The Rochester Oratorio Society passed through the Empress's Gate to the Forbidden City in white diesel buses. Carrying black concert clothes and folders, members walked through a tunnel of ancient cypress trees and rock formations. Cicadas buzzed. Dragonflies hovered over the grass. Lilies lowered their heads, giving off a heady fragrance. Dreamlike. After passing through an ancient courtyard, we stepped over a beam that protects the Hall from evil spirits.
Between exploring the Forbidden City and climbing the Great Wall of China, I've hardly had time to write. Wow! There's a sentence I'd never imagined typing. I'll try to fill you in after our performance at the Forbidden City Concert Hall tonight. In the meantime, my friends Carl and Mickey have a wonderfully detailed and funny blog about the trip you can read. (A reader put a link in another post.)
Here are more postcards from the Rochester Oratorio Society singers and family members.
"After six days in Beijing, what's the most unusual thing you've seen?"
After three days in China, members of the Rochester Oratorio Society talk about their strongest impressions.
"I can't get over seeing the children's faces and how beautiful they are and the thought of peace. I grew up thinking Communism was bad. Look at how happy these people are!" "I'm still processing." - Michelle
When the Rochester Oratorio Society landed in Beijing Sunday, singers were bused to the Ruicheng Hotel in an industrial-suburban about six miles west of the Forbidden City. Initially, I was deflated to be so far from the pretty stuff. I'd imagined daily jogs through the Imperial gardens. But now that we've had a chance to look around, I'm glad to be staying in a grittier part of town.
Today, we were tourists. We passed through the Forbidden City, the imperial palace of 9,999 rooms. We ascended the steps of the Temple of Heaven. Kites fluttered overhead. Azure-winged magpies shrieked from cypress trees. Hazy sun shone all day. Some of us are pink and peeling. One singer sank into a wheelchair, exhausted.
Members of the Rochester Oratorio Society landed in Beijing today. Dazed with jet-lag, we passed through a dazzling world of gleaming floors, polished steel, and walls of glass. Triangular skylights floated over us in a vaulted ceiling. Beijing's new airport opened two months ago, and the most astonishing thing about it is its sheer size.
Restless sleep. Vivid dreams. Sometimes my stomach hurts. Other times, I get a floaty feeling like I'm seeing streets and faces through a fisheye lens.
On Saturday, I'm flying to Beijing to represent the U.S. as a member of the Rochester Oratorio Society in a Pre-Olympic Cultural Festival. I haven't left yet, but I'm already learning a lot about myself. For one thing, I'm learning that despite my hunger for adventure, ya know, I'm just a girl from a small town in Western New York.
On Monday night, conductor Eric Townell announced that the Rochester Oratorio Society (ROS) had been invited to enter a singing contest in Beijing, a kind of Chinese Idol with four judges and prizes and everything. After hearing more about it, he decided we would not compete, since three of the judges are Chinese and the other is Polish. It seemed likely, Eric said, that politics might influence the outcome. Needless pressure.
In less than a month, about eighty singers (including myself) will land in Beijing to sing in a Pre-Olympic Cultural Festival. On Monday night, members of the Rochester Oratorio Society finally received their passports with Chinese visas pasted in, marked in each booklet by a paper clip. Besides the visas, our conductor, Eric Townell, passed out three new pieces of music. Less than four weeks before the trip! We leave July 12th.