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.
A painting of our piano guitar duo live in concert in Connecticut!
What a delight to see us captured in a painting while we were playing on 23rd October 2010 in Connecticut! We documented our travels of Autumn in New England in a five part-blog starting here. In part 5, we remembered our concert at Mark and Beverly’s home. What fond memories we have!! Thank you, Ms Rosebrooks! Hope to meet you in person one day — and see your painting!
Classical guitarist Robert Bekkers will travel from Maui to Maine to meet pianist and composer Greg Hall, famous for his live concerts in Second Life where he is known as Tip Corbett. Reservations are requested and required for this rare opportunity to see two musicians perform original works for solo and duo of works written and not yet written, reviving that 19th century tradition of house concerts in Europe. They will be signing new CDs.
An extraordinary event is set to happen on Sunday 13th February 2011 at 7 pm in Wells, Maine.
Classical guitarist Robert Bekkers will travel from the sunny tropical island of Maui in Hawaii, crossing an ocean and most of the North American continent to the snow-covered town of Wells, Maine. There, he will give a concert with a pianist he has yet to meet — Greg Hall.
Pianist Greg Hall, also known as Gregory Hall, is a composer, pianist, and improviser. He gives regular weekly live concerts in “Second Life” where he is known as Tip Corbett. Below is his avatar.
On Sunday 13th February 2011, Greg Hall will appear in real life as himself.
Where is Wells, Maine? Robert Bekkers will take the 1.5 hour train ride from Boston going north. It will be an adventure in New England, now covered with snow.
What a change in weather it will be for Robert Bekkers who has been exploring Maui since Thanksgiving Day 2010 when he ended his coast-to-coast concert tour of mainland USA.
Together, Greg Hall and Robert Bekkers will revive that 19th century tradition of cozy house concerts when musicians played music they wrote (compositions) or music not yet written (improvisation). Back then, musicians were both performers and composers.
Bekkers has arranged a number of pieces for piano and guitar, performed and recorded but not yet published though highly sought-after. Hall’s repertoire can be heard online in “Second Life” as well as from his website.
They will play two sets solo — and join the two sets with duo improvisation and sightreading. It is probably the first of its kind.
Bekkers’ solos will be extracted from his “Cappricho” programme (2 page PDF): virtuosic works of Villa-Lobos, Brrios-Mangore, Brouwer, Bach, Walton, Martin, and Castelnuovo-Tedesco.
Both Hall and Bekkers will be signing their solo and duo CDs during the intermission and after the concert when guests are encouraged to stay and chat. Bekkers is currently producing CDs of live recordings of two concerts of his own piano guitar duo.
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!
When we decide to take a photograph, video, or describe an event (such as by telling, summarising it in text or blog) do we then remember it better than if we had not? How will we remember the two weeks in New England?
Does one’s memory get distorted or anchored by the act or result of recording it? In other words, when we decide to take a photograph, video, or describe an event (such as by telling, summarising it in text or blog) do we then remember it better than if we had not?
What are memories made of? How will we remember the two weeks in New England?
Yesterday I browsed through a photo album of my friend Alice, whom I’ve known since I was seven. I saw events from our childhood of which I had no recollection. Perhaps she thought the same when she perused my facebook photo album.
It’s hard to forget our frantic race against time to pack and fit everything in two suitcases and get to the airport on time. All that seems an eternity ago, after traveling for nearly two weeks, from the first day of Utrecht to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to London Heathrow Airport to Boston Logan Airport to today’s excursion on Interstate freeways to Pelham, New York.
I blog to share and to remember. There are too many things to share and not to forget.
Tuesday 19th October 2010:
Breakfast in Braintree, MA
Ida’s healthy homemade banana bread — no butter or eggs — densely packed with seeds and grains. The warm autumn morning sun on the deck — a cure for transatlantic jetlag.
Visit to Jamaica Plain in Boston. The run-down house on the hill that reminded me of the movie “Psycho”
The church that was not where we’d be giving a concert stood in one corner. I was curious but didn’t go inside.
St John’s Episcopal Church where we’d give our first concert on this tour — JP Concert Series. We revisited the next day for a short rehearsal.
Autumn in New England: from Boston to Connecticut and north to Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts, guitar music along the way.
