150 miles or so north of Xuzhou (less than an hour by fast train) lies the city of Jinan. Filled with history – it was the home of Confucius centuries ago – it is also a modern marvel. In order to accommodate its fast-growing population, outlying farmland has been commandeered and great wide roads and enormous high-rise apartment towers have been built. Traveling through this futuristic part of the city is surreal because the towers and roads are largely uninhabited and empty. In the center of this contemporary ghost town is a brand new (2 years old) space-age Arts Center including an Art Museum, Opera House, Theater, and Concert Hall. It was in this marvelous steel and glass Hall where the Georgia Boy Choir was slated to give a concert last Monday.
Upon arrival, they were greeted by a recently-formed a capella group from a local high school for a cultural exchange. These young singers were eager to hear and learn from the even younger boys who had traveled from the other side of the world.
Jinan is located in the Chinese Province of Shangdong, which has formed a Sister State relationship with our own State of Georgia. Prior to the concert, a delegation from the Shangdong Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented the Choir with a gift to represent the friendship between our two States.
The acoustics in this new concert hall were the best the Georgians had encountered and when they filled it with the ethereal sound of their voices it was truly fabulous.
The near-capacity crowd was clearly thrilled. Following the concert, the consensus among the singers was that they felt this was their best performance yet. They enjoyed their post-concert repast with a profound sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Tuesday they headed back to the train station to take the high-speed rail back south, this time all the way to the vast metropolis of Shanghai. Here they encountered an environment different from the other cities they had visited. It was far more diverse with many tourists from different parts of the world – including a few other Americans. Standing on the bank of the Huangpu River, which snakes its way among the skyscrapers, one can see the 19th-century-European-looking buildings on one side juxtaposed by one of the fastest-growing skylines on the planet – including the second highest building in the world – on the other. It is truly a marvel, which the boys in the Choir loved seeing.
Their concert on Wednesday night was in the very beautiful Daning Theatre in downtown Shanghai. The performance hall is indeed lovely, but it is designed more for actual theater than for choral music and the acoustic is not very friendly to singers. But the Choir quickly adapted and moved forward to the proscenium of the stage right up near the audience. This enabled them to hear one another better and their sound to reach the ears of the listeners more easily than if they had remained deep upstage. Once again, the Choir put in another fantastic performance and the audience was deeply appreciative. As they concluded their second encore, a group of local children presented Mr. and Mrs. White each with a large and beautiful bouquet and every singer with a single rose. It was a lovely and much appreciated gesture.
With only one concert remaining on their schedule, the boys in the Choir have held up remarkably well. They have traveled countless miles and delighted thousands of new fans. They have made connections and learned more not only about the Chinese people, but also more about themselves.
Until next time,
The Georgia Boy Choir Team
Please consider supporting this work by going to www.georgiaboychoir.org/support/