By the time the Georgia Boy Choir arrived at their hotel in Beijing, China on Tuesday evening, they had been traveling for about 30 hours. Tired and hungry, they were equally happy to see their beds, as they were when McDonald’s meals were delivered to their rooms.
Refreshed after a good night’s rest, the Choir went the next morning to a local elementary school where they were met by a delegation of music students for a wonderful cultural exchange. The children were giddy with excitement when the young Americans arrived. The school had three different performing groups dressed in colorful garb, who sang and/or danced for Georgia Boy Choir. One such group sang a song about Beijing Opera using traditional Chinese Opera masks, which represent the emotion and character of the person wearing them. When the song was over the school children presented the masks as gifts to the members of the Georgia Boy Choir – a wonderful gesture of kindness and a meaningful souvenir.
The school children, who all spoke English quite well, having begun studying it in the first grade, were so glad to get to see and hear the Boy Choir. When the boys broke into “Qing Ba Wo Di Ge” – a song which apparently everyone in China knows, the Chinese children clapped and sang along. Everyone had a magnificent time. Upon leaving, several of the Georgia boys expressed the hope of more similar experiences.
After an afternoon nap, the Georgia contingent made its way through the madness of Beijing traffic to the famous Forbidden City Concert Hall – a fairly modern facility built in the gardens within the walls of the enormous imperial palace. The Choir began its program with the lively 13th-century song, “Sumer is icumen in” and worked its way quickly through the Renaissance with music of Johannes Ockeghem and Thomas Tallis to the Baroque and J. S. Bach. They then jumped to the early Romantic period with Franz Schubert’s marvelous setting of the 23rd Psalm, “Gott ist mein Hirt,” which the boys sang exquisitely despite their jet lag. As they worked their way through their program, the young singers began to hit their stride. By the time they got to the Chinese songs at the end of their program, the audience was worked up into a singing and clapping frenzy.
For their encores, the Choir was joined by the Beijing Children’s Choir for two songs – one in English and one in Chinese. The two groups blended and worked extremely well together. It was thrilling to see their two worlds come together through singing.
After signing a few autographs, the boys were treated to a magnificent traditional Chinese meal where one delicious dish after another keeps being placed on a rotating glass wheel in the center of the table and everyone eats until they have had their fill.
Thursday morning the bus took the Choir members to a northern suburb of the city where they had the unparalleled experience of climbing the Great Wall of China. The entirety of the Wall extends for thousands of miles over mountainous terrain. The segment that the boys saw was very steep and climbing its uneven steps was exhilarating and exhausting, but they were ready to meet the challenge. Reaching the top provided a wonderful view and a rare sense of accomplishment.
Thursday evening’s concert was in the famous Beijing Concert Hall. The Hall which seats about 1600 has a wonderful acoustic due to its marble floors and wood-paneled walls. The near-capacity crowd seemed excited as the boys took to the expansive stage and stayed on the edge of their seats throughout the night as the Choir sang. One particular favorite was “Beautiful Dreamer” by the great American songwriter Stephen Collins Foster, who is apparently quite popular here in China.
The Beijing Children’s Choir joined the boys on stage for the encores once again as they had the night before, but this time the two groups sang with even more enthusiasm and joy. The audience was beside themselves. When the concert ended, there was much picture-taking and autograph-signing to be done before the Choir could depart the theater. The atmosphere of ebullient happiness remained throughout the fabulous meal that followed. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful day.
As we make our way on this odyssey we will keep you apprised of the Choir’s adventures by sending periodic travelogues. Be sure to share them with your friends. If you feel compelled to join the chorus of outstanding supporters, you may do so by going to www.GeorgiaBoyChoir.org/support/.
Until next time,
The Georgia Boy Choir Team