China Tour Travelogue Eight

Dear Friends,

With all of their concerts behind them the boys of the Georgia Boy Choir were in good spirits when they awoke on Sunday morning to go visit a local school in Kunming. Upon arrival, they were greeted by a welcoming committee of teachers and students specially dressed for the occasion. After a short tour of the large facility, they were able to witness the schoolchildren performing their daily exercises. This was a spectacle which left the Americans slack-jawed. While music (the Toreador song from CARMEN) blared from speakers mounted all around the building, children began filing out in rows – row after row after row – 3000 of them. It looked like a military parade, only with children in matching warm-up suits. As they arrived in their places on the field, they began doing synchronized dancing exercises. When they were all assembled, the Physical Education teacher spoke orders through a microphone, and the students shouted their deafening response in unison. The discipline and coordination were astounding. The Choir entourage thought this display was performed simply for them, but then learned this was a daily practice.

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When the assembly was over, the members of the choir were escorted in five different groups to attend an English class. Here, the Chinese students demonstrated their understanding of the language by introducing themselves in English and telling the group about themselves and their lives, and presented their American counterparts with gifts. After lunch in the school cafeteria, it was recess time. Here, the barriers of language and culture were erased as the children from different worlds joined together playing soccer and basketball and ping pong. Those members of the Choir and the chaperones who were not playing the games were surrounded by throngs of Chinese students asking for autographs. After a short rest, there was a final assembly where the school children displayed their talents in music and dance, and the Georgia Boy Choir in turn sang several songs. They even taught the Chinese children an American song, “This Little Light of Mine.” When the time finally came for the bus full of American boys to drive away, the Chinese children lined the driveway cheering and waving.

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When one travels all the way to China, it would be a shame not to visit its most magnificent city, Shanghai. So, although the Choir did not have a performance scheduled there, they flew in for just one day on Monday. It is difficult to see all of any city in just one afternoon, especially one the size of Shanghai, but the Georgia Boy Choir boys managed to see several of its most charming spots. An evening stroll along the riverside proved a wonderful way to spend the Choir’s final evening in China. The magnificence of the light displays on the buildings and skyscrapers, combined with the romance of the lighted riverboats slowly making their way up and down the river was truly astonishing. The boys had a grand time taking it all in.

While they have all had a fabulous time during this 17-day odyssey, the Choir members are all eager to get back home to their families and friends. They miss American food and they miss their own beds, but when they return, they will have left a portion of themselves in China. The people they encountered along the way will never forget them. They have grown in ways that are difficult to measure. Their horizons have been expanded. They have empathy for a different culture and the millions of people it represents. They have grown more self sufficient, realizing that there are very few limitations to where they can go in their lives if they apply themselves; and they have grown closer to one another, having forged friendships which will last a life time.

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If you have read all of these reports, or even some of them, it is our hope that you have felt as though you were able to experience vicariously some of the thrilling experiences the Choir enjoyed. Many of you have helped make them possible through your financial contributions. If you have not done so recently, won’t you consider making a tax-deductible contribution to the Georgia Boy Choir today, so that the organization can continue to spread Beauty to our community, our city, our state and nation, and to the world? We hope that you will be able to come to a concert and see and hear the Georgia Boy Choir for yourself. If time and distance make that impossible, then we hope you will visit our website often, and that you will look forward as we are to next year’s tour to England.

Until then,

The Georgia Boy Choir China Tour Team.


POSTSCRIPT:

This message was written as the Choir made its way home to Atlanta from China. After it was written, there was a slight change in plans. Please see the following Press Release to learn what further adventures awaited the Choir when they reached American soil.

