Tag Archives: USA

Star Spangled Banner for not so easy piano

The National Anthem of the United States is neither easy to sing nor play. It’s not easy to sing because of the wide octave range. It’s not easy to play because the melody and bass move all over the place. What motivated me to arrange the American anthem for piano? Fourth of July?

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Classical guitar lessons in your 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

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What money cannot buy in Taiwan

Even with the positive effects of globalization, it’s still not possible to get what you want where you are. Sometimes you have to travel elsewhere to be able to choose what you want at a better price than you can get where you live.

In Taiwan, it’s possible to eat very well for less than what it costs to buy a cup of coffee in the USA.

For lunch, we three ordered 4 dishes from an authentic Szechuan restaurant: tofu, greens, clam soup, and 3 bowls of Szechuan wontons (chao shou). The meal came with unlimited self-service white rice and sweet black jelly drink (xian cao, or hsian tsao, or translated literally, fairy grass). The bill was US $12.00.

In the early afternoon, I got a haircut for US $3.50 — just the cut, no shampoo or blow dry.

Later I ordered a small bowl of wonton noodle soup for about US $1.50 from an outdoor, roadside stall (hawker). It was so filling that I barely had room for papaya, pineapple, salt-water goose leg, steamed bamboo leaf parcel, and other small dishes (xiao cai; hsiao tsai) afterwards.

Yet, at the same time, an iPhone 4S costs about US $663 outright. SIM unlocked. It’s better to get such gadgets in the USA. Accessories, such as iPad and iPhone covers, on the other hand, are quite inexpensive and varied. I bought a nice iPhone 5 cover for a mere US$10 at a convenience store in Taipei.

The 2.5 hour coach ride from Taipei to Taichung cost me US $6.00 —- quite hard to believe.

My nondescript hotel in Taichung has all the amenities I need for the week: wireless Internet, shower, TV (though I don’t need this), clean bed & daily change of sheets and towels, shower, toilet, two mirrors. I can get boiling hot water or cold water from a dispenser in the hallway. It’s a 5 minute walk from my father’s home. How much? Less than US$ 25 per night.

The walk to my father’s home meanders through a shopper’s paradise of colorful assortment of shoes, clothes for all seasons, and other material goods. Sales range from 10% to 90% off. Everything is primed for “shop till you drop.”

Unfortunately, all that glitters is not gold for someone who is not here to shop but to maximize the experience of one precious week for another year or more before I see my father again.

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From Utrecht to Boston

alternative title:  by foot, bus, train, plane, metro, foot

How did Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers travel from his home in Utrecht, Netherlands to Boston, Massachusetts?

The garden house that Robert Bekkers designed, got built, and lived in Utrecht, Netherlands

The garden house that Robert Bekkers designed, got built, and lived in Utrecht, Netherlands

Walk from home to bus stop. 3 minutes

Take bus number 4 to Utrecht Central Station. 5 minutes

Take the Intercity train from Utrecht Centraal (two a’s) to Schiphol Airport. 25 minutes.

Check-in at KLM counter.

Fly to Paris.

Change planes. One hour is barely enough time to get to the new gate!

Fly to Boston, Massachusetts.

Take the T-line to his final destination in the USA: his new home (below).

The house in Boston where RB lives

The house in Boston where RB lives

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Two year anniversary of Concert Blog today!

Hard to believe that it has been exactly 2 years since we launched the Concert Blog on WordPress.com to document our adventures and discoveries in music. Since our first blog on 24th March 2009, we have evolved from writing about our duo to reviewing concerts and sharing insights into cultural economics of concertizing.

The two-year journey has taken us from the Netherlands to England, Crete, Belgium, Spain, Finland, Denmark, Italy, France, Taiwan, and the USA. In addition to the musicians and composers who have actively contributed to our concertizing and exploration in the world of live and recorded music, we have worked with artists, photographers, film makers, and other interesting people from all walks of life to make concerts happen. What we learned, we shared. We are grateful to all the feedback from readers and audiences everywhere.

It is now time to categorise the different topics and make it easier for readers to access from our Blog Page.

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo in Wailea, March 2011. Photo: Dennis O'Keefe

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo in Wailea, 16 March 2011. Photo: Dennis O'Keefe

Time to celebrate! But Robert flies to Phoenix tonight and Anne to San Francisco in mid-May.

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Makawao concert poster and CD

A framed poster of our first public concert in the USA hangs on my mother’s wall. It’s the only one that survives today.

