City of Stars from La La Land

I watched “La La Land” with my high school classmate June and two of her children, one of whom delighted in figuring out the songs on the keyboard — by ear.

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The tunes from the movie La La Land are catchy and sticky. I daresay all songs are played on the piano, and as such pianists everywhere will feel emboldened to figure out the notes. I am positively sure that one of the songs will get an Oscar. [Feb 27: in fact, this song did win the 2017 Oscar for best song from a movie!] Continue reading “City of Stars from La La Land”

Instant fame: the 5 Browns piano quintet

Twitter delivered the shocking news of the 5 Browns piano quintet

Twitter is magic for news hungry readers of the latest and the greatest, the free, and the last-minute. Twitter has been magic to confirm someone’s death and the lack of information until articles are published and investigations done. Twitter has been magic for last minute offers or about-to-be sold out concerts.

Today Twitter delivered a shocking piece of news in the classical music world.

The amazing five siblings called the Five Browns, born in Houston and home-schooled in Utah, are virtuoso pianists all trained at Julliard. Their father Mr. Brown confessed to sexually abusing his children and, according to the latest sources, will face 10 years in jail.

Just 10 years?

The Browns’ official website is down due to traffic overload. There are several Facebook pages.

Twitter is capable of delivering shocking news. Bad news travels faster than good, unfortunately. As a pianist, I am shocked and very sad.

Visit youtube (below) to find more clips of this amazing quintet – playing multi-hand piano duets — on 5 pianos!

The hidden world of music

When you sit in front of a musician, charged with energy and intensity, telling you some of the juiciest, untold stories of his life, how he made it to who he is today, it really hits you in the head. We had a blind date with the American composer, pianist, and singer Rich Wyman. With great enthusiasm, the 7-time ASCAP award winning singer/songwriter from Park City, Utah started recounting the day he decided to become a full-time musician.

When you sit in front of a musician, charged with energy and intensity, telling you some of the juiciest, untold stories of his life, how he made it to who he is today, it really hits you in the head. “Wow! I’m so lucky to be sitting here, in a private audience, to hear him off-stage. How many others get to hear this? ”

But then, I’m a musician with lots of stories. I discovered that the life of a musician is full of interesting tales of the hiccups along the way, the strange experiences and life stories of people he meets and encounters in his travels. Every single concert has its own untold stories. We learn from them. They become the stuff of legends.

Yesterday we drove nearly 2 hours east to give concerts in two locations in the same village of Warnsveld in the Dutch province of Gelderland. Since we had forgotten what exactly we played in those concerts in late May, we decided to inject several guitar and piano solos for variety’s sake. It was the 200th birthday of Albeniz, Schumann, and Chopin — plenty of pieces to choose from.

As it was a hot day, I had brought along a plastic pitcher of iced tea. On the way to the refrigerator, the lady of the first house showed me the new apartment being made ready for a new resident. It’s the 14th ensuite room she said. You could hardly tell that this stately house of high ceilings in midst of a beautiful park was a place for the elderly.

We played in a corner room to an audience of 10. Once a month they gathered on a Friday afternoon for wine, coffee, tea, juice, and special snacks for a concert.

Just a short drive away was another house whose interior was more modern and the residents more alert. We played the “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” to open the half-hour first-half followed by the 25 minute “Grand Potpourri National.” It was time for intermission. Out came the “bitterballen” and other deep fried snacks on trolleys.

We played a further 15 minutes after the intermission. That was our day: a morning workout (yoga for me), a long drive, two concerts in a small village east of Zutphen, and a drive back to Utrecht.

I had arranged a 7:30 pm appointment in Doorn. We had a blind date with the American composer, pianist, and singer Rich Wyman and his wife Lisa, neither of whom we had never met.

They were nowhere to be found. In the reception (office) of the RCN Grote Bos, we tried to contact Rich. I had not taken down his Irish mobile telephone number which he had given to me in an e-mail. I tried to search for it on the slow computer without success. He had not checked into his bungalow. How were we to meet?

At 8 pm when we were just about to give up, a stocky man strolled into the office straight to where Robert and I sat. “I’m sorry I’m late,” he said. “I left my telephone at the last place where I played. We went to Amsterdam this afternoon. We’ve been stopping at payphones trying to ring you. But we kept running out of coins. See, I even wrote your phone number on my hand.”

It was a strange way to meet. I explained later that I had “friended” a neighbour whom I had last seen in Okinawa in 1982. Her father and mine were colleagues. We all lived in the same neighbourhood and went to the same schools. She wrote on Facebook that a musician friend of hers was touring the Netherlands in the summer.

Rich Wyman led us through the grounds of the Dutch resort to find the staff member with the key to his bungalow. He brought us to the on-site restaurant and introduced us to his wife who practices yoga. “Anne is a friend of your best friend whom she’s last seen 28 years ago.”

We lost track of time over cold beer, red wine, and deep fried meatballs. We saw what we wanted to order from the menu. By the time we flagged down a waiter, it was past 9 o’clock — the kitchen had closed. We drove to the nearest restaurant in Doorn. The kitchen had also closed. “This would never happen in the States I’m sure. You have to plan ahead in this country,” I said.

Anne Ku meets Rich Wyman at RCN Grote Bos, Doorn Netherlands
Anne Ku meets Rich Wyman at RCN Grote Bos, Doorn Netherlands

We finally found an Italian pizza restaurant at 10 pm. The owner was happy to serve us, their only customer on a Friday night. Robert chatted with him about brewing beer while I talked about my yoga experience with his wife. Eventually the four of us started talking together about the hidden world of music in America.

“What’s your secret?” I boldly asked.

With great enthusiasm, the 7-time ASCAP award winning singer/songwriter from Park City, Utah started recollecting the day he decided to become a full-time musician.