Inclement Weather Grounds Georgia Boy Choir

Thunderstorms that rolled through the metro Atlanta area Tuesday afternoon and made a mess of rush hour, causing numerous wrecks and downed power lines and trees, also postponed the Georgia Boy Choir’s return home from their hugely successful 17 day tour of China. The choir comprised of 29 boys ages 9 – 18 from the Metro Atlanta area that has given concerts to sold out and standing room only crowds in Beijing, Kunnming, and Chendu, had to rely on the leadership skills, self-discipline, and character traits that they learn as members of the choir to endure the more than 40 hours of travel that will eventually bring them home. Divided into two groups, one in Dallas and one in Chicago, the boys learned Tuesday evening that their long awaited and much anticipated reunion with their families scheduled for Tuesday night, would be postponed another day. With increased travel costs causing them to have to divide into as many as three groups to get to China and back, they are now scheduled to arrive as one group at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport via American Airlines Flight 2400 on Wednesday morning at 9:40 am greeted by anxious and enthusiastic family members and supporters. The choir gave numerous concerts while in China for massive crowds and also had the opportunity to appear on a live broadcast of a Chinese game show, while Artistic Director and Conductor, David White gave a Master Class for Chinese conductors. Along the way, they made stops at the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Beijing Childrenís Palace, and to see the ancient “Terra Cotta Army” that has been guarding the tomb of the First Emperor for thousands of years. The choir also broadcasted their concerts live over the internet for the benefit of parents, supporters, and music enthusiasts. Go to www.georgiaboychoir.org/tourbroadcasts to see video footage of those performances. While a harrowing experience to say the least, this isn’t the end of the road for these experienced ambassadors and world travelers. The choir is rapidly preparing for it’s 2010 – 2011 season and announced last week that in July of 2011 they will serve as the choir-in-residence at the Christ Church Cathedral School in Oxford, England; the setting for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the Harry Potter movies.

The choir has also produced several videos of their experiences touring China. Click here to view them and visit our website to read travelogues chronicling their tour to China.

 

China Tour Travelogue Seven

Dear Friends,

Friday morning the Georgia Boy Choir woke happy and refreshed, still reveling in the overwhelming reception they received at the previous evening’s concert. The boys still had some Chinese currency burning a hole in their pockets, so they headed to a place called “The Bird Market,” an area of winding streets filled with various venders selling wares of all kinds, including many varieties of plants and animals such as birds, squirrels, rabbits, lizards, fish, turtles, beetles, worms, and even wombats. While this was exciting and interesting to see, fortunately, there were also many vendors with terrific souvenirs which would actually fit into a suitcase. It is wonderful to see the boys shopping not only for themselves, but for souvenirs to take home to their friends and family members as well. A lot of thought is put into each gift, and the boys are really good at bargaining for the best deal.

In the afternoon, the Choir went to the Yunnan Arts University where conductor David White was to deliver a Master Class Lecture to local conductors and students of music. The audience listened intently as the boys demonstrated their vocal technique which gives them the ability to sing so remarkably beautifully. When the Georgia Boy Choir was finished, the school choir took the stage. This choir is one of the finest in China. In fact in a few days they will be traveling to Beijing where they will be competing as finalists in a national choral competition. They performed three pieces by the Resident Composer, Mr. Liu who was present for the Master Class. After singing the complex songs, they asked Mr. White to help them improve their performance even more. While he was very complimentary of what they were doing, he was able to offer some suggestions which all present, including Mr. Liu seemed to think improved their quality even more. It will be interesting to learn how they fare in the competition. As the class concluded, Mr. White was presented with a certificate naming him as a Visiting Professor to the University.

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After dinner in a nearby restaurant, the Choir returned to the University for the evening’s performance. Word had gotten around that this was a performance not to be missed, and once again the concert hall was filled beyond its capacity. People were standing in the aisles all around the room and spilling out of the doors. The University is very excited about the new facility they will be moving into a year from now, but the current facility has no air conditioning. The unusually warm weather, combined with a brief rains however made for very humid conditions. The hot stage lights and the crowded concert hall exacerbated the situation, making the temperature on stage almost overbearing. The boys came out on stage without their neckties on, and after a couple of songs, removed their blazers as well. But once again, the young singers were consummate professionals. They seemed almost unfazed by the conditions, and fueled by the enthusiasm of the audience, rendered one of their finest performances yet. Even as the program ended, the audience clamored for more, which of course, the Choir obliged. When the concert ended, the audience rushed to the stage even before the boys could get off, and spent the next 20 to 30 minutes seeking autographs and pictures with them. This was two nights in a row, and the boys now took it all in stride, and happily obliged their new fans.

