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.
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.
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.
The Georgia Boy Choir China Tour Team