Guitar and mandolin duo and trio at Great Falls Coffeehouse, Massachusetts

The guitar duo of Mark and Beverly Davis gave a memorable performance at Great Falls Discovery Center in Western Massachusetts, featuring the beloved “Lass of Patey’s Mill”

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Robert and I were thrilled to see the announcement of Mark and Beverly Davis’ Duo concert on Facebook: Friday August 14th, 2015 at Great Falls Coffeehouse, in Turners Falls in Western Massachusetts. We were in Boston, five years after we first made contact with Mark on Skype from London to book our concert in their home in Connecticut. In planning our road trip, we remembered fondly of their hospitality and their beautiful CD which accompanied us on our long drives in autumn in New England through our five week concert tour that ended in Maui on Thanksgiving Day in 2010.

Continue reading “Guitar and mandolin duo and trio at Great Falls Coffeehouse, Massachusetts”

Art and music improvisation: an observation and reflection

Watching an art and music improvisation session reminded me of the various collaborations I’ve had with artists in London, Utrecht, Crete, and Brugges. It’s about the process.

As a finishing touch to my recent application for an innovation grant, I asked the Maui-based artist Mike Takemoto if he would consider having his students collaborate with mine. I was thinking along the lines of an exhibit of paintings of musicians, music instruments, or music notes. It would be an extension of the piano ensemble poster exhibit that I “curated” and organized with the photography teacher Harvey Reed and his photo and design students last spring. Such interdisciplinary collaboration raised awareness of the activities we wanted to promote.

Continue reading “Art and music improvisation: an observation and reflection”

The real thing

After you’ve spent time hearing of, reading about, listening to, discussing with, talking about, and writing about something, you become familiar with it. When you finally get to see or experience the real thing, you value and appreciate it more.

When audio recording technology was invented, there was fear that fewer people would attend live performances.

When sheet music printing became possible, there was fear that people would learn the music and compete with professional performers.

The arrival of the Internet, mobile telephony, smart phones, iPads, Youtube, and Pandora radio made recorded performances searchable and easily downloadable.

All this helped to familiarize listeners and popularize music, composers, and performers.

What does this do for live performances? The audience becomes more informed and more appreciative. It increases the value of attending live concerts.

Radio shows, TV shows, written reviews, and blogs about music and musicians all serve to inform and educate.

We, as the audience, can choose better than before.

Most of us find comfort in the familiar. How much more familiar can we be of a subject that we’ve read about, heard of, discussed with, talked about, and perhaps even written about.

A music, like a movie, a painting, a novel, or any other creative output, requires that process of familiarization before it achieves value to the listener.

Facetime for video communication with dad

One of my top missions on this trip to Taiwan was to get my 82-year old father hooked on iPad, more specifically Facetime. He’s already familiar with Youtube. Facetime is even better — he would then be able to watch performances live.

Facetime is a free application for the iPad, iPhone, and iMac computers. It’s a free, bilateral video communication over the Internet. In some ways, it’s better than Skype video.

The iPad presents a disruptive technology I had hoped he would embrace, just like the way my sister had. When I arrived at his home a few days ago, he pulled out the iPad carefully from a black case and asked me what he was supposed to do with it.

My brother had bought it last October from the Apple store near my dad’s condo but didn’t have enough time to “train” him how to make the most of the iPad and its applications.

My father was still switching on his old desk-top (PC) computer, Internet modem, and e-mail to communicate with us.

To use Facetime, you must have someone at the other end available to be contacted. Neither my brother nor my sister have their iPads connected and ready to roll at all times. After a few futile attempts, it’s no wonder you’d give up.

After simulating a live Facetime session from different rooms in his home, I now gave him an assignment.

“Wake me up tomorrow morning with Facetime,” I said. “Just leave your wifi on. Leave your iPad on — let it charge overnight. I will do the same.”

“What time should I call you?” he asked.

“Whenever you wake up. Just press the button to turn on the iPad and click on the Facetime icon. Do you remember how to look for me?”

We tried it a few times.

We would need to practice with my sister and brother next. This would not replace e-mail but it’s better than the telephone, for he is getting hard of hearing.

Getting close to 94,000

Whenever visitor numbers gets to the next 1,000, I am compelled to write something.

Whenever the total number of visitors inches towards the next notch of 1,000, I feel an urge to write a blog post.

Somehow, knowing that I can influence my blog statistics gives me a sense of urgency and power.

But the visitors that arrive at the Concertblog are not necessarily lured by the latest blog post. There is a time lag. Search engines drive the traffic here.

Originally this blog was intended to chart the adventures of our piano guitar duo as we travel and perform in Europe, USA, and Asia.

Except, we are now on sabbatical.