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Kunming is one of the most beautiful cities in all of China. On Saturday morning the Georgia Boy Choir had the pleasure of visiting two of her magnificent parks. First, the Green Lake Park not far from the center of town. As the boys strolled across the bridges and explored the islands on this lovely lake, they were mesmerized by the many people out dancing and exercising and enjoying the gorgeous day. They even got in a round or two of bumper cars before leaving for the next park, the Sleeping Beauty Park, so named because the shape of the mountains across from its lake resembles the shape of a lovely lady in repose. Here the Choir rented four-wheeled bicycles (quadracycles?) and had a blast pedaling around the lake. It was a great way to spend some of that boy energy. It was soon time to get back to work, though, for the Choir had its third concert in as many days scheduled that evening.

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Ever since their arrival in Kunming days earlier, the Choirboys have been walking and driving past the Kunming Arts Center, just a block away from their hotel and seeing the enormous poster announcing their concert displayed on the front of the building. Now the time had come for the concert to begin. This was an important evening. It was their last full concert of the tour and of the Georgia Boy Choir’s Inaugural Season. What an amazing year it has been. The Choir has given more than 30 performances in the mere 10 months it has been in existence! They have been in 2 operas, hosted the first annual Georgia Boy Choir Festival, and appeared live on CNN. The Choir now numbers more than 100 boys in its five levels! The Intermediate Choir enjoyed touring to Maryland, where they participated in the Baltimore Choir Festival, and now the Concert Choir and Young Men’s Ensemble are wrapping up an amazing concert tour to China, where they have received a hero’s welcome everywhere they have been. Saturday night was no exception. The state-of-the-art hall was filled to capacity, and the huge crowd hung on every note the boys sang. Knowing it was their final performance, the members of the Choir held nothing back, but poured everything they had into their singing. The eager audience responded in kind, expressing their appreciation with whoops and cheers, in addition to their vigorous clapping. And once again, there were photo seekers and autograph hounds eager to meet the boys when they had finished singing.

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As the Choir walked back to the hotel, after enjoying a celebratory ice cream cone from McDonald’s, they were euphoric, but reflective of the immensity of their experiences. Thoughts are now beginning to turn to home, but there are still just a few days left before they will head back to Georgia.

Until next time,

The Georgia Boy Choir Concert Tour Team.

 

China Tour Travelogue Six

Dear Friends,

On Tuesday afternoon, after having had one more marvelous feast, courtesy of the kind folks at the Chengdu Children’s Television Station, the Georgia Boy Choir filed into the Chengdu Railway Station for the 20-hour train ride to the city of Kunming in the southern part of China. After settling into their bunks, the boys broke out their playing cards and board games and enjoyed playing together while traveling past some of the most remarkable scenery any had ever seen. As the elevation began to rise, the train followed its serpentine route over and through the mountainous region, passing rivers, and valleys, large cities and small villages. There were at times vast plains filled with rice patties dotted with workers bent over their labor. It was the kind of thing that they had all seen in pictures all their lives and were now experiencing first hand. It was remarkable enough just to get to see it all, but to be able to enjoy it in this way, together with their best friends was truly amazing. It is a trip that will not ever be forgotten.

