011

The second concert of the first weekend in July 2011 in the Monument House in Utrecht, Netherlands features American pianist Brendan Kinsella, organic wine tasting, and authentic Vietnamese cuisine.

Wines painted for Columbus Symphony Orchestra fundraiser, 16x20 acrylic on canvas, Rob Judkins (2011)
Wine and Strawberries, 16x20 acrylic on canvas, Rob Judkins (2011)

As I blog, I plan the details of upcoming concerts which could easily comprise a festival. These events are more than concerts. They have elements of music, drink, food, conversation, and fundraising. Dare I call it a festival? Or just a concert series?

Alternative names for the second concert in this series:

  • organic wine concert
  • Kinsella plays Rzewski
  • Vietnamese dinner concert
  • Beethoven, Poulenc, Liszt, Rzewski

Which came first? The idea of introducing organic wine to guests of the Monument House to accompany live music.

Next, pianist Nathanael May introduced the American pianist Brendan Kinsella who will travel with him to the Soundscape Music Festival in the Italian Alps the following week.

I contacted my Vietnamese friend to take up on her suggestion an authentic Vietnamese dinner after she experienced the Egyptian dinner at last year’s Glass Vase Concert. She then contacted Chef Hong who is available to cater for Saturday 2nd July 2011.

Kinsella is giving a virtuosic programme of the late works of Franz Liszt, the famous Waldstein Sonata of Beethoven, Poulenc’s Aubade, and the very American feel of Rzewski’s version of American popular ballad “Down by the Riverside.”

As with the previous evening (Body of Your Dreams Concert), there will be organic wines served by Eveline Scheren and fundraising for an artist-in-residence fellowship through a silent auction of items from the Monument House and other donations.

Saturday 2nd July 2011

6 pm Doors open for authentic Vietnamese dinner

7:30 pm Doors open for concert

Silent auction, pre-bidding online

8:15 pm Concert (no intermission)

9:30 pm Raffle draw for door prizes

9:45 pm Results of silent auction.

For details and reservations, visit High Note Live.

Yoga at Monument House Utrecht (part two)

On Saturday 19th June, our doors opened at 17:30 for a yoga group lesson. What was unique about this yoga session? For one, I finally learned when to breathe in or out (breathe in when you go up, breathe out when you go down — according to natural forces of gravity).

On Saturday 19th June, our doors opened at 17:30 for a yoga group lesson. First to arrive was Liek, a Dutch lady who had recently returned from India. She had told me at our sports club that everyone was doing yoga in India. Could it really be true?

Next to arrive on bicycle was Anna, an English scientist who was 7 months pregnant. While unsure at first about doing yoga at this stage of pregnancy, she soon realised that the breathing exercises helped calm her baby down. Her unborn child had been kicking and keeping her awake at night.

Merrenna, an Australian project manager who had been traveling nonstop for several weeks, looked forward to this 1.5 hour yoga session as a way to relax. The next day, she told me she finally slept well for the first time since her new assignment began.

Half an hour after the ladies and I got acquainted, Henk Fransen, whom I had met at a Dutch Indian dinner event in April, arrived with his friend Krishna from India. It was Krishna’s second visit to the Netherlands.

Instead of asking everyone to pay for the session, I made it potluck, i.e. everyone to bring a vegetarian dish for the dinner after the 1.5 hour yoga session.

  • Liek: Turkish bread and different spreads
  • Anna: mushroom, feta & tomato quiche
  • Merrenna: fruit pie, whipped cream and rose wine
  • Anne/Merrenna: penne in creamy blue cheese sauce
  • Henk: Indian sweets
  • Anne: drinks of fresh mint (from the garden) tea; chilled drinks – home-made elderflower drink, iced suntea, and sangria (peach, pear, apple, and orange slices)

What was unique about this yoga session? For one, I finally learned when to breathe in or out (breathe in when you go up, breathe out when you go down — according to natural forces of gravity). The rest, I’ll have to ask the other participants to LEAVE A REPLY below.

  1. it was authentic — ask Krishna about anything and he’d tell you something profound, for yoga comes from India. [I now understand why my non-Chinese friends prefer that I take them to Chinese restaurants rather than venturing on their own.]
  2. it was 1.5 hours rather than the usual 1 hour at fitness centres. At Yoga Awareness in Maui, Hawaii where I took a 1.5 hour group lesson, I felt 1.5 hour was more fitting.
  3. the small class size (4 ladies + 1 man) allowed Krishna to give us individual attention.
  4. the private setting contributed to the experience: a Dutch monument house next to a peaceful canal with a gentle breeze rustling the leaves of the linden trees
  5. the yoga session was spiritual with focus on breathing and proper technique — not the kind of exercise to sweat at fitness centres. [This is not to say yoga classes at fitness centres are wrong, but merely that the focus is different.]
Yoga teacher Krishna at Monument House Utrecht, June 2010
Yoga teacher Krishna at Monument House Utrecht, June 2010

After the yoga session, we filled our plates with different vegetarian dishes (contributed by everyone) and sat down on the oak parquet floor to enjoy a small concert. As the sun set just before Summer Solstice, Krishna sang devotional and folk music to his harmonium and told stories.

