Categoriearchief: English

Ugandan Dance for piano

This duet dance for piano I wrote for the foundation ‘Music for Children’, inspired by Ugandan music. The foundation helps orphan children in Uganda and Colombia to get shelter and music lessons. If you like the piece, you can order it by sending me a personal message. It costs 5 euro and this amount will be tranferred to Music for Children. The children are hungry now, because of Corona there are less shelters and there is little food. You can help them when you buy my piece! By the way: the piece can be practised after a few years of piano lessons. It is not very hard, and in the middle there is space to improvise. It will become the 13th dance of my book: ‘Dances’ with a rondo, a dance a al Dave Brubeck, a tango, a boogie-woogie, a gnossienne, a wooden shoe dance, an Egyptian Mummy dance, a bourree, a sarabande, a tarantella, a Spanish dance and a minuet.

1st page Ugandan Dance

Archie’s Ship Live 4/11/20

Op woensdag 4 november 2020 was ik te gast op Archies’s Ship om mee te werken aan een benefietconcert voor Music for Children. Helaas was het beeld via Youtube niet helemaal scherp, het lijkt wel een beetje op een schilderij van Monet. Via de onderstaande link kun je de gehele uitzending terugzien en horen:

Teaching piano in Italy

Today I had a very nice experience teaching two students in Italy (by Zoom). The first student lived in Bologna, the next in Piemonte. This event has been organized by the European Suzuki Association by Marco Messina, a very enthousiastic teacher in Italy. It is called: Suzuki Lesson Link Up. In Messina’s words:

“A day when students can have a ‘distant’ lesson with a teacher from another country. The idea behind it, is to demonstrate the great ability of the Suzuki Method to connect people united by a single project and who speak te same Suzuki language. The lesson will naturally focus on a positive approach that aims to achive a positive experience and maybe a first contact of friendship that remains until teachers and students can meet at a future workshop or convention.”

And on Sunday 5th of July I taught a boy living near Rome. Among many pieces he played ‘A Short Story’ and some exam pieces has has to study. We practised with the metronome, and after that we did some improvisation exercises which he liked very much. His mother wanted me to come to visit Italy. I could stay with in their house. This only after half een hour of teaching. Music is connecting, that’s for sure.

Teaching a book 3 child
Teaching a book 2 child and her father
Lesson 5th of July 2020


Imagine: a colleague from Italy has found a Sonata by an unknown composer in the Parma library, but he suspects that it is a sonata by the composer Domenico Scarlatti. He sends me a copy of what he found. I play the music: it definitely has characteristics of my favorite composer Scarlatti. The repetitions, the playfulness. It also seems to feature a motif that resembles a Neapolitan folk song. (Although Scarlatti lived in Spain for much of his life, he was originally from Naples.) What a discovery! Via this link you can hear part of the sonata. It is not a top recording and I have to study it a bit more, but I just couldn’t wait.

De 18e eeuwse Napolitaanse componist Domenico Scarlatti heeft 550 Sonates geschreven voor zijn leerlinge Maria Barbara, de latere koningin van Spanje. Toen zij trouwde met de Spaanse kroonprins vertrok hij met haar mee naar het Spaanse hof, waar hij bijna 38 jaar Sonates voor haar schreef die zij -naar het schijnt- op virtuoze wijze ten gehore kon brengen. In de Sonates kun je invloeden horen van Spaanse volksmuziek. Maar in deze sonate hoor ik ook duidelijk een Napolitaanse invloed.

Your brain on piano

Poster Classic FM
Poster Classic FM

Op deze poster van Classic FM die al een tijd geleden is gepubliceerd, kun je heel goed zien waarom piano spelen zo goed voor je is. Je hele lichaam is erbij betrokken, inclusief alle zintuigen en bewustzijn. Je snapt dan misschien ook dat piano leren spelen iets is van de lange adem! Geen wonder dat het af en toe niet makkelijk is.

