Clash of the Choirs

Last night the Rochester Oratorio Society sang in the Ninth China International Chorus Festival contest at the Military Concert Hall, a new venue with decent acoustics. Out of forty-seven groups, ROS was one of seven selected to advance to this level.

That sounds impressive, but it's not really when you consider that many of the groups are amateurish and others come from schools. Eric has been downplaying the significance of the competition. Most of the judges are Chinese, he says, and the Eastern aesthetic is so different from ours that it's hard to compare international choirs. Apples to oranges. So if we win, we'll crow. If we lose, we won't care.

I had a flashback to high school band pageants last night, standing on the stage of this hall, singing Mendelssohn's Psalm 43, the Promise of Living by Copland, and the Kang Ding song in Mandarin. Like Americans applauding Barry Manilow at the opening strains of "Mandy," the Chinese audience of several hundred people burst into applause when we began the traditional Chinese love song Kang Ding. Must be a crowd favorite.

Rant time. The risers we stood on were ridiculously tall and narrow. Singers on the top teetered on the edge of serious injury, and there was no railing. Furthermore, the piano was extremely out of tune. It was so bad that it sounded like a toy. This was a new-looking 9-foot Steinway. In America, I don't think they're allowed to get that bad. In a current craze for Western-style classical music, Chinese piano factories are producing A NEW PIANO EVERY DAY. You'd think they'd have a few piano tuners around. End of rant.

We spent the rest of the day visiting two famous sights, the Panjiayuan Antiques Market (a.k.a. the Dirt Market) and the Lama Temple. The Dirt Market is the largest flea market in Asia. Think "Rochester Public Market on steroids." There was a lot of junk, but exploration yielded a few eye-opening treasures. In a bizarre, small-world moment, two ROS singers were interviewed by a producer from National Public Radio about what they were doing in China. You may hear their voices on All Things Considered or Morning Edition. (I didn't meet the producer. Just heard about it.) Also, several singers were treated like celebrities, having their snapshots taken by people who recognized them from an appearance on Beijing television yesterday morning.

Click on the attachment below to hear about the Lama Temple.

Today is our last full day in Beijing. We're visiting the Summer Palace and an Acrobatic show. Tomorrow, after the closing ceremony of the Ninth China International Chorus festival, we'll board an overnight train to Shanghai, where we'll sing with the Shanghai Symphonic Orchestra.

lama.mp32.64 MB


What a magnificent, mixed picture!!

Congratulations on two successful and moving performances so far. I have really enjoyed seeing the photos of people and places, and I appreciate that you "tell it all like it really is" -- the soaring beauty and the seamy side as well.

One thing I'm wondering: how are your computer connections? Is it about the same as if you were here? I could imagine that it might be significantly better; I've read that in parts of Asia (esp. South Korea) they are far advanced over what we have here at home.

Thanks again for keeping us connected, and enjoy the rest of your trip!!

Buddhist Things

I think it's an 'A' according to my electric piano, that note of the prayer bowl. As Christians, I'm not sure where our guilt factor should lie. I have, here in my room, 4 Chinese Buddhas and I think 4 Chinese wise men/women. 2 hand carved Chinese figures were passed down to me, having been brought to the US from my grandmother and Ob-Gyn grandfather's travels to China in the 1950's, I'd guess, as well as a solid jade incense burner. My iGoogle homepage sports a Buddhist prayer wheel spinning. Om Mani Padme Hum equals salvation not different from the salvation Christ brought us. Blessings.