A couple of short promo films have been passed on to us from the China Tour:
A couple of short promo films have been passed on to us from the China Tour:
After last night’s exhilarating concert in Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts, the choir spent an energetic final day taking in the sights before flying home. Undaunted by an early start, the gents and boys piled into two coaches and set off for the Great Wall at Badaling. The weather was scorchingly hot, which made the near-vertical climb quite a challenge; it did, however, guarantee us some spectacular photographs. The choristers demonstrated surprisingly impressive haggling skills at the souvenir shops, casting a critical eye over the rows of pandas, key-rings and teapots.
After a lavish buffet lunch at the Wall, we headed back towards Beijing and to the Summer Palace. If possible, it felt even hotter here, so we paused for an essential ice cream before wandering around the lake and visiting the famous Long Corridor (which features over 14,000 individual paintings). The only stylish way to get back to the entrance was, of course, on board one of the dragon-headed boats on Kunming Lake – all the more appropriate since our guide had been telling us stories of Empress Dowager Cixi, the formidable ‘dragon lady’.
The boys were treated to a marvellous evening meal of pasta, barbeque ribs and chocolate cake, and as I write they are busy packing in their rooms. We head to the airport at midnight, and it is very hard to believe that the tour is nearly over. However, we have Hong Kong airport and two flights to navigate before arriving home, so there are without doubt adventures still to be had…!
We have an exceedingly early start tomorrow in order to catch the bullet train (5.45am wake-up call), so this entry might be short! The choristers have been appreciating the slightly cooler temperature here in Shanghai, although once cocooned in the air-conditioned Shanghai Grand Theatre the heat of outside was quickly forgotten. We’ve had a good deal of media attention on this leg of the tour – even our exit from the airport was filmed yesterday – and there were plenty of photos taken on arrival at People’s Square this afternoon. At the entrance to the Theatre’s labyrinth of corridors it was reassuring to pass a television playing images of Christ Church – the cathedral, the meadow, and even Dr Darlington wielding an impressive microphone.
Fortified by spaghetti, sandwiches, Oreos and pizza, the boys performed this evening to a vast audience that once again comprised well over a thousand concert-goers. The Shanghai Radio Children’s Chorus joined the Christ Church team to perform John Williams’ ‘Double Trouble’ from ‘Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban’, which drew delighted murmuring from the audience. On arrival back at our hotel the choir was treated to a buffet meal courtesy of the concert’s sponsors; for the lucky choristers this was supper number three. The frequent waves of food have been a feature of this tour, and the variety has at times been quite spectacular. As you can see from the pictures, the gleeful boys made a beeline for the cakes. Let’s hope they’re just as full of energy at 5.45 tomorrow morning…
This morning we had some free time to explore the city of Shanghai before our rehearsal in the Grand Theatre this afternoon. While some of the Gents went to have suits tailored, a few others opted for some sightseeing. The Yuyuan Gardens are a ‘must-see’ when visiting Shanghai and, as you can see from this video, they are beautiful and encapsulate many traits of traditional Chinese architecture and design.
We arrived in Shanghai late this afternoon. After checking into our hotel, the men ventured out into the city and went on a tour of the Huangpu River where we gained spectacular views of the Shanghai skyline (see video!).
Tomorrow we have the morning off before rehearsing for our concert in the Grand Theatre, moving on to Beijing the following day.
After a short rehearsal in the hotel, the choristers enjoyed a traditional Cantonese lunch before heading off to Guangzhou Opera House for the next concert. The opera house had sent us a luxury coach whose sides doubled as an advertising hoarding for Phantom of the Opera… this seemed strangely appropriate as the boys clambered on board clad in their black gowns.
Situated by the Pearl River, the opera house is an elegantly futuristic building based around curving lines designed to imitate the shapes created by water erosion. Other than the ‘double pebble’ shape, one of its most eye-catching features is the myriad of tiny lights which pepper the ceiling. It was opened in 2010 and seats nearly 2000 people, giving the choir a magnificent setting for the third concert of the tour. A highlight of this performance was the collaboration with the opera house children’s choir, who impressed everybody with the verve of their performance of a stirring song about battles and warriors. The children then joined forces with Christ Church to rapturous reception in the auditorium – and backstage the atmosphere was just as effusive, with everyone keen to capture the moment Christ Church came to Guangzhou (see photo). What a wonderfully warm reception we have had here!
Since our last concert in Shenzhen we’ve been lucky enough to have a few days off to soak up the culture that Shenzhen and Guangzhou have to offer. On Monday we had a free day in Shenzhen which is one of China’s four ‘Top Tier Cities’ along with Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai. Interestingly, Shenzhen was only a small village until 1980 when it became a Special Economic Zone (SEZ). It now boasts a population of around 15 million and has an impressive cultural centre which includes the concert hall we performed in on the Sunday evening and the pool that the boys visited on their day off. Despite it being a city in its youth it does have a few sights to see – a number of us managed to visit the People’s Park in the north of the city which has a hill that commands expansive views of the city while other clerks had a chance to go shopping in the numerous malls and enjoy some interesting culinary delights.
