Rose Concert 2015: Father’s Day, the Brain, Alzheimer’s Disease

Anne Ku connects the themes of rose, Father’s Day, the brain, and Alzheimer’s Disease to pay tribute and raise awareness at the Rose Concert 2015. She premieres Emre Aki’s “Little Angel” dedicated to his daughter.

Two years ago, I gave my first Rose Concert at Roselani Place, a home named after the rose in central Maui for elderly residents. When I ran out of songs about the rose, I ventured into songs about other flowers like jasmine, cherry blossoms, etc.

This time, on Friday June 19th, I also paid tribute to Father’s Day (Sunday June 21st) and National Alzheimer’s Disease and Brain Awareness Month. Call it a concert to celebrate the beautiful minds of Aaron Copland, Maurice Ravel, and Scott Joplin.

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Halloween Piano Concert: music from horror films

Halloween music can come from horror movies or those with ghosts, vampires, monsters, and other fantasy creatures. Anne Ku gives a piano concert to celebrate this occasion on Maui.

In the spirit of themed piano concerts, I decided to do one for Halloween, after my previous one for Earth Day in April 2014. Because Halloween is so popular in the USA, rather than run away and hide from trick-or-treaters as I usually do, I thought I’d face the music and celebrate with an audience that may appreciate a journey down memory lane.

The word Halloween originates from “All Hallows’ Even” or “the eve of All Hallows’ Day.”  All Hallows’ Day is simply another name for All Saints’ Day, the day the Catholics commemorate all the saints.

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Music for the earth piano concert

A concert of music works with titles to do with the earth so as to raise awareness and respect the earth and all that’s around us —

In tandem with arranging music for the Earth Day Jam, a free one-hour piano workshop to get people to experience making music together, I decided to end the week with a tribute to the earth. As in previous two concerts this year, my most advanced students opened the concert for me, this time with more confidence and conviction than ever before.

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Music from Movies Concert

When choosing music to play for a concert, it’s important to have a theme, tell a story that not only introduces each work but also links them to each other. Balance the familiar with the unfamiliar; slow and fast. Variety is the spice of life.

For the record and to avoid repeating the same program in the future, I’m documenting what I played for the concert I gave on Friday 28th February 2014. I had contemplated the possibilities of piano music from movies a few days earlier.

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The Rose Concert

The Rose Concert is a one-hour performance of music, lyrics, poems, and movies to do with the flower — the rose, in celebration of the Rose Month at Roselani Place in Maui. The concert was free but not recorded on Friday 14th June 2013, given by Anne Ku.

If you read my earlier blog post about preparing for a concert of roses and flowers, you might be curious what happened on 14th June 2013, the day of the one-hour concert.

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Concert of roses and other flowers

In preparation for an upcoming afternoon tea concert of roses and flowers, I started looking for music with rose in the title.

On the bookshelf of the music classroom were loose sheet music and a Reader’s Digest Family Songbook Album. Here I found the following oldies:

  • My Wild Irish Rose
  • Days of Wine and Roses
  • I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
  • Yellow Rose of Texas
  • La Vie En Rose
  • Red Roses for a Blue Lady

But will these “rose” songs fill an hour of performance?

What about pop songs? Immediately I thought of the following favorites:

  • The Rose (Bette Midler)
  • Kissed by a Rose (Seal)
  • Cracklin’ Rosie (Neal Diamond)
  • Bed of Roses (Bon Jovi)

How about other kinds of flowers? Here again, I wracked my brain.

  • Tiptoe Through the Tulips
  • Tulips in Amsterdam
  • Jasmine Flower
  • Mei Hua (plum flower)

Searching on the Internet, I found a webpage of parlor songs about rose, which is a symbol of love.

There’s even a webpage of songs with different kinds of flowers in the title! And another of pop songs!

Extending this further, I could play familiar piano solos such as

  • Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker Suite (Tchaikovsky)
  • Jardins Sous la Puie (Debussy)
  • Flower Duet from Lakme (Delibes)
  • Flower Song from Carmen (Bizet)

I am sure there are more works inspired by roses and other flowers. Fortunately, others have done the research for me already — see Classic FM’s 25 selections.

Next steps:

  1. Find the sheet music.
  2. Sightread and decide how much time I have and want to devote to further study.
  3. If sheet music not adequate, consider improvising or finding a better arrangement.
  4. Shortlist.
  5. Research.
  6. Arrange them in order.
  7. Try out the order – does it make sense? Does it tell a story? Does it vary in tempo and mood?
  8. Put together the program.
  9. Practice!

Note: June is national rose month. Maui’s official flower is heavenly rose, or “lokelani” in Hawaiian. Roselani is the Americanization of “lokelani”

Friday 14 June 2013
3 to 4 pm
Roselani Place
Papa Avenue, Kahului
Maui, Hawaii

Solo piano sheet music: arrangements and improvisations

Anne Ku hunts for interesting piano solo music to play at Christmas and discovers Christmas carols arranged by Sally DeFord and Jim Brickman as well as Hawaiian melodies by Daniel Ho.

I would like to end 2011 with a welcome to 2012 by touching upon piano solo music that is interesting to play.

