Thursday morning dawned clear and slightly cooler in Shanghai. The boys in the Choir were excited to begin the final chapter of their magnificent tour. Having given numerous performances in Beijing, Xuzhou, Jinan, and Shanghai; traveled hundreds of miles at very high speeds; met thousands of new friends and fans; and made countless wonderful memories; they had one performance left.
The sponsor for the evening’s concert was a Chinese businessman, Michael, who had spent the last twenty years living in Georgia. Michael is the proprietor of an enormous gym called MegaFit, which is located just down the road from the concert venue, and he was gracious enough to give the choristers full access to his gym for the afternoon. This was like a dream come true. The place was one of the most well equipped gyms one could imagine – complete with a full-court basketball court, billiard room with about 8 pool tables, workout room, ping-pong room with 5 tables, an enormous ropes course, and much more (they did not take advantage of the bowling alley, the swimming pool, or the multiple yoga rooms). If the young singers had not had a job to do that evening, they could have stayed and stayed.
But duty called. The tour’s final concert was scheduled to take place in an International School located in Kunshan, a northern suburb of Shanghai. The School’s campus was exquisite. They had just completed construction on a brand-new, 800-seat Concert Hall and the Georgia Boy Choir was to give the inaugural performance in this splendid building.
Everything was state-of-the-art, including rotating walls which turned the entire stage into a large acoustical shell. This was an excellent environment for choral music. The singers could all hear each other remarkably well and even the smallest sounds carried to the back row of seats.
As the hour approached, the room began to fill to its capacity. Local dignitaries, including the Mayor of Kunshan were on hand to observe the occasion and enjoy the concert. And enjoy it they certainly did, along with everyone else in attendance. This was the most enthusiastic and responsive crowd the Choir had experienced so far, and so they gave them their very best performance. The energy in the room was palpable, and when the Choir concluded its final song, the audience rose to its feet and roared its approval. As had become the custom, many in the audience rushed to the stage after the singing in order to get their photos taken with their new favorite singers. The boys willingly obliged and beamed with happiness for countless pictures.
The journey home began uneventfully. The Choir members dutifully packed all of their belongings – including many souvenirs from their sojourn – into their suitcases and hauled them out to the bus at 10:30 am. They rode to the airport where they bid farewell to Mr. and Mrs. White who will be staying in China to teach for the next couple of months, and checked in for the flight, which would take them from Shanghai to Guangzhou. The scheduled itinerary would have them spend a couple of hours in the Guangzhou airport before flying from there to Los Angeles, where they would then catch a flight back to Atlanta.
However, as the departure time drew nigh, word came of foul weather in Guangzhou, which delayed their departure from Shanghai. By the time they were finally allowed to depart, it was too late for them to make their connection to L. A. Apparently there is only one flight daily from Guangzhou to L. A., and the next one was not scheduled for another 24 hours, so the Georgia Boy Choir received one more night in China, courtesy of China Southern Airlines. To their credit, the airline treated the Choir well and shuttled them to a nearby hotel where they could spend what was left of the night and the next day waiting. But the boys were all glad when the time finally arrived for them to head back to the airport and fly back to the US.
But as fate would have it, the storm clouds rolled in and it looked as if the 16-hour flight would have to be cancelled. But finally, they received the all-clear and were allowed to take off and begin the long ride home. They were so glad finally to touch down in the City of Angels, until they found out that their delay in leaving had caused them to miss their flight back to Atlanta! So, once again, it was hurry up and wait. This time the wait was about 7 or 8 hours. Somehow, through all this, the boys and young men never lost their cheery disposition. This was, no doubt, aided by the fact that Mr. Jones went out and got world-famous IN-N-OUT burgers for everybody to enjoy for their first meal back in the good old US of A.
The most expedient way the good folks at Delta were able to get the young singers back to Atlanta was to split them up into two separate flights departing less than an hour apart. So as to be equitable, those taking the earlier flight agreed to wait on the others to arrive, so that they would all ascend the escalators at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport together.
The anxious parents had all gathered and were eagerly waiting when suddenly they heard it – that glorious sound that only THEIR boys can make. The travel-weary singers were doing what they do best as they rode the moving staircase up to the waiting arms of their families; they sang together one last time – Edward Bairstow’s ebullient “Alleluia.” What could have been more fitting?
There were tears of joy and there was much embracing as loved ones were finally reunited. The boys had triumphed through a wonderful two-week tour, and the more-than-50-hour sojourn back home. But as they wheeled their suitcases to their cars, they seemed more mature than when they had begun a fortnight earlier. They are now more aware of themselves and of others. They are more self-reliant and understanding. They have grown more on the inside than on the outside.
That is what touring with the Georgia Boy Choir does for a boy blessed to have such an opportunity. He goes to share his gift with others, but he receives far more than he can possibly ever give. He may not be fully aware, at this point in his life, of how much he has learned. But through the years, as he looks back on the last 17 days, he will undoubtedly consider them some of the most valuable he has ever spent.
Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.
Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.
Life has loveliness to sell.
Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white, shining hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.
Until next time,
The Georgia Boy Choir Team
Please visit www.GeorgiaBoyChoir.org/support/ to make a contribution.