Kunming, the capital city of the Yunnan province is known as The City of Eternal Spring because of its year-round moderate temperatures. True to form, the sun was shining brightly when the Choir arrived on Wednesday morning. While the train ride was rich and enjoyable, all were grateful for the hotel room and its shower. In the evening, the Choir went exploring. The hotel is located right in the center of the city, just a block away from the beautiful Performing Arts hall. As the boys walked by on the opposite side of the street they were thrilled to see pictures of themselves on an enormous poster (15 to 20 feet high!) advertising their upcoming concert. They continued on to a large pedestrian zone a few blocks away. There were thousands of people out shopping, flying kites, and otherwise enjoying the beautiful evening. When the Choir gathered for a group photo in front of an ancient gate situated in the midst of the contemporary architecture, a crowd of onlookers quickly gathered. Well, whenever there is a crowd, the boys always want to do what they do best – sing. So they broke in to song. The small crowd quickly grew to hundreds. As the boys sang, they clearly showed their delight. Many brought out cameras to take pictures, some even stepping in to the Choir’s formation so their picture could be taken with the handsome, young foreigners.

On Thursday morning the Choir visited the Kunming Botanical Gardens which had been home to a World Botanical Expo in 1999. It was phenomenal. It is like a small version of Disney World for plants and flowers. The boys really enjoyed seeing the vast stretches of brightly-colored flowers, and exotic trees. They were also treated to a performance of various ethnic dances with performers dressed in traditional Chinese garb. It was a surprise when in the middle of the show, the boys were invited to the immense stage to sing. But ever ready, they pulled it off as though they had planned it.

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Thursday evening’s performance was scheduled for Yunnan Normal University, a large school for training teachers. The Choir was welcomed warmly and greeted by the Head of the Music Department. The Hall was very nice though not as large as those in which they had sung in Beijing and Chengdu. Shortly before the concert began, the President of the University came and greeted the singers, welcomed them, and told them how very happy he was they had come to his school.

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When the Choir took the stage, they were glad to see the very full house of expectant listeners. There was not an empty seat and there were people standing and sitting in the aisles and spilling out of all of the doorways. It is hard to imagine how any more people could have been squeezed in to the room. This many people, combined with a lack of air conditioning, and the very hot stage lights, turned the room in to a sauna fairly quickly. But the boys were very professional and didn’t let the heat bother them. In fact, they managed their very best performance yet. Their energy level didn’t wane, but rather increased, fueled by the raucous enthusiasm of the excited listeners. Particularly beautiful were the performances of Stanford’s “The Bluebird” and “Dona Nobis Pacem” by Giulio Caccini. The boys managed the long phrases and soaring tones with uncanny clarity and unity. Their intonation was spot on.

By the time the Choir had gotten through their selections of music from around the world, and began singing their Chinese songs, the audience was ecstatic. At the first note of their first Chinese song, there was a burst of applause and cheering. They joined in heartily singing together with the boys on their encore, a familiar and popular Chinese song called, “A Song and a Smile.”

When the concert concluded, the boys were mobbed by members of the audience eager to have their picture taken with the boys in the Choir. It was so much fun to see the boys’ faces as they happily obliged these adoring fans with a picture and an autograph. There were dozens of these photo hounds who were determined to have their picture taken with nearly every member of the Choir. This adoration fest lasted for nearly thirty minutes until the Choir finally had to load the bus and head back to the hotel. Of course they were all as happy as they had been in their lives.

The bus stopped at a McDonald’s a block away from the hotel, and the evening was concluded with a celebratory ice cream cone.

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Until next time,

The Georgia Boy Choir China Tour Team

China Tour Travelogue Five

Dear Friends,

The ancient city of Luodai sits in the hill country about 10 miles outside the city of Chengdu. It is noted for its typical Chinese architecture which has been remarkably preserved over the years. Its narrow streets are filled with quaint shops and restaurants, and vendors peddling their wares. The primary structures are Guild Halls which in ancient times were gathering places for various trade unions. On the town square there is a large stage which is hundreds of years old. When the Georgia Boy Choir arrived in the rain on Sunday morning, they found that the entire back wall of the stage was filled with an enormous banner proclaiming the concert they were to give later that day. There were actually two performances scheduled, but the rain was making matters difficult. During a brief lull in the precipitation a group of men rolled an upright piano across the plaza. It took eight of them to pick it up and carry it up the staircase leading to the stage. There were a dozen or so men working furiously to put up a large tent to protect the audience from the elements. But there was no way it would be ready in time for the 11:00 am performance, so that performance was cancelled. This gave the young singers an opportunity to explore the old city and exchange some of their money for some fine souvenirs before the next scheduled concert at 1:30.