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo concert at Makawao Union Church, December 2007

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo concert at Makawao Union Church, December 2007

The CD will soon be available on CDBaby and at all concerts that Robert Bekkers plays on his solo concert tour. Our hope is that it will sell out to enable us to reinvest in arranging more music for piano guitar, collaborate with other enthusiastic music lovers and musicians, and encourage more composers to write for this combination.

The piano and the guitar are rarely heard today as a classical duo. At this concert in December 2007, which has been recorded and released on CD Live in Makawao, you can hear original music written for piano and guitar from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

While we have to research the origins of the earlier works, we have only to e-mail or speak to the composers in the 21st century.

Haarlem-based guitarist and composer Erik Otte was the first person to write for our duo. He dedicated the 4-part Rio de la Plata to us. With South American influences, the music is about love. The first movement opens with a bang, symbolising a break-up. The fourth movement is very energetic (below).

We invited Amsterdam-based composer Allan Segall to the premiere of Rio de la Plata at the “Mustard Seed” in Santpoort for he could not believe that a piano and guitar could be a feasible duo. After hearing Otte’s piece, Allan stood up and announced that he would write something for us.

Segall’s “When JS Bach, Igor Stravinsky, and the Who Met” is a challenging and terribly exciting piece. It’s extremely demanding to get it together. Segall suggested that we watch “Tommy” to get the feel of the rock musical which is embedded in the piece. It’s the only work in which the guitar overpowers the piano.

Once these pieces were added to our repertoire, we started actively looking for composers to write for our duo. Utrecht-based Henk Alkema wrote “Sailor Talk” on a programmatic subject he knew well for he loves sailing. We premiered it at the Cortona Contemporary Music Festival in 2007.

At the same festival, we played Toronto-based Lan Chee Lam’s “Drizzle.” The Dutch audience especially love this piece — kind of oriental and exotic. Lan Chee is the youngest composer to have written for our duo. She finally came to the Netherlands in January 2010, for the premiere of another work of hers.

Lan Chee Lam, composer of "Drizzle" in Utrecht, Feb 2010

Lan Chee Lam, composer of "Drizzle" in Utrecht, January 2010

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2010: a year in reflection

As the last blog post in 2010, we would like to thank all readers for reading, referring, commenting, and supporting this blog. 2010 has been an incredible year for our piano guitar duo. We have never traveled as extensively in any year as this one. We have never collaborated with so many people as this year. We have never had such a variety of gigs.

Monument House in Utrecht, Netherlands

Monument House in Utrecht, Netherlands

We began the year in the Netherlands with our usual concerts.

In February, we made a weekend trip to Belgium to open a new exhibition with a selection of solo, duo, and improvisation in beautiful historic Brugge. It was one of several collaborations with other artists.

In April, we made a whirlwind tour of Taiwan, introducing ourselves to the Taipei Rotary Club and a string quartet in Taipei.

From January to April, we coached new house concert hosts on how to produce concerts from their homes, culminating in our debut of the 30-minute long Grand Potpourri National to open a new concert series and the release of our first CD Summer in the home of an artist.

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo CD Summer

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo CD Summer

In May, we organised our biggest house concert yet: a dozen musicians in 4 different concerts in one day! The Glass Vase Concert was free entry with cover art commissioned for auction. The bonus was the chef-catered Egyptian dinner for 50 people, who queued for seconds.

All the insights from our experience of producing house concerts and interviews with others were presented in a paper to economists at an international conference in Copenhagen in June.

Besides performing as a duo, we also worked with other musicians such as French horn player Emile Kaper and American cellist Stephanie Hunt. We found that piano and guitar worked well with other instruments and the audiences love the idea. We programmed one house concert in Amsterdam with our duo, Robert’s solo guitar of Bach Chaconne, piano and cello, and finally piano, guitar, and cello.

In September, we traveled to Zeeland in the southwest coast of the Netherlands to give 5 concerts in 3 days. It was a busy month, made busier by our reluctance to cancel any concerts including those that took us by surprise and decided upon last minute (impromptu).

The highlight of the year was undoubtedly the coast-to-coast America Tour, from Boston to Sacramento in 5.5 weeks. We thank our hosts, guests, and everyone who made this tour happen. We had no idea it would be so empowering and fantastic.

What next? Who knows? We bought ourselves one way tickets to paradise and started a new blog to lure our friends to come visit us. We look forward to seeing our friends from Davis, Houston, Seattle, and Nebraska in the first few months of 2011.

Hope you have enjoyed these blog posts. 2011 promises to be an entirely different year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

BEST WISHES TO ALL!!!

Piano and guitar in the Monument House Utrecht, Netherlands

Piano and guitar in the Monument House Utrecht, Netherlands

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