Premiering new work for guitar orchestra: Beaser’s Chaconne

Premiering a new work is always a nerve-wracking experience, especially in front of the composer and an unknown public. I’m not sure who has the greater pressure, the composer or the performer, or in this case, the conductor.

On Sunday 18th March 2018, the Boston Festival Guitar Orchestra, made up of several regional guitar ensembles, including Boston Guitar Orchestra, gave the world premiere of Robert Beaser‘s Chaconne, a piece commissioned by the Boston Classical Guitar Society for the New England Guitar Ensemble Festival (NEGEF).

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Free concerts in Boston and Newton

Why free concerts? Why not? You can find free concerts in Boston nearly every day. Here’s how and why.

Search for “free concerts in Boston” and you will find a list on the calendar of Boston.com. However, this is only a partial list. Browse the websites of the New England Conservatory, Berklee College of Music, Longy School of Music, Boston Public Library, to name a few, and you will find free concerts nearly every day in this part of New England.

What’s the catch, you say? Why are concerts free?

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Guitar Concerto Aranjuez

Robert Bekkers plays Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez in his second DMA concert at the New England Conservatory in Boston.

Those of you who contributed to Robert Bekkers’ crowd-funding campaign to raise cash for his second doctoral music of arts concert in Boston probably wondered how it went.

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Crowd funding: get the music to my orchestra

The title “get the music to my orchestra” begs for attention. The orchestra produces music how does one get the music to the orchestra? Read about crowd funding that’s needed to get the scores to the orchestra.

An orchestra produces music. Why would you need to get music to the orchestra?

The title of Robert Bekkers’ crowd funding project begs attention. He needs to raise enough funds to rent the sheet music of the blind composer Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” or the “Aranjuez Guitar Concerto” so that the musicians can read from the score and perform it for his Doctorate of Musical Arts recital at the New England Conservatory (NEC) in Boston on Sunday May 11th, 2014.

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Classical guitar lessons in your home in Newton, Massachusetts

Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers offers private guitar lessons in the comfort and convenience of your own home, in Newton, Massachusetts.

Breaking news!!

Classical guitarist Robert Bekkers is offering private guitar lessons in the comfort of your home in Newton, MA (ranked 4th out of 100 best places to live in the USA).  He brings a wealth of experience from years of teaching pupils aged 3 to 80, in Dutch, English, and German. Here is a chance to study under a sought-after and versatile musician.

Currently Mr Bekkers teaches at the prestigious South Shore Conservatory in Hingham, MA, lauded for the continuum model of artistic education and recognized as a national model for success.

When not teaching, Mr Bekkers gives concerts as a soloist and chamber musician, most recently appearing at the anual Boston Guitar Festival. He specializes in custom-tailoring music for guitar solo or guitar and other instruments for any occasion. At time of writing, he is preparing for his own arrangement of music requested for a wedding for flute and guitar, July 13th.

Prior to moving to Boston to pursue his doctorate in musical arts (DMA) at the New England Conservatory, Mr Bekkers toured as a guitar soloist across the USA for three weeks, and earlier with his piano and guitar duo for 5.5 weeks coast to coast, and sojourned on the island of Maui in Hawaii for the 3-month winter season 2010-2011. Before relocating to the USA where he is now based, he taught all genres of guitar, performed actively as classical guitarist, arranged music for guitar and other instruments, and transcribed music for flamenco guitar. Needless to say, he is a prolific musician catering his music to the needs of his audiences and pupils.

Robert Bekkers, classical guitar teacher, tel: (832) 231 5518 Newton, MA
Robert Bekkers, classical guitar teacher, tel: (832) 231 5518 Newton, MA

For more information about Robert Bekkers, visit his website at http://www.robertbekkers.com

For more information about Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo, visit http://www.pianoguitar.com

Replaced by a string quartet

It began with a piano in London and ended with a string quartet in Boston.

It’s 8 am in London. My next door neighbor starts practising promptly. I have only met his wife who explained yesterday that he had a concert that evening. They moved into this neighborhood, what, 4 ? 5 years ago. Yet I never bothered to get to know them because one of them smokes, perhaps even both, albeit outside. The cigarette smoke drifts into my garden. And for that, I did not bother to get to meet, much less, know this virtuoso Russian concert pianist.