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After a delicious lunch, where they were greeted by the mayor of the city, the boys were more than ready to sing for the crowd which was now gathering under the large tent. They did not sing their entire program, but a somewhat abbreviated version which included songs from all around the world: England, Italy, Greece, Hungary, the Czech Republic, America, Serbia, and ultimately China. This audience was different from others the Choir has encountered. These people did not necessarily plan to come hear the Georgia Boy Choir today. It was a chance encounter, an opportunity to share their music with unsuspecting people. The Chinese people stop and stare as the boys pass by, because they look different. But when they open their mouths and sing, they become more than just a spectacle, but human beings who have come across the world to bring Beauty to them. By the time the Choir reached the final Chinese songs, the audience was singing along and clapping… and smiling a lot.

The Choir’s entire visit to Chengdu was sponsored by the Chengdu Children’s Channel TV Station. This evening they had a splendid banquet planned for the boys. It was indeed a marvelous spread. The executives and TV personalities were present and made a few short speeches and toasted the boys and their success.

On Monday morning the rain had subsided and the Choir piled on to the bus and went to the Chengdu Panda Research Base, the world’s largest and most important refuge for the Giant Panda. It is home to almost 60 pandas, including Mei Lan, the panda who was born at the Atlanta Zoo just a few years ago. She left Atlanta earlier this year to make her home in Chengdu. The boys in the Choir were hoping to see her, but she was quarantined because of mating season. They were not too disappointed since they did get to see several dozen pandas from very young ones to mature adults eating, playing, and sleeping. It was remarkable. They also got to see several red pandas and encountered wild peacocks roaming the grounds. Several said it was their favorite part of the tour so far.

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In the afternoon, the Choir went to the Chengdu Children’s Channel TV studio, where they were the celebrity guests on a game show. After singing a couple of songs, they were divided into two teams, paired with some Chinese students and competed together with them in various contests including saying tongue twisters in each other’s language, playing some traditional Chinese instruments, racing using chopsticks to transfer ping-pong balls into a bowl, and playing charades. The game show will be aired in two separate episodes in about two weeks, and will likely be viewed by about 3 million people!

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In the evening the boys were treated to a Chinese Opera and Acrobat show. It wasn’t really what most westerners think of as opera, but more like a variety show of various Chinese traditional art forms, including dancing, hand shadows, knife throwing (where one of our boys was chosen to be the “victim”), and the particularly amazing art of dancing and changing faces so quickly that it seems almost to be magic. The boys in the Choir were mesmerized.

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It has been a wonderful few days in the beautiful city of Chengdu. The boys have had many marvelous experiences, made many new friends, and delighted thousands, and ultimately millions of people. While they are sad to know they will be leaving the next day, they are excited about the continuation of their Chinese adventure.

Until then,

The Georgia Boy Choir China Tour Team

 

China Tour Travelogue Four

Dear Friends,

Morning came very early on Friday for the members of the Georgia Boy Choir in China. There was a plane to catch. After a couple of days in Beijing, an overnight train, and a day in Xian, it was time to move on to the metropolis of Chengdu, about a 90-minute plane ride south east of Xian. Located in the Szechuan province, Chengdu prides itself as “The cleanest city in China.” With a population of almost 11 million people, it is almost double the size of our own home town.

