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.
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.
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.
Until next time,
The Georgia Boy Choir China Tour Team