Massachusetts and Connecticut
There is something magical about waking up in a warm bed to discover a breathtaking view of autumn colours.
It’s nearly 23 degrees Celsius in the shade in Western Massachusetts, in what’s known as Pioneer Valley. Robert is running and enjoying the warm weather, while I am trying to upload videos to share. In a couple of hours, we will drive to Shelburne Falls to give a house concert. [Concert will be dedicated to a fallen soldier buried in Maastricht.]
All along the drive from Massachusetts to Connecticut and back, we took in the different shades of yellow, orange, red, and green. This autumn in New England is completely different from the autumns in the Netherlands. It’s dry, crisp, warm, colourful, and three-dimensional.
In the rental car, we listened to new CDs given by the musicians who helped to realise our USA concert tour. The solo guitar music of composer, guitarist, festival-extraordinaire Frank Wallace is mesmerizing.
Later between Hampton and Dayville in Connecticut, we listened to the guitar duo of Mark and Beverly Davis. Beautiful! Simply beautiful music! On the way to Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, we listened to the CD “Ayres and Dances” again until I just had to play track 8 on the piano when we arrived.
The rate at which concerts get booked follows a nonlinear path. It takes a long time before the first concert gets booked. At some point it takes off. Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo visit the USA in mid-October 2010 — this is their story.
In a recent skype conversation with the London-based composer David Harvey, I observed that our concert bookings are speeding up. At first nothing seemed like happening. And now, every other e-mail is landing in good prospects.
David calls it the high school disco model. No one wants to be first on the dance floor. When it gets packed with dancers, everyone wants to squeeze into the little space that’s left.
Call it the herd mentality.
I call it the nonlinear process of concert bookings.
Who is going to arrange the first concert? The second?
At first, we did not know where to start. We obtained our visas in April 2010. We had to validate it by 21st October 2010. We had to pick a destination to book our flights.
Go where we’ve performed before? Houston and Maui.
Go where we’ve not visited before? That’s the rest of the USA.
And the rest of the USA is HUGE!
Start from the East Coast and work our way to the West and then back again?
Book our flights while they are on sale and then get the concerts?
Every time we started to book our flights, we got stopped. Where do we fly to? When do we leave? When do we come back?
Wait and get a concert booked? But where did we want to go?
Our friends in Houston wrote, “Tell us when you’re coming and we’ll get concerts for you.”
Our friends in Phoenix said the same thing.
Other friends in DC area, Florida, North Carolina, …. in fact everyone who knew we were planning a trip to the USA told us that they’d love to see us in concert if we’re in their area.
One of them approached a community music school near her home.
Another wrote a personal email introducing us and sent to all his friends who in turn forwarded to their friends, who forwarded to theirs. Before long, one of the email recipients expressed interest in organising a concert for us in his home.
A week later (still in August) a house concert was booked for 22nd October. As far as I know, there are still seats available in Newton, Massachusetts.
In early September, we were asked to confirm a concert in a big church in Boston. We couldn’t for the 14th of October, for we had a concert to give in Rotterdam on the 15th.
British Airways was having a sale. We could fly from Amsterdam to San Francisco and back for less than 500 euros. But we still could not book our flights until we had a peace of mind about the Monument House. [This will be another blog about how we managed to get a peace of mind.]
We have a week to go before we embark on this concert tour of the USA. We call it the scenic route from Boston to Maui.
We will experience Autumn in New England in a dry climate that is so different from windy (wet) Netherlands. [One Dutch postdoc researcher said that you really get to see the leaves change colour over a period of time rather than a sudden change as in the Netherlands.]
We will end our New England adventure in New York for a brief glimpse of the Big Apple before flying to North Carolina for a short visit. [New York deserves a separate, long visit.] At Duke University, we will be playing in the concert hall where I gave my senior recital. We will just miss our friends from Singapore who land in Raleigh/Durham Airport an hour after we take off for Phoenix.
In Phoenix, we will be playing at two community colleges and also a new Salon series. We will see a friend I’ve not seen since high school. We will miss the Grand Canyon on this first trip to Phoenix and fly to Houston for a private concert on the 6th of November.
Right now we’re arranging concerts for Houston & the vicinity and San Francisco & the vicinity. We’ll have to book our flights for Houston – SFO and get to Maui for Thanksgiving. We will see old friends and new friends we’ve not yet met.