When the Georgia Boy Choir arrived at the airport there was a welcoming committee there with a big banner announcing their arrival. Mr. and Mrs. White were presented with flowers, and there were local television cameras capturing it all. It was a real treat.

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The hotel where the Choir is staying is part of the same complex as the Chengdu Concert Hall. After checking in and enjoying a nice meal, the group welcomed the opportunity to get some rest followed by a rehearsal in the concert hall. Also part of this Arts Complex is an arts school. In the evening, the boys were given a tour of the facility and were able to observe lessons on some traditional Chinese musical instruments, as well as sit in briefly on an English class. Following this, some of the students and teachers put on a brief demonstration for the Choir who gladly reciprocated with a song.

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Rain the next morning did not dampen the spirits of the stalwart travelers. A bus ride across town took the Choir to a local elementary school where they were greeted with more welcoming banners and two rows of Chinese students who cheered and waved flags as they boys exited the bus and strode toward the buildings. The students then came and introduced themselves to the singers in English and took them on a tour of their impressive facility. This was followed by an assembly where the principal welcomed the Choir and the students demonstrated their abilities in various art forms: kung fu, dance, singing, playing various traditional instruments, and presented the Choir with two beautifully calligraphied banners. When it was the American’s turn, their singing was especially well received. It was wonderful to see friendships being formed and mutual admiration developed between the two groups of students.

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Before the concert began on Saturday evening the hall began to fill up with excited listeners, eager with anticipation of what they were to hear. When the Georgia Boy Choir took the stage, they did not disappoint. Their singing was full of energy and beauty. The capacity audience was thrilled. They particularly seemed to enjoy the section of American songs which closed the first half. The Young Men’s Ensemble’s rendition of “Vive L’Amour” received raucous applause, but that was surpassed when the whole Choir sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Here the usually reserved Chinese people burst into applause even before the final note was finished.

The second half of the concert began with three different Chinese school choirs who sang their favorite songs. They were delightful. As the Georgia Boy Choir then sang their closing section of songs from around the world, the audience became more and more lively in their response. By the time the singers got to their Chinese songs, the cheering was loud and long. The audience seemed especially moved by the Choir’s singing of their final song,“Chiang Ting Wai,” a traditional farewell song which the Choir dedicated to the memory of those who perished on the horrible earthquake which struck Chengdu two years ago.

Following this song two young Chinese girls came on to the stage with big bouquets of flowers. Instead of giving them to Mr. White, they were allowed to choose which of the boys they wished to present them to. They seemed shy at first, but eventually they chose their favorites and gave them the flowers.

For an encore, the young Georgians were joined by children from the same school which had welcomed them so warmly earlier in the day for a Chinese song, “Song and Smile” which nearly everyone knows. This was met with such an enthusiastic response that it had to be repeated and children from the audience came rushing up to the stage for their chance to stand by these American boys and sing. The two flower girls found “their” boys and held their hands during the song. It was a precious moment.

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Following such an exciting event it is sometimes hard to wind down and get to sleep, but sleep did not tarry long, but came quickly to give the Choir the needed rest for them to continue their odyssey the next day.

Until then,

The Georgia Boy Choir China Tour Team

 

China Tour Travelogue Three

Dear Friends,

There is perhaps no greater symbol of the country of China than the Great Wall. It is centuries old and extends for more than 4000 miles across the massive continent. On Wednesday morning the Georgia Boy Choir had the amazing opportunity not only to see the Great Wall but to walk on it. The portion of the Wall where we went is a short bus ride from downtown Beijing. It extends from one mountaintop to another with extremely steep stairs. Have you ever wondered why you hear people refer to “climbing” the Great Wall? It is because it is so steep as to be almost like climbing a ladder in some places. The steps are not spaced evenly, and the going is not easy. The ascent to the top of this section of wall is about 1 mile. As the Choir began its trek, the distance between the boys became greater and greater. There are guard towers placed intermittently along the way. These served as good resting spots and also as incentive to keep going until the next one. About 1/3 of the boys made it all the way to the top tower. They were rewarded with a remarkable view, and the privilege of having the shakiest legs when they finally got all the way back down.

