Au retour, quel accueuil chaleureux! Heureusement que je n’ai pas décidé de rester en Chine, j’aurais manqué ça! Ce fut deux semaines bien remplies, très bien même, avec son lot de petites aventures qui nous font encore sourire.
Ce qui m’a frappée durant ce voyage…
Déjà vu une fleur de lotus? Les couleurs et les feuilles sont magnifiques. Elles me font penser au développement musical des jeunes durant notre voyage. Les belles grosses et grandes feuilles vertes étaient déjà présentes avant de partir tandis que la fleur aux couleurs vives s’est lentement ouverte pour nous laisser voir sa beauté dans toute sa magnificence. Impressionnant à voir et entendre! En 2 courtes semaines, ils sont devenus de vrais professionnels!
L’endroit qui m’a le plus charmée : le Temple du ciel de Beijing (Temple of Heaven) : un endroit où les gens dansent, jouent à toutes sortes de jeux, font de la musique, etc. On sentait la joie de vivre chez eux. Ils nous incluaient dans leurs jeux; c’était magique! Un vrai ciel sur terre!
Nous avons aussi été témoins d’une partie de « ping-pong »… (en l’honneur de Ping! … Oui, je sais, tout le monde y a pensé…) entre le professeur de musique de Shanghai et nul autre que … Rosemarie!
Mise au jeu : les élèves de Shanghai nous interprètent une pièce folklorique chinoise, assez bien exécutée, suivie d’un solo de violoncelle, une pièce de Dvorak. C’est une pièce très difficile à jouer. C’est le tour des canadiens : Double concerto de JS Bach et Jalousie. Ils sont solides comme du rock et on voit comment leurs 2 semaines de tournée les ont rodés, frisant la perfection.
La balle est aux chinois : un autre solo, d’un altiste, cette fois.
Et c’est à Rosemarie! Toutes les têtes, sans exception, suivaient la balle sans en manquer une seconde. Elles se tournent vers Rosemarie. Catherine accepte son invitation à jouer. Elle s’exécute avec brio et simplicité. Liko, malgré une rage de dents, accompagne Catherine de main de maître. Nous sommes tous très fiers d’elles. La balle bondit dans le camp des chinois. D’un bond, ils décident de nous faire entendre un jeune violoniste talentueux. « Et il n’a que 11 ans! », ajoute le professeur!
Finalement, la balle tombe dans le centre de la table : « Pourquoi ne pas jouer ensemble? », de proposer Rosemarie? Ils jouent la Danse hongroise No. 5, solidement dirigée par Kit suivie d’une version différente du « Butterfly Lover’s Concerto ». Stellae Boreales poursuit avec la version qu’on connaît dans laquelle Laurent nous fait honneur.
Bilan de cette grande joute à jamais inscrite dans les annales de Suzuki : succès sur toute la ligne! Les chinois ont très apprécié que Stellae Boreales joue une pièce composée par un compatriote. De plus, ils ont tellement aimé Jalousie qu’ils veulent obtenir la partition. Par-dessus le marché, ils désirent venir rencontrer les professeurs et élèves de l’école Suzuki à Ottawa. Bravo! Mission accomplie!
Les souvenirs se bousculent. Ceci n’est qu’un chapitre. Nous en avons vu de toutes les formes et toutes les couleurs, accordées aux goûts de tout le monde. Tout a très bien été, les concerts comme les visites!
En trois mots : un voyage magnifique!
The China Welfare Institute Children’s Palace (CP) is a beautiful marble and glass structure built in the 1950s. On July 13th , we celebrated ABT’s 12th birthday at lunchtime, in a restaurant located across the street from the CP. Then we proceeded to the large orchestra classroom on the CP 10th floor, for our
musical exchange with the CP orchestra. About 30 CP parents sat at the back of the classroom, watching their children practice. It reminded me—as a long-time Suzuki parent—of our own Saturday group classes in Ottawa.
Our Shanghai guide, Julia, translated as the CP teacher, Mr. Lin, introduced the CP orchestra, which ranges in age from 8 to 16 years, and comprises a senior group and an intermediate group, very similar to SB. That said, the CP orchestra is a lot bigger than SB, with 12 cellos and a double bass, about 11 violas, 8 1st violins and 8 2nd violins. They started off with a polka Hora Spring. Then, after enthusiastic applause from the Canadians for the CP performance, our own SB (all wearing their red SB T-shirts) played 3 pieces—Bach Double, Jealousy, and Butterfly Lovers.
Mr. Lin graciously praised SB, saying
It doesn’t matter how big your group is, it is only the talent that matters, and you have all the talent. We can learn a lot from you. It is clear that you practice a lot at home, and we need to learn to practice like you. He explained that this was the first time that the CP senior and intermediate groups had practiced Hora Spring together, and that they will get better as they practice more. Then, the CP orchestra proceeded to play Hungarian Dance, and this time they produced an even bigger sound as brass and woodwind sections were added.
Happily, Hungarian Dance happens to be in the SB Intermediate Group’s repertoire. We had arrived at the CP with open minds, as we had no idea of what was going to be involved in the
musical exchange and were ready for anything. Here was an opportunity that our coaches seized immediately, for a spontaneous amalgamation of the two orchestras. The SB Intermediate Group unpacked their violins again, and inserted themselves in the violin sections of the CP orchestra, and all the young musicians, Canadian and Chinese, strings and winds, played a full, rich and joyful rendition of Hungarian Dance together.
Rosemarie congratulated all the students, saying
Even though we speak English and you speak Chinese, this joint performance proves that music is the universal language! She complimented Mr Lin and the CP orchestra. On investigating their practice regimen, she turned to SB and declared loudly (as only Rosemarie can do)
Stellae Boreales DID YOU HEAR THAT? TWO HOURS REHEARSAL EVERY SUNDAY!
Then SB musicians mingled with the CP orchestra for conversation, and discovered that many of the students have excellent English language skills…
I enjoyed talking to the other children, some of whom had very good English. It was fun to hear IPG play Hungarian Dance No.5 with the orchestra.
I thought the orchestra played very well for their “practice” and playing the Hungarian Dance with them was a lot of fun. It was interesting talking to the other kids about practicing and daily lifestyle.
I thought that the orchestra played very well. Even though I found it somewhat hard to communicate with the Chinese children, it was an enriching experience.
I enjoyed talking to the kids because I got some insight into how their music program works.
A very interesting experience was had in exchanging words and music with the young Chinese musicians. Given how hard it was to communicate in English or Chinese, this exercise further stressed the universal nature of the language that is music.
It was a little awkward at first but once we’d played our pieces it was fine. I talked to tow giggly kids, one embarrassed, one talkative and one who didn’t speak much English. Over all it was a wonderful experience.
It felt a bit