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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Georgia Boy Choir China Tour Team