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After lunch, we visited a cloisonné factory and saw the workers creating the magnificently detailed and beautiful pottery, vases, and jewelry. The boys were fascinated with the process and eager to take some of the treasures home with them.

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If the Great Wall is an icon for ancient China, a symbol for contemporary Beijing would be the amazing buildings constructed for the 2008 Olympic Games, particularly the “Water Cube” and the “Bird’s Nest.” The Water Cube is a rectangular-shaped building which housed the Olympic aquatic events. It looks from the outside like a block of bubbly water. It was here that Michael Phelps stunned the world with his incredible swimming prowess. The Bird’s Nest really does look like a giant nest with its steel girders placed at raucous angles. It is really the primary Olympic stadium. It was here that many of the events took place, including the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Between these two buildings, there is a massive pedestrian zone. When the Choir visited there on Wednesday afternoon, it was filled with locals and tourists alike enjoying the early summer afternoon.

It is always an amazing result when you mix the following ingredients: 29 boys, three Frisbees, one soccer ball, and one football. Instant joy! Games break out, boys run and play, leap and shout, throw and catch. The locals seemed fascinated watching the boys having such a wonderful time. Some even joined in. As the playing wrapped up, the Choir treated those nearby to a couple of fun songs. The crowd which immediately gathered seemed delighted.

We couldn’t linger long, though for we had a train to catch. After a delicious dinner, the bus found its way to the Beijing train station. As we made our way to the main entrance, it seemed as though someone had opened the flood gates and a vast sea of humanity was rushing toward the narrow gate. The polite American boys were having considerable difficulty getting through until Mr. White and Joe Sokohl acted like the offensive linemen on the Atlanta Falcons and held the pressing throng back just long enough for the last boy to get through. We made it to the train and each member had his own bunk. It was quite an adventure as the train began to move and chug its way toward the city of Xian. After about an hour, the lights were turned off and everyone went to sleep. We rose about an hour before the train pulled into the station in Xian the next morning. Upon arriving at the hotel, we were all grateful for the scrumptious breakfast and a warm shower.

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We were in this beautiful city for one primary purpose – to view the phenomenal Terra Cotta Army. In 210 BC the very first emperor of China had more than 8000 life-size soldiers created out of mud and clay. They were buried surrounding his own tomb in an effort to protect himself in the afterlife. After many years, they were forgotten about, but in 1974 an unsuspecting farmer discovered some on his property and one of the most significant and enormous archaeological projects in history was begun. At this point, they have unearthed and restored more than 1200 of the life-like creatures. The boys in the Choir were in awe of the immensity and detail of the soldiers. More than a few of the boys purchased miniature versions of their favorite statue to take home with them so they will never forget this awesome experience.

Of course their primary purpose in coming on this tour is to sing. A portion of Tuesday evening’s concert in Beijing can be seen below.

Until next time,

The Georgia Boy Choir China Tour Team

China Tour Travelogue Two

Dear Friends,

Tuesday morning the sun came up early. Our bodies and minds are a little confused because of the 12-hour time difference between here and home. So as we were arising and eating breakfast, our friends and family in the US were eating Monday evening’s supper. And as they retired for the evening, our Chinese adventure was just getting started.

We went first to the famous Tiananmen Square, one of the largest public squares in the world. The immense concrete space is dotted with various statues and monuments. The most significant of which is the mausoleum containing the remains of Chairman Mao Tse Tung, the still greatly revered leader who established the Communist government. Though he died in 1976, thousands of loyal followers still line up and wait hours to view his frozen and preserved remains. We opted not to wait in that line.

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Across the street from Tiananmen Square is the entrance to the Forbidden City, the Imperial Palace built during the Ming dynasty. For nearly 500 years, it was the home of 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Today it is open to the public. The boys were fascinated by the beautifully ornate buildings and grounds.

