Tag Archives: solo

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

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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Piano music for Thanksgiving

Although Thanksgiving is an American holiday not celebrated elsewhere, I can’t help compiling a list for a future concert around this time of the year. The most obvious are those with “thank you” in the title and traditional church hymns sung at this time.

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Viva la Vida for Easy Piano

The string introduction to Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida” is addictive.

If “La Vida Breve” means “The Short Life” then “Viva la Vida” means “Live the Life.” Not so fast, according to Lenny, there’s more to this.

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Let It Go for Easy Piano (Free and Complete)

UPDATED July 1, 2014

Due to popular demand, I have added the second half to complete the entire song. Click on the sample score (i.e. the image of the first page shown below) to get all six pages. Feedback welcome! This is a free download.

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Music of Henk Alkema

Henk Alkema was working on his last opera “Job” when I visited him last.

On Friday 22nd July 2011, I told him that I had gotten to know the music scene in Maui where I would return in mid-August. He showed me the flute concerto that had not been premiered. He showed me a waltz that he was sure Americans would love. He showed me an unpublished piano duet that he orchestrated for ensemble. I asked him for piano solo works so I could introduce unfamiliar works among more familiar titles to new audiences. He had plenty.

Henk was prolific.

One summer he was busy arranging music for the Metropole Orchestra. He was also giving private composition lessons. The last time he played at the Monument House Concert Series was the last set “Dichter op Muziek” at the Glass Vase Concert with Anna Schweitzer (cello) and Marianne Verbrugge (vocals). He had accompanied Harm Vuijk on the piano for his new euphonium concerto “All in Good Time” at the Piano as Orchestra concert in 2006.

As I write this blog, I am listening to the beautiful voice of his daughter Femke Alkema singing some of the songs he told me about. Henk’s website has full mp3 clips of his works. The muziekfragmenten page contains the vocal pieces with piano. They move me to tears.

Henk had not catalogued all his works on his website.

When he showed me the piano version of “Black Heat” I recognised it. He had given me a copy in 2008 but I had never tried it. I found the recording on his “Nog meer muziek” webpage. He wrote “Black Heat” for concert band. Sample scores are available here.

Black Heat for solo piano by Henk Alkema

Black Heat for solo piano by Henk Alkema

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Sightreading new multi-hand duets for one piano

I am blogging the experience of trying to get pianists to sightread, choose, and commit to studying the new piano duets I collected from the 30 living composers who answered my CALL FOR SCORES. In Maui, I had gone through all 42 new works with Karyn Sarring, an excellent sightreader at University of Hawaii Maui College. On electronic keyboards however, the duets didn’t sound quite the same as on real pianos as I later experienced with Chong Kee Tan in San Francisco.

This afternoon in Utrecht, Netherlands, the first in a series of small get-togethers in my CALL FOR PIANISTS, we three pianists gather in the home of Tom who had just bought a new Yamaha grand piano.

After coffee and a green bean coconut soup dessert, we approached the black piano with a few pieces I shortlisted to try. I showed them pieces that worked in San Francisco — they were easy to read. I showed the pieces that no one dared to try — the notes were too small. But there were other reasons why some pieces were not attempted.

“What happened to tonality?” cried Thera after trying to figure out the beats and pitches of a few duets that required rigorous counting.

“There’s so much wonderful literature of romantic piano music that I have yet to play! Why would I spend time trying to read new music?” exclaimed Tom.

After several attempts to read and decide who was better at the secondo or primo parts, we gravitated to showing off solo works we had studied individually and memorised. Thera played a moving work by Mendelssohn.

“I like to close my eyes and play — much easier than reading,” said Thera.

As soon as it was over, Tom gently pushed her aside and said, “It’s my turn now.” He played a virtuosic work of Haydn followed by Scarlatti Opus 11 no. 11.

How many hours of music have these two pianists got memorised in their heads? How long have they spent studying these pieces?

How can living composers compete with the dead ones who have a head start? Whose music are heard and published and readily available?

On 15th May 2011 in San Francisco, when I tried to get pianists to sightread these duets, one pianist reasoned as follows:

“Composers have to try much harder to get us to play their music. There is so much beautiful music we want to play — music we have heard of. To play music we haven’t heard of, it better be good and worthwhile.”

Perhaps such pianists prefer to play music they have committed themselves to. People, in general, for that matter, prefer the known, certain, and familiar. It’s far more comfortable to play something you’re competent at than try something that shows your incompetence (which can simply be due to lack of acquaintance or familiarity).

My attempt at getting these two pianists to try the remaining 40 duets has failed. They are now (as I write) churning out grandiose sounds of Katchaturian (Toccata), Rachmaninoff (Prelude op. 32 no. 5 in G), and Franck (Prelude, Fugue & Variations).

“It’s not that they are familiar,” protested Tom. “These old works go straight to the heart. Modern music appeals to the intellect.”

Thera added, “Yes, music IS emotional. I see in many modern compositions, the brain comes first.”

Surely there is modern music that appeals to the soul and the heart! But where is it?

“I like Martinu,” suggested Tom as he overlooked my typing. “His is mid-20th century. But he is dead now.”

Would my CALL FOR SCORES be more successful (in the sense of getting works to be played) if I had specified the music to appeal to the emotions?

We end with Liszt’s Consolation number 3. I have not given up trying the remaining multi-hand duets in the few hours left of the afternoon.

I am sure there are pianists who are eager to discover new sounds, new music that has yet to circulate or become familiar. These pianists like to sightread, try new things, work with other musicians, get to know the composers who write the music, and eventually get the composers to write music they want to play. How can I find other pianists like me?

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Count down to guitar solo concert tour

Five hours before Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers boards the airplane for his trans-Pacific and coast-to-coast red-eye (overnight) flight from Maui to Boston, he finishes a hearty meal at the cafeteria of Maui College famous for its award-winning Culinary Academy. Every Monday to Thursday between 11 am and 1 pm, Paina Meals at $5 a plate are served. Today he chose the more expensive $7.90 swordfish with purple potato as a send-off meal. He knows that there will be NO complimentary meals served on Hawaiian Airlines and Delta Airlines for the long journey.

Guitarist Robert Bekkers at Maui College in Hawaii

Guitarist Robert Bekkers at Maui College in Hawaii

An e-mail from the concert host in Wells, Maine brings a reality check:

“As the day draws near, I’m praying for NO MORE SNOW! We’ve had so much with more expected, and I’m concerned about parking. There is just no more room to push the mountains of snow that have accumulated around the driveway.”

That concert of “Guitar meets Piano” will take place on Sunday 13th February, a day of travel for Robert Bekkers on the Boston T-line and the Amtrak. Before then, he will have given two house concerts in Boston. Valentine’s Day on Monday 14th February will be another day of travel, by Amtrak from Wells, Maine to Boston and then the Peter Pan coach to Manhattan.

What he brings to these concert hosts and their guests are three new CDs he produced in Maui: a solo guitar album and two live recordings of his Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo concerts in Maui and at Duke University. He hopes and expects the sale of these CDs to support this 3 week tour of Boston, Wells, Pelham, Houston, and Phoenix.

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