On Wednesday another efficient bullet train whisked the choir from Jinan to Beijing, and after a sweaty trek to find the coach we arrived at our hotel. The gents set off for the Great Wall whilst the boys contented themselves with KFC and retail therapy. It wouldn’t have been right to miss out on the local specialities, so we finished our evening with a feast of duck pancakes and delicious (f unidentifiable) desserts.
On Friday the choristers began by taking the subway to Tiananmen Square, which was a civilized and blissfully air-conditioned experience. Queueing to get into the square, however, was neither. The combination of tedious check-points and blazing sun – no longer obscured by smog thanks to Beijing’s improved air quality – meant it wasn’t long before we dived back into the subway. After a trip to haggle at the Silk Market we headed back to our hotel, the boys blending in like locals thanks to their newly-acquired hats.
The afternoon was spent fine-tuning the programme for tonight’s concert at the National Centre for Performing Arts. Known affectionately as ‘the Egg’, this magnificent hall has been hosting a summer choral festival – and we are its final item. A delivery of pizzas somehow found its way into the depths of the NCPA, ensuring that the choristers were in tip-top condition to give one of the most prestigious performances of their lives.
Tomorrow the choir will make the six-hour train journey to Xi’an (and there’s the small matter of squeezing a rehearsal and concert into the same day too). Let’s hope there are no leaves on the line…