A few years ago I arranged “Ding Dong Merrily On High” for piano, guitar, and violin. While it was an assignment at conservatory, I nevertheless enjoyed the experience and hoped to see such Christmas arrangements elsewhere. I never got the chance to fully research this.

This Christmas, I needed music. So I began my search.

Borsendorfer, Utrecht Conservatory, Netherlands Photo credit: Olaf Hornes
Borsendorfer, Utrecht Conservatory, Netherlands Photo credit: Olaf Hornes 2007

In preparation for the 2 hour caroling session on the new (old) grand piano at Roselani Place, I looked for Christmas carol arrangements that were atypical of the traditional SATB but interesting and pleasant to play. A good improviser only needs the melody and the chords to produce something fitting of the occasion. Christmas carol from church hymnals are one source for improvisers but not for those who like to read and play something different.

I googled and found Sally DeFord who has made her arrangements freely downloadable from her website at She specifically wrote “making copies for non-commercial use is permitted.”

From the university library, I found an album of piano solo arrangements by Jim Brickman. He wrote “The Gift,” which a soprano from the Maui College choir sang to my accompaniment at Roselani Place. I played it again on Christmas Day as a postlude. The congregation at the Christian Science Church where I substituted as pianist for 3 services gave wonderful feedback about my selection. It was Christmas with a new age feel. Certainly, I enjoyed playing carols with a twist.

Daniel Ho, George Kahumoku, Tia Carrere, 15 Dec 2011 Maui
Daniel Ho, George Kahumoku, Tia Carrere, 15 Dec 2011 Maui

On 15th December 2011 at the McCoy Theatre at the Maui Arts & Cultural Centre, I watched the multi-talented Daniel Ho play guitar, ukelele, piano, and sing. He improvised while accompanying Tia Carrere and George Kahumoku, Jr. Or had he memorised his own arrangements? I couldn’t wait to meet him in person during the intermission. I asked if his improvisations were written down arrangements or actual improvisations he performed. The answer came in the form of an e-mail with a zipped folder of his published works for piano solo, piano with other instruments, ukelele, and slack key guitar.

Now that the Christmas festivities are over, I look forward to studying the arrangements and compositions of Daniel Ho. His book “E Kahe Malie: Hawaiian Piano Instrumentals” contains piano versions of 11 songs spanning 42 pages. His “Colorful Sounds” book presents his own harmonic method he uses in his compositions, arrangements, and performances. It will be the beginning of my quest for arrangements of traditional melodies (in this case, Hawaiian) in different styles.

A piano for Roselani

Playing music for senior citizens on an electric keyboard is not the same as on an acoustic piano. Live music has positive effects on alzheimer sufferers. What does it take to get a real piano into an elderly home like Roselani Place in Kahului, Maui?

For Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving Day, I brought my 70-something mom to Roselani Place to celebrate with the residents. I played the electric keyboard while the residents and their guests enjoyed their chef-cooked luncheons. Music has an amazing way of uniting people when they recognize tunes they know and start humming. Some came up and thanked me afterwards.

I love looking for music to play for an audience. For both luncheons, I had borrowed several volumes of sheet music from the local library: music from the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s. Because of the diverse ethnicities of the residents, I even included the popular “Sakura” and Hawaiian songs. I wanted to play them the way I prepared them on the grand piano I practised on.

Steinway concert grand in Maui
Steinway concert grand in Maui

Unfortunately an electric keyboard, despite its bells and whistles, is not an acoustic piano.

Once the restaurant was filled, the people in the back could not hear me. I had cranked up the volume to the max. I tried fiddling with the instrument selection. A harpsichord sound was surprisingly louder than the “grand piano” selection. I tried synchronising a drum beat to it. I could not increase the overall volume.

When I first visited Roselani earlier this year, I was eager to try the upright piano in the reception area. I quickly learned that the entire treble half was long gone. Unstoppable, I moved to the bass half and continued to play. Somebody switched off the piped recorded music. The residents started to listen as if finally awakened from their reveries. The piano was different from the constant music coming out of overhead speakers. There was a person at the piano. Knowing that they were listening changed the way I played. It was no longer practice but performance.

I know for a fact that live foreground music is much more effective than recorded background music. In my research into programming live music for the elderly, I learned that live music is therapeutic for alzheimer sufferers. Just google “alzheimer music” and see the evidence. I have seen a passive audience come alive when they see and hear a live concert. Even if they cannot speak or recognise me, I can see life in their eyes and feel the firmness of their hand grip. In years of playing in such homes throughout the Netherlands, my piano guitar duo has revised our repertoire to choose what works best. The staff and volunteers at such homes know that the choice of music directly affects how well the residents sleep at night.

What will it take to move a working piano to Roselani Place?

Fundraising to get a piano in there?

Roselani Place is a 501c organization. This is a form of savings for anyone who is leaving the island but is stranded by a piano they can’t sell should consider donating to Roselani. They can deduct the value of their piano against their income tax. It’s a last resort, unless they are prepared to pay for storage or leave it with a tuner or music store for sale on consignment.

I suppose one way to find out the attractiveness of my proposal is to monitor Craigslist. How long does it take before a piano gets sold? Or perhaps I should ask a piano tuner or technician.