Robert is pursuing his doctorate in the musical arts (DMA, for short) at the New England Conservatory in Massachusetts. I am teaching piano and running a electric vehicle project in Hawaii. We don’t get to perform or rehearse together.

You can find our music online in video format (youtube) and discography.

Below is probably one of our earliest rehearsals captured on video — in Ealing, London, 2003.

Concert promotion by other media: Ebb & Flow Arts in Maui, Hawaii

Promoting a concert involves more than announcing an event in one medium. It requires multiple media: television, radio, newspaper, and posters. View an example by photo, video, and audio of Ebb & Flow Arts Piano Synergy Concert on Maui, Hawaii.

Once upon a time, the concert was the talk of town. It’s the end result of all things. But nowadays there is too much competition for your attention — to0 many other things you can be doing, including staying at home and watching TV. To get people to come to a concert, you’d have to promote it.

Identify a concert’s unique selling points. Below is a photo of something quite rare: 4 pianists sitting at four grand pianos. It would catch anybody’s eye. This appeared in a free weekly paper that gets published on Thursdays — and just in time, too — the Thursday before the Saturday concert.

Pianists at rehearsal. Photo credit: Klazine Pollock
Pianists at rehearsal. Photo credit: Klazine Pollock

How to attract people to come to a concert? Mention the composers and repertoire, particularly if they are interesting and connects. In this case, there’s the premiere of a new piece written by a composer based in Honolulu, Thomas Osborne, who also teaches at University of Hawaii at Manoa. The date of the concert, 14th July 2012, also coincides with Bastille Day, celebrating French independence, hence a concert of music by French composers, including Darius Milhaud’s Paris.

Appeal to different audiences, including those who have access to television. The following 10 minute video clip was aired twice a day, every single day in the week of the concert on Channel 55, the 24/7 cable TV of University of Hawaii Maui College (UHMC).

Reach audiences via different avenues and media. On the Wednesday before the Piano Synergy concert, the following 25 minute clip was aired on local radio.

Kaio Radio: Ebb & Flow Arts (audio clip)

Besides local paper, TV, and radio promotions, there were also color posters, postcards, and local newspaper listings mentioning the forthcoming concerts.

What can we learn from this? While the musicians are busy practising, the concert organizer (producer) is busy letting as many people know about the concert as possible. These “previews” are important to help potential audience decide and anticipate. Here is a blog post anticipating the event.

It’s simply not enough to tell someone to come to a concert. It needs to reach all audiences in more than one way. Before doing so, one needs to think through what appeals, what attracts, what is relevant.

Rehearsals and work-in-progress as previews (trailers)

Rehearsals and behind-the-scenes work in progress lead viewers to anticipate and expect the real thing.

Watching a rehearsal of a choir or the behind-the-scenes of a film production makes me want to go see the real thing (when it’s ready). Like watching a chef prepare a meal, I start to get hungry.

Not the concert itself, Utrecht Conservatory June 2008. Photo: F. vd Meer
Not the concert itself, Utrecht Conservatory June 2008. Photo: F. vd Meer

Twitter led me to watch the work-in-progress of The Hobbit which will come out next here. The youtube video is not short by any means, but you grow to love the people working on the set and film.

On Facebook, I played a video of the rehearsal of the 88-member student choir of the New England Conservatory. So much goes on in a rehearsal that is not obvious. For the bystander like myself, I see beauty that is being created. I am reminded of my days as a conservatory student, singing in two choirs per year to improve my solfege. For others, it’s the awe of the director — how he manages to get the choir to produce an impressive sound.

The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam offers free lunch concerts each Wednesday. I remember queuing 45 minutes before one such event, shoulder to shoulder in the reception area, standing like sardines in anticipation of a 45 minute concert. When the doors finally opened about 10 minutes before the concert, we rushed in and exclaimed a unison “wow!”  It was the stendhalismo effect of arriving at a historically important place, feeling the special feng shui and grandiose atmosphere, and all of that we normally don’t get to experience in daily life. Once we sat down, I realized that it was just a rehearsal. Not even a dress rehearsal. But it was the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. They were rehearsing a Brahms violin concerto. All musicians were informally dressed, despite being on stage and in front of a full-house of eager listeners. We fell silent when the conductor raised his stick. I closed my eyes. This could easily be the concert itself. The conductor brought the violinist into his solo. After leading the orchestra to join him in a mesmerizing passage, he stopped at a beautiful chord. I opened my eyes to another unison sigh from the audience — an “Ah!”

The free lunch rehearsal concert ended 15 minutes earlier than I had expected. Yet we all felt satisfied — as though we’ve had our lunch.

That was a live trailer of the concert that evening.

All in all, I’d say that rehearsals, work in progress, behind the scenes and pre-production all lead us to anticipate. When we anticipate, we expect. It makes us look forward to the real thing.