Sunday, February 3, 2013
Well, it’s snowing, yet there is STILL a “dangerous” level of smog in Beijing. Not sure how that works; we were lucky and the previous two days were beautiful and clear here. A few of us travelled to Beijing a day earlier than the rest of the group. We had a press conference on Friday late afternoon and yesterday had rehearsals for and a chamber concert featuring a CSO wind quintet and brass quintet, as well as Gene Pokorny’s tuba master class.
First, a bit about Shanghai. As I mentioned in the last update, Shanghai felt like a crazy whirlwind. We had a press conference and a long series of meetings and connections to make. This was a different hall from four years ago and it felt like a different audience as well. There was an energy in the hall that reflected the audience’s anticipation or expectation from the concert. I had heard that the concert had been sold out 3 months in advance and that there were no ticket returns based on the change of conductor. As it happens, the audience was very intent, sitting on the edge of the seat and taking endless pictures and videos and recordings. This is all forbidden, of course, but takes place in any case. The ushers walk around with these funny neon signs in Chinese and English saying “no cameras” right in front of dozens of patrons using those very devices to record the concert.
The concert was long for a variety of reasons, including starting late (and an apparent attempt by the local backstage crew to change the clock so that it didn’t seem late — John “eagle eyes” Deverman prevented that however), but the response from the audience was like at a rock concert, so Maestro Maazel and the Orchestra offered both encores. The Orchestra left the stage to shouts of appreciation.
We welcomed the ITW sponsorship group pre-concert, the BOA group and good friend Rena DeSisto at intermission, and post-concert in the Maestro’s room we even saw Michael Sax and Bill Daley who were in Shanghai with World Business Chicago. This was the place to be, clearly!
Early the next morning, about twenty of us took off for Beijing leaving the larger group behind in Shanghai for a free day and some Citizen Musician activities. These events have been received very appreciatively by the various guests and there is a really beautiful article on one of the first CM events in Taipei on www.chicagoontheaisle.com. I encourage you to check it out.
Yesterday morning a few of us followed Gene Pokorny to the People’s Liberation Army Military Complex for a tuba master class. Now, as many of you know, I have attended my fair share of master classes for low brass, but this was quite a unique event. About 40-50 tuba players were there, some of them in PLA uniform and most with their instruments. I’ve never heard etudes played in unison by so many tubas!
The evening brought a really beautiful, virtuosic chamber music concert by wind quintet Jennifer Gunn, Scott Hostetler, Lawrie Bloom, Dennis Michel and Dave Griffin and the brass quintet of Chris Martin, Tage Larsen, Dave Griffin, Michael Mulcahy and Gene Pokorny. The same hall where the orchestra will perform was about two-thirds full with lots of families and young people. Clearly, it was also filled with big CSO fans as the whooping and cheering was fun at the conclusion! This big hall sounded beautiful for each of the quintets, which is a fine testament to the acoustics.
Today, despite the snow, many went off to the Great Wall for a hike, some to the pearl or silk markets and I understand Sando Shia was giving explicit directions about how to get to the “tea” street, for sipping and haggling for tea. Some of the rest of us hid out for some good rest on a concert day.
Sando and Robert Chen joined me and Donagh Collins (our tour agent) for lunch with Chen Ping and his colleagues from the presenter, the National Centre of Performing Arts. We had a long talk about how the three venues at NCPA work and their approach to artistic development in Beijing. They are very proud of their work and are eager for us to be more actively engaged here with them.
Must catch the bus to the hall for tonight’s concert!