Before our departure from the US, some of the Choir members expressed concern over the food they imagined they might encounter, but if this first lunch was any indication, they had nothing to worry about. The food was plenteous and delicious. Everyone ate heartily. Adjacent to the restaurant is a pearl factory and gift shop. Here the boys were shown how an oyster is opened and pearls are discovered inside. Some of the boys even dug their own pearls out of a raw oyster.

 

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The evening found us on the beautiful campus of Beijing University, the most important university in all of China. It was here in their elegant 2500-seat concert hall that the Georgia Boy Choir was scheduled to give its first ever international concert. We had been told that prior to the Choir’s arrival in China more than 2000 tickets had been sold. Sure enough, when the Choir strode confidently on the sizable stage, the hall was full to capacity.

From the very first strains of Gerald Finzi’s ebullient “My Spirit Sang All Day” it was clear that these boys came to China for this very purpose, and the audience was in for a marvelous treat. The first portion of the concert, the boys sang songs from standard western classical literature, showing their ability to sing music of the great masters. Next, the Choir performed a section of American songs. The Chinese audience clearly enjoyed this music. The Choir was grateful for the intermission which came next. As their remaining energy was quickly waning, the boys had to dig deep in order to maintain their professional composure and high level of performance.

This section of the concert was comprised of an assortment of songs from all around the world. The first piece was a very energetic song by the Estonian composer Veljo Tormis. The audience’s enthusiastic response served to fuel the boys on stage and their energy level continued to increase as they moved from song to song. When the Choir finally arrived at the final two Chinese songs, the enthusiastic audience began cheering at the very opening strains. They clapped in rhythm and some even sang along, and cheered loudly and long. The Choir responded by repeating one of the Chinese songs as an encore. The audience once again roared their approval.

It was also thrilling to learn that more than 85 people from all over the world logged in and watched the live webcast of the concert. Afterward some of the boys went on camera to greet and thank their virtual fans.

After a celebratory ice cream treat, all were very glad to arrive back at the hotel to rest and reenergize themselves so the adventure could continue the next day.

Until then,

The Georgia Boy Choir China Tour Team

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China Tour Travelogue One

Dear Friends,

Early, early on Sunday morning, while most of the world was still asleep, the 29 members of the Georgia Boy Choir Touring Choir (the combined forces of the Concert Choir and Young Men’s Ensemble), met under the watchful eye of the Dinosaur skeleton in the atrium of Atlanta’s Hartsfield/Jackson airport. After a few tearful goodbyes, they lined up and boarded a plane, ultimately bound for a 17-day concert tour to China. They actually boarded two planes, one headed to Dallas, the other for Chicago, but after a couple of connecting flights, everybody reunited in Tokyo, and flew together to Beijing where they are all now resting peacefully in their hotel beds.

Immigration at Beijing Airport

Immigration at Beijing Airport

Tomorrow, the adventure really begins, and we want you to be a part of it. As the Choir winds its way across this big, beautiful country, making new friends, and sharing the beauty of their singing, we will be sending out this travelogue, filled with pictures and video of their fantastic experiences.

The first concert is Tuesday (tomorrow) at Beijing University. We are told there have been more than 2000 tickets already sold! It should be a remarkable experience. We wish that we could have brought all of you along with us, but since that is not possible, we are going to attempt to broadcast this concert LIVE over the internet. You’ll have to get up early, because airtime is 7:30 AM Georgia time. Logging on and viewing the concert will be easy. Just go to www.GeorgiaBoyChoir.org/tourbroadcast, follow the instructions on that page, and enjoy the performance. You’ll even be able to “chat” with a member of the team as you watch the broadcast.

So, set your alarms. We’ll see you in the morning.

The Georgia Boy Choir China Tour Team.

The 2010 Touring Choir at the Atrium in Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. 

The 2010 Touring Choir at the Atrium in Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.