On our last morning in Shanghai, I found myself in the hotel lobby with a dozen or so Rochester singers waiting for the bus to the airport. With our suitcases collected by the glass revolving door, others drifted into the gift shop or hotel Internet center. Three of four Chinese businessmen sat smoking and chatting on their cells. The Chinese smoke pretty much wherever they want. Bored, I wandered over to a baby grand piano draped in a red velvet cover. I pulled the ruffled fabric away and sat down in front of a heavily lacquered, black Yamaha. I touched a few keys. Perfectly in tune.
As far as I know, members of the Rochester Oratorio Society have either returned home safely from China or set off on independent journeys. One alto flew to Japan to spend time with her husband who’s doing research there. I flew home with a small group of singers. We called ourselves “The Shanghai Thirteen.”
If you’ve been following this blog, you may recall that I experienced a moment of irrational fear before leaving the States. I remembered it while I was in China and laughed at myself.
Click on the attachment below to hear the first run-through of "Flying Petals," a Chinese song. The Rochester Oratorio Society is singing in rehearsal here with the Shanghai Symphonic Choir at the Shanghai Conservatory. The soloist is a member of ROS. At the end, you'll hear a burst of spontaneous applause.
Click on the attachment to hear an interview with Eric Townell recorded after our last concert in Shanghai.
After two days in Shanghai, I asked members of the Rochester Oratorio Society and their family members,
"What's the difference between Beijing and Shanghai?"
"[Shanghai] is a little more sophisticated and a little more grungy, altogether." - Jackie
"First, Shanghai's more cosmopolitan, don't you think? People dress in a more stylish way. And the other thing is this: it's WAY hotter. It feels like a sauna and a steam bath in the sun."
"If China is a dragon, Shanghai is its head."
- Deng Xiaping
The Rochester Oratorio Society caught an overnight train from Beijing to Shanghai on Monday. After much merriment and a fitful sleep, I woke before dawn to watch the Chinese countryside. Low, brown houses, lush green fields, and white egrets stood in the early morning mist.
On Monday morning, the Rochester Oratorio Society served as the greeting choir for the closing ceremony of the China International Chorus Festival. During the rehearsal, held backstage about ten minutes before we performed, conductor Eric Townell learned ROS had won third place, among 47 choirs. He seemed quite pleased.
I asked some of the singers and their relatives, "What did you buy?"
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.
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.