Als je maar rustig elke dag je oefeningen blijft doen, dan zullen er over een tijdje wonderen gebeuren. Weet je wat een mooi bijeffect is: als je piano blijft oefenen, zal je geheugen er ook op vooruit gaan. Er zullen vele nieuwe verbindingen ontstaan tussen je hersenhelften, ongeacht je leeftijd en niveau.

‘Help’ text for Italian Concerto

Bach before he saw the text
Bach before he saw the text

Bach after he saw the text
Bach after he saw the text

The middle part, the Andante, from Bachs Italian Concerto is quite hard to remember for most people so I put a text on it, maybe it will help. I do hope that in near future a singer will perform it with me as well! It was a great job, looking for the right syllables on the right notes.
Hopefully this text will help more level 5 Suzuki trainees! It’s half serious, half funny.

Youtube recording Andante

The text is:

What did I do wrong
I really don’t know
what I did
to make you feel so bad
that you don’t want to see me any more.
That hurts me, that hurts me,
and I don’t have a clue,
I love you, I love you,
that’s all I know. I do.
Why did you just ban me,
what did I do wrong?
Was is that I didn’t like your dog?
But I didn’t mean to hurt you, to hurt you.
I didn’t want you to feel this pain
because I love you, I do.
But can you please take another dog?

Why do you like her more than me?
I just don’t see
I don’t agree that she’s more lovable than me,
that she’s more lovable than me.
Should I learn to growl like she does?
Would you then love me more or do you
understand her, do you understand her,
do you love her more than me,
do you, do you love her more,
more, than me?
Ah. That hurts that hurts
that you love her more than me.
But I don’t agree:
only cats are more lovable than me!

Page 1
Page 1

Page 2
Page 2

Page 3
Page 3

Page 4
Page 4

Andante from Italian Concerto

Support for Children of Mexico

Before summer holiday up to now, my students and me worked together on several compositions for a book. The book is meant to be published at least before Christmas. The proceeds from the book (with deduction of the costs) will all go to the wonderful foundation ‘Children of Mexico’. Henning Zorn, chairman of Children of Mexico, is alos the father of two of my students (Alán and Nora Zorn). I know their project is 100 percent safe and all proceeds will be truely spent on the projects.

The compositions in the book will be ascending in difficulty, because the youngest participant is 4 years old and one of the oldest about 74. They can be played and practised by children and adults. The pieces have an average level, the easiest can be played after only one year of lessons. Some pieces have a secondo part (composed by Heleen) so that they can be played together, as a duet.

Mexican embroidery
Mexican embroidery

Read more about ‘What Children of Mexico do’ or click the video link below:

What Children of Mexico do
Video Youtube Children of Mexico

I will soon publish more about the costs and what will be the date of publication. Of course there will be a book presentation where you can buy the book. The book will contribute to much musical pleasure, ánd a better life for Mexican children.

Italian Concerto (2)

You can travel to a beautiful place and decide to stay there for a week. Or leave next day to another beautiful place, and leave again etc.
Why? Because you are excited to see something new. Although you hardly saw the first place, you want to discover new things. Because you are eager and excited to go on. Nothing wrong with that! But that’s why you didn’t see the well with fresh water at the first place. And you didn’t see the pineapple wood, and the lake that was waiting for you to swim.
This little story is how it feels to stay at the first page of the Italian Concerto. I discovered new things, like diving in a deep lake without knowing how deep it is. You can swim further and further, wanting to reach the bottom. Then you really have to get back to breath, because it is endless.

Little lake in France (Prats du Périgord)
Our swimming lake in France (Prats-du-Périgord)

I keep myself awake by doing little ‘games’ like: I am going to observe mainly the 5th finger of the right hand. From bar 5 to 12 of the third movement (Presto) I suddenly noticed that the little finger is very busy, and has an important role: it plays the downward scale of B flat. Did I ever notice? In a way: yes. But only with my brain. Now I ‘feel’ it like I ‘am’ my little finger. Also it is the first time I consciously noticed this E flat in bar 6. It doesn’t belong in the scale of F. Of course: it belongs in the scale of B flat, the fourth tone in F. But in a way it is ‘shocking’ because you would expect an E. So why is it there? Maybe it is a prediction for the E flat in the second theme that starts in bar 25. Like a short announcement that this is going to happen.
I also noticed bar 10 en 11: in two bars the E flat changes again in bar 11 in a normal E.
While slowing down, with just one page, I see more. It’a bit like the difference between cycling or driving a car. When you cycle, you see more of the surroundings. And when you walk, even more.

