Songs about location and history evoke nostalgia to those who have travelled or lived in these places. Long-time Boston residents know the song “Charlie on the MTA” but newcomers are curious:
Who was Charlie?
What does MTA stand for?
Why couldn’t Charlie get off the train?
Why didn’t his wife give him the money to get off the train rather than throw him a sandwich?
Is that why the subway card is known as a Charlie Card? Unlike the Oyster Card in London and the OV Chip Card in the Netherlands, you only need to swipe the Charlie Card when you enter the bus, trolley (tram), metro, or commuter rail (i.e. not needed when you exit).
Is Charlie related to the River Charles that divides Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts?
Anne Ku’s arrangement of Star Spangled Banner for not so easy piano was inspired by the book “No Greater Sacrifice, No Greater Love” and subsequent visit to the USS York Town in Charleston, South Carolina and a meeting with the author.
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?
Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers offers private guitar lessons in the comfort and convenience of your own home, in Newton, Massachusetts.
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.
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.
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.
Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo’s concertblog on wordpress.com began 2 years ago. Time to categorise the topics.
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.
Time to celebrate! But Robert flies to Phoenix tonight and Anne to San Francisco in mid-May.
Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo releases Live in Makawao CD of their first public concert in the USA — 29th December 2007. Included are music for piano and guitar for 3 centuries.
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.
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.
Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo traveled and performed in three continents: Europe, Asia, and North America in 2010. Among the highlights were house concerts, concerts in churches, collaboration with other artists, and showing others how to produce concerts.
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.
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.
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.
In part 3 of “how to book a concert tour” Anne Ku advises musicians to set constraints and objectives beforehand. This helps focus the way the tour is put together.
In part 2 of this blog series on “how to book a concert tour for yourself” I discussed the four levels of contacts to approach for help. I realise that it’s somewhat unconventional to do so.
Most musicians would contact the concert producers and venue owners directly by blitzing them with generic, templated e-mails. Any replies would then be followed up. While this may be the fast and efficient way, I prefer to know who I’m writing to. That’s why I advised to look into other indirect approaches to getting a concert. It may take more time, but in the end, it’s more rewarding as relationships get formed and built.
Now that you have your sizzle and contact list, how do you go about getting concerts?
Let’s take a step back and set the constraints and objectives of your tour.
What are the earliest and latest dates of your tour? In other words, give yourself deadlines. For us, we had to arrive in the USA by 21st October 2010 or else our visas would expire worthless. For that reason, we were happy to get a concert on 21st October 2010. This meant we had to arrive by then. We also fixed a date to arrive in Maui, by Thanksgiving.
What are the must visit places on your tour? You can set your priorities by deciding on people you want to see and places you want to visit. In our case, we chose to begin with New England in the Fall — a top tourist attraction. It was that time of the year that was the prettiest to visit Massachusetts. We spent the first two weeks of our tour in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. As neither of us had been to Phoenix, Denver, Davis, or Sacramento, we looked forward to new experiences. Finally, we plugged in other cities where we had friends and/or concerts booked: Durham, Houston, and San Francisco.
Decide on your objectives of your concert tour.
If you want to cover your expenses, be sure to book enough gigs and sell out your CDs. Try to get as many concerts in one area as possible. We gave 4 concerts in 2 days in Phoenix. There was one day in Houston that we clocked in 2 radio shows, a duo concert, and a guitar solo concert.
We approached our America Tour very differently from tours in the past that were primarily vacation with a concert or concerts that did not cover the expenses (Slagelse 2004, Cape Town 2005, Cortona 2006, Houston 2007, London 2008, Madrid 2009, and Taipei 2010). We obtained visas for the USA to work not play. We were not on vacation though it felt like we were because of the generous hospitality provided by our hosts. All concerts that we gave were paid for — either by the hosts or the audiences, except those that we volunteered ourselves for, e.g. MD Andersen Cancer Clinic, and radio shows.
Besides covering the expenses, we wanted to broaden our network. We did so by contacting composers, producers, patrons, performers, and just about anyone who loved classical music enough to be involved. We reconnected with old friends, classmates, and colleagues we had not seen in years. They introduced us to people they knew. We made new contacts at concerts. It was very enriching to meet people who so supported the arts — face to face.
Back to the first question I posed in this 3-part series on booking a concert tour for yourself: which comes first — the concert or the tour?
If you get invited to give a concert somewhere, see if you can stay longer and give other concerts.
If you want to go somewhere (for vacation, training, family visit, etc), see if you can book concerts while you’re there. The spin-offs are considerable: leads for concerts in the future, hospitality, reciprocation, and surprises.
Feel free to comment or ask questions about this topic via the LEAVE A REPLY box below.
How do you book a concert tour for yourself? If you are a classical musician who is not internationally famous, how would you get someone to book you for a concert where you have to travel a great distance to? And when you’re there, you don’t want to just give one concert. A concert tour is a journey of more than one concert. Here are the first two steps to the dilemma.
In other words, do you get the gigs lined up before you book the flights and cancel other commitments? Or do you book the flights before the fares go up and then hope that you can fill your tour with concert bookings?