Everyone expressed thanks and interest in the next yoga session at the Monument House. But Krishna had to return to India where he lives and works. Who will be the next yoga teacher to lead us to enlightenment?

About Krishna Bijalwan, yoga teacher

Qualified as a yoga teacher in 2004, Krishna has been doing yoga since 1988. Besides his full-time job as a high school teacher in Uttarkashi in the Himalayas, he also conducts yoga workshops for school students in India and adults in the Netherlands (since 2007) and Israel (2008). His yoga workshop was aired on the Discovery Channel all over India in December 2006.

In Spring 2010, Krishna realised his dream of having a guest house and yoga centre on the banks of the Ganga River in the Himalayas. His newly built guest house “Anand Ganga” offers clean accommodation (to Western standards), home-cooked meals, and yoga classes. The quiet location is excellent for hiking. A week’s accommodation with 2 yoga classes and 3 meals per day cost under 200 euros. Ten days of the same cost US$ 300. More details on the website which will be updated with more information.

Krishna's new guest house and yoga centre Anand Ganga in the Himalayas
Krishna's new guest house and yoga centre Anand Ganga in the Himalayas

continued from part one

Hosting our next house concert (final part)

I purposefully refrained from writing about anything else in the run up to the sold-out house concert of 3rd October 2009 which we organised and hosted for classical guitarist Derek Grippers. I wanted to document what was involved in producing such a concert so that I could refer to it the next time we get the urge to host another concert in our home.

Monument House Concert Series, Utrecht Netherlands
Monument House Concert Series, Utrecht Netherlands

I purposefully refrained from writing about anything else in the run up to the sold-out house concert of 3rd October 2009 which we organised and hosted for classical guitarist Derek Gripper. I wanted to document what was involved in producing such a concert so that I could refer to it the next time we get the urge to host another concert in our home.

As mentioned in my previous blog entry (part four), improving capacity management, revenue management, and audience development will reduce stress and anxiety before a concert.

We bought and borrowed extra folding chairs and hoped for last minute cancellations and no-shows to cope with capacity management. To ensure we met our costs and contributed sufficiently for the artist, we strived for maximum booking. Earlier (in part three) I mentioned the invitation process which is critical in audience development.

Monument House Concert Series Utrecht, Netherlands
Monument House Concert Series Utrecht, Netherlands

On the day after the concert, we placed the chairs row by row and discovered we could fit 50 people comfortably, all with view of the performer who would sit in the corner near the front door. I’m writing this so that next time I won’t panic when the bookings reach and surpass that magic number 50. What a relief! We couldn’t have known this before we had moved the furniture. We couldn’t have moved the furniture earlier than the day before the concert, for we live in this very house.

Four people didn’t show up. I received an SMS from someone who fell ill from possible food poisoning from her husband’s cooking. The other couple had provided all the South African wines.

Bookcase in living room of Monument House Utrecht, Netherlands
Bookcase in living room of Monument House Utrecht, Netherlands

It would have been a short, straight forward (i.e. simple) concert without the supporting acts, dinner, workshop, and masterclass beforehand. In many ways, these pre-concert events complicated the planning and logistics. Next time I would insist on a time schedule that gets followed to the minute, with plenty of breaks between each event and clarity of delineation of beginnings and ends.

I was trapped in the downstairs kitchen while the guitar master class osmosed into the workshop. Alone preparing the refreshments and dinner, I sent brain waves to the three ladies trapped in the upstairs kitchen. The guests for dinner with the artist arrived on time, but the workshop continued on.

So you see, hosting and producing a house concert is quite another matter. As mentioned in part one of this series, I enjoy attending house concerts. I love performing at house concerts. But I’ve yet to LOVE organising house concerts. I would dearly like to show others how to do it (hence this blog) so that they too can experience live music in their home.

Monument House Concert Series Utrecht, Netherlands
Monument House Concert Series Utrecht, Netherlands

Many of you reading this are wondering — how did the concert go? Did people enjoy the music? What time did they leave? Did I miss anything? Should I have called on the day for last minute cancellations so that I could squeeze in?

I will save that for the next blog.