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