Of course this study session was not only rose scent and moonshine. I also met:

1. Impatience. I really had to hold myself back to play further on the second page. I told myself I couldn’t enter that room, because the floor was still wet
2. Distraction. Thinking about what to do after the practise.
3. Sleepiness. This only occurs when my mind is drifting off. What helps, is having a clear focus. Like: observe the fingering, or listen only to the left hand
3. Longing for coffee (I just went to grab one, towards the end!)

and several thoughts about other things. But everytime I went back to where I came from, with my full attention.

About learning the Italian Concerto (1)

Before summer I made a plan to learn the Italian Concerto in France by heart. I wanted to practise every day for an hour. It didn’t work. Why not?

Handwriting Bach
Handwriting Bach

1. I felt not like practising, but playing through
2. Because I could already play it (not yet at the right speed, but anyway ..) it just didn’t feel like a challenge
3. I wanted to play other pieces I felt more like playing
4. It is so long! (17 pages)
5. I felt resistance doing it

I even wrote a poem about it (sorry, in Dutch!)

Italiaanse Concert

Dit was de zomer van het
Italiaanse Concert:
ik zou elke dag oefenen
maar dit idee was snert!

Het is zo’n lap
er komt geen eind
aan, ‘t is een stuk
waar je in verdwijnt

en nooit meer uitkomt,
’t zwarte gat
dat geeft wel aan
dat ik’t heb gehad.

Dus zet ik maar eerst
een kopje thee
dan toch de timer op 30
en hupsakee.

Zo. Al dat gemopper
Sneed geen hout!
Al 30 minuten om:
de thee is koud.

From: ‘Menu du Jour’ poems Heleen Verleur Book ‘Menu du Jour’

After about two weeks I gave up. Also, in my mind I almost gave up doing Suzuki level 5 (the Italian Concerto by heart is one of the mandatory pieces). Because: what’s the point practising a piece you don’t want to practise?
But: I felt a vague regret about this. Maybe take a lesson with a good teacher? Could this increase my motivation?

But then, suddenly I got an idea. The point is, I don’t want to spend all my time to it. Because I want to compose and I also want to practise other pieces, and write poems, and a lot of other things to give way to my creativity. Practising the Italian Concerto felt too much
like a duty. What if I restrict myself to just ONE page a week?
So this week I started with the first page of the 3rd movement.

Italian Concerto 3rd part 1st page
Italian Concerto 3rd part 1st page

I’m going to write a blog about how this works, because I know more people are struggling with the Italian Concerto. Maybe my method can inspire people to do the same. Or use the same approach with other ‘stumbling block’ pieces. I’m just in the beginning of my selfinvented method, but I already can say this about it:

1. I can already play the first page by heart after one day. But it feels SO good not to go on! It feels so relaxed that I don’t have to do more.
2. Because I only have one page, I start to experiment more with: different tempi, hands seperate etc. Because if you stick to one piece, you are going to play “with” it, instead of enjoying the music while playing through.
3. I imagine myself being on stage. Where are the spots I feel 99 percent secure instead of 100? Even at the slightest hesitation, I put my hands apart again to investigate what didn’t work .. not the right fingering, hand position .. try to understand.
4. I really stop exactly at the first note of the second page, although this becomes harder to do as I know it quite well already. So I feel an exciting urge to go on, not because I ‘have to’.
5. It feels more like meditation than like practising
6. I don’t have this haunting feeling: how about the rest?
7. The funny thing I notice, is that the thought that I am not allowed to go further than one page, gives me energy and joy to focus on the first page. It doesn’t bother me to do it again and again, everytime in a different way.

I will keep you informed about the progress! If it works, and I do another page every week, then I will be finished before Christmas! Even when I keep up doing all the other things in life that I want to do. 🙂