A Day off in Shenzhen

With two concerts down, the choristers have today enjoyed a day off in sunny Shenzhen, and as I write they have just gone to bed happy, tired, and with full tummies! The day started with a civilized 9am breakfast in the hotel, where some boys stuck to the cereals, toast and jam provided for Western appetites. Others explored dumplings, the noodle bar, and a drink rather exotically named ‘rock sugar sydney juice’. (We didn’t work out quite what this was, but being sweet it was very popular.)

Spending money was of course the top priority, so we walked a short distance to the appropriately-named ‘Ode to Joy’ mall. With floor after floor of beautifully air-conditioned shops, this was the ideal spot for some chorister quality time. A particular favourite was the children’s store at the top of the building – full of giant cuddly bears, remote control cars and other gadgets – where kindly staff insisted the boys try the toys out fully before buying them. The enormous supermarket proved quite a draw too, with choristers wandering fascinated through endless aisles of Chinese homewares, towels and shampoo. Clutching new T-shirts, fans, hats and gifts, we all descended to the basement to experience a Cantonese lunch. This featured familiar dishes like sweet and sour pork, though some of the boys discovered a new liking for jasmine tea and char siu buns. The choristers are becoming increasingly deft with their chopsticks, and the noodles disappeared very quickly….

After lunch we got back to the serious business of shopping, with a visit to the enormous Wal-Mart just around the corner from our hotel. Clutching giant shopping baskets, the choristers swept through the store like locusts and made off back to their rooms with booty that included everything from chopsticks to chocolate cakes. Following a short rest, we headed out to the huge outdoor swimming pool behind the concert hall. The water was a wonderfully cool contrast to the humid afternoon air, and – each donning a regulation swimming cap that will doubtless become a treasured memento of the trip – the boys spent a refreshing hour splashing about in the pool and on the slides.

Our free day finished with a democratic discussion about dinner. Gourmands to the last, the boys voted to visit KFC for their evening meal, so en masse we trooped to the local restaurant and established a base in the corner. The Form 8s gave excellent service as waiters, ferrying fries, popcorn chicken and endless fizzy drinks to the younger boys. With much debate on the differences between Chinese KFC/coke/ketchup and English KFC/coke/tomato ketchup, the cultural aspects of supper were not lost on the choristers. We’ve now returned to our air-conditioned rooms, lovely soft beds, and the prospect of a much-deserved, luxurious 10-hour sleep.

Day 1 – Wuhan

This blog comes in haste and with sincere apologies for the delay in posting anything so far. We’ve encountered a few problems with accessing email accounts and are battling with the constant reminder of our rather sad dependency on the wonders that are Facebook and Google. As a result this is being written on Mr Durrant’s Laptop in the lobby of our hotel (while a cold beverage is waiting for me over with the other Clerks!!) and being sent from Mr MacDiarmid’s email to Tom King back in Oxford to post on the choir website…

We arrived safely at our lovely hotel here in Wuhan after the long journey via Hong Kong airport (which had a McDonald’s restaurant that the Choristers definitely didn’t go to – don’t worry  parents…!) where an extravagant buffet was laid on for us  despite the late hour and also a surprise cake was waiting for Mr Durrant whose birthday it happened to be.

This morning we had time to acclimatise after the long journey, and while the boys relaxed in and around the hotel some of the Gents managed to explore the culture that Wuhan has to offer. A group of us visited the Yellow Crane Tower which is a beautiful reconstruction of the 3rd Century Tower that burnt down in 1884. Visitors can climb to the top which has fantastic views of the city, and I’m glad to say that despite the heat and humidity (we have been informed that Wuhan is one of China’s hottest cities – being part of the elite group known as ‘The Three Furnaces”) we all made it to the summit in one piece. We then took a stroll through the bustling Hubu Alley where authentic Wuhan snacks and food were purchased to sustain us through the afternoon rehearsal at the Qintai Concert Hall, which was the venue for our first concert.

The Qintai Concert Hall is a remarkable performance space with a fantastic acoustic and I think we all felt that after only a short time of rehearsal we’d gelled as a unit and were singing as if we hadn’t spent the last couple of days travelling across the globe. The programme that we’ve brought to China on this trip isn’t filled with pieces you would expect to hear at evensong and so it has been fun to showcase the choir’s versatility by performing items ranging from the anonymous setting of ‘Sumer Is Icumen In’ to an arrangement of ‘Double, double, toil and trouble’ from the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban motion picture.

The concert was a fantastic way to get the tour started, and certainly seemed to be well received by the very enthusiastic audience. One of the joys of being part of a professional choir such as ours is to experience the differing atmospheres around the world in varying venues. The welcome we had, and rapturous applause from the people of Wuhan this evening was something that I know will stay with many of us for a long time. I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the tour after such a great first concert.

Tomorrow morning we have an early wake and departure from our hotel to catch a bullet train (the locomotive enthusiasts among the group are very excited about this) to Shenzen, where we perform our second concert that evening.

That’s all for now – do please keep checking back. Video footage to follow and a number of guest contributors have already asked if they can give an account of their view of the events taking place over the next week or so.

EK 1/08/2015

China 2015 Itinerary

The Choir flies to Wuhan on 30 July 2015 for its second tour to China. The concerts are in five of the most prestigious concert halls in the country starting with the Qintai Concert Hall in Wuhan. The concert programme will take audiences from the 14th to the 21st century, including works by Handel, Parry, Gershwin, Tippett, Walton and Canteloube.

Itinerary:

Saturday 1st August, 1930
Wuhan – Qintai Concert Hall
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Sunday 2nd August, 1930
Shenzhen – Concert Hall
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Thursday 6th August, 2000
Guangzhou – Opera House
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Saturday 8th August, 1915
Shanghai – Grand Theatre
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Sunday 9th August, 1930
Beijing – NCPA (National Centre for Performing Arts)
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