On Tuesday we had an afternoon departure for Guangzhou. This all went without a hitch except that Mr Hawkesworth (my roommate and fellow bass) and I decided to inadvertently attempt to break the world record for the fastest hotel check out time by waking up at 13.05 when the bus was due to leave at 13.00… If any of you are looking for advice on how to exit a building speedily after packing all your belongings it’s Henry you want to talk to – he managed an impressive three minute ‘pack up and go’ compared to my measly six minutes…thankfully this didn’t cause us to miss any onward connections!
As Sophie has already mentioned, we’re staying in a beautiful hotel here in Guangzhou – the boys reliably inform me that this is a “sik” place to be accommodated in. I think that’s positive…! Certainly us Clerks have enjoyed making the most of the swimming pool, sauna, steam room and the exceptional breakfasts. Not only is the hotel a fantastic place but the city has also turned out to be full of great places to visit. Today half the clerks went to one of China’s biggest water parks and the rest of us who weren’t feeling quite so adventurous took to the streets to see the city’s top sights. These include Shamian Island which has a fascinating mix of French and British Colonial architecture, the Sacred Heart Church, the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall and the Liurong Lu, Six Banyan Temple Pagoda.
Tomorrow we’ve more free time in the morning before our rehearsal and concert in Guangzhou Opera House in the afternoon and evening. Till next time…! EK
Today has been a mixture of work and play for the choristers. Having familiarized ourselves with a new breakfast set-up (treats at this hotel include a pancake station and Japanese food), we had the privilege of heading down to the garden room by the hotel lake for a morning rehearsal. The boys were put through their paces by Dr Darlington, with plenty of warm-ups and a few corners that needed to be worked on with the next concert in mind. This must surely rank as one of the most exotic places to have hosted a Christ Church chorister rehearsal!
Straight afterwards the boys got their dearest wish – to head for the roof-top swimming pool. This provided the perfect counterpoint to the serious morning rehearsal, with the choristers free to submerge, perform hand-stands and impersonate sharks at will in the deep blue water. Following a quick lunch from Subway (home comforts once again), we hopped onto a coach and headed for the Pearl River and Shamian Island, a historic site which was formerly a hub for foreign traders. We took in the atmosphere of another era as we wandered through the quiet, tree-lined streets, surrounded by colonial buildings including a picturesque Catholic chapel, banks, schools and former consulates. The boys spotted an area filled with exercise apparatus on the main street, which soon had everyone energetically engaged despite the humidity. Everywhere we go, people are friendly and curious to know where we come from. Passers-by often make requests to take pictures (see photo), and – since choristers are not camera-shy – this can make our progress down the street rather slow!
The boys spent the rest of the day pursuing their favourite down-time activities; swimming and eating (burgers in the hotel this time). Everyone is very much looking forward to performing in Guangzhou Opera House tomorrow, and to cracking on with concert number three.
Today the choir travelled from Shenzhen to Guangzhou. The choristers submitted to a rigorous post-breakfast ‘dorm inspection’, where they were marked on the tidiness of their rooms and how wrinkle-free their bed sheets were. Any singing during inspection gained extra points, obviously. We made a final dash to the mall and split up to get a filling lunch of burgers or noodles (the group was evenly divided down the middle on this one). At 1pm it was time to load the coach for the two-hour journey to Guangzhou. The time seemed to slip by quickly, no doubt because of mounting excitement about staying at The Garden Hotel, an iconic building built in the 1980s and designed by I. M. Pei.
On arrival, the hotel easily lived up to its superb reputation. We were whisked into a comfortable room where we were welcomed and given drinks; soon we were on our way to make ourselves at home in our new quarters. The choristers were particularly delighted to find Nespresso coffee machines in their rooms, along with every other comfort a weary traveller could ask for (from fluffy bathrobes to electric blinds to bright blue bath salts). There is no doubt that , after such divine treatment, the quality of the choir’s singing will hit new heights…
The boys went for a late afternoon ramble around the hotel to get their bearings, and enjoyed visiting the lush garden with its waterfall and colourful fish (even bigger than the ones in Tom Quad, we think). Supper was taken at an extraordinarily versatile restaurant where the boys feasted on pizza, burritos, pasta, salad, rice, curry and breadsticks. As you can see from the photos, the varied desserts were very popular. The restaurant also offered snails, which some of the boys though looked terrifically tempting, but after due consideration Matron advised against them. Another time perhaps.