As the “Flight of the Bumble Bee” wears on, I find myself as the beneficiary of live background music. Ten years ago, I housed a young pianist who practised this exact piece every day while I made my move to the Netherlands. I could only imagine what my neighbors experienced through the brick walls.

Just last week, I unpacked my suitcase to the live background music of the classical guitar — Robert practising for his 3 gigs.

The third guitar concert culminated in Mauro Giuliani’s Theme & Variations. It was a piece I knew like the back of my hand. We went through it many times, the guitar struggling to be heard, the piano unresponsive and unsympathetic. After many years of tug and war, I finally relented.

The guitar cannot sound well if the guitarist has to force it to sound louder than the grand piano. Although it is absolutely possible, as Amsterdam-based composer Allan Segall proved in his first piece for piano and guitar, in most other cases the guitar has to struggle and the piano has to give in. The traditional way in which the duo is written assumes the piano is a fortepiano or some other subservient predecessor of today’s modern piano.

So Robert upgraded to a “concert guitar” — built to match the concert grand piano.

But I still had work to do. I had to constantly adjust to the volume and quality of the guitar sound.

There in Williams Hall at the New England Conservatory, on Tuesday 8th May, at approximately 9 pm, Robert performed Giuliani’s work with a string quartet. The four string players, by sheer nature of their instruments, brought out infinitely more color and texture than I could produce with 88 keys. Each of their four strings was a different instrument. They had the bows to help produce sound at different parts of the strings. They could pull, pluck, strum, hit, and more.

I sat back, resigned to my fate.

I had been replaced by a string quartet.

In the simplest case, my right hand was replaced by two violins and the left hand by the viola and cello. Thinking like this, every piano guitar duo piece can result in guitar and a string quartet or wind quartet or other combinations.

My eyes moistened as I thought of the years of preparation that led to this day. The guitarist can go on — playing solo with other instruments.

The pianist?

I’ve sold my Gerhard Adam grand piano in this Victorian cottage where I experimented with chamber music, house concerts, and eventually decided to pursue a degree in music. My Steinway Grand is sitting in a piano shop in Zeist, the Netherlands, waiting to be noticed, tried, and bought.

And I?

I have returned to where it all began. No piano. No audience. No house concert, but neighbor to a concert pianist who practises all day long.

C’est la vie.

Boston: the mecca of brain candy and classical music

The brain candy of classical music is available in abundance in Boston, the highest concentration of institutions of advanced education.

I wrote on my Facebook that I was visiting Boston for classical music and brain candy. I timed my arrival so I could attend Robert’s solo guitar concert at the New England Conservatory. Little did I realize that Boston had the highest concentration of colleges and universities — and with that, brain candy.

My graduate school classmate Kathryn, who specialized in corporate governance after running several restaurants, coined the term “brain candy.” Our brains need topics to chew on. It’s more fun to share candies than chew alone.

Before Robert’s solo guitar recital began, I recognized someone from a distance. It was the composer Tom Peterson whose piano sonata I had played, recorded, and blogged about. I had last seen him in Phoenix in early November 2010. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona. What was he doing in Boston?

Before Phoenix, Robert and I had invited him to dinner in London where he was finishing his masters degree at the Royal College of Music. Before London, we had met, for the first time, in Cortona, Italy, in July 2007.

As it turned out Tom was in Boston to see the Celtics game that same evening. He had seen the announcement of Robert’s guitar concert on Facebook. He decided to surprise us. Actually he was in this part of the world for another reason — the premiere of a commissioned piano solo piece for the Fisher Prize in New Haven, Connecticut.

Tom, his tuba-player friend, Robert, and I convened at Uno Grill and Bar Restaurant after the recital. We chewed on music for brain candy. When we parted our ways, Robert and I went to yet another concert that day — a string quartet in Jordan Hall.

I don’t think I have had such an in-depth discussion of classical music, composition, and performance since last summer in Utrecht, Netherlands, where we made brain candy out of music.

I have forgotten what it’s like to travel via mass public transit and eavesdrop. In the Netherlands, I could not, but here in Boston I could. On the “T” which is also the oldest metro system in America, I overhear conversations among students, teachers, business people, and tourists. Sometimes I get the urge to join them. Maybe that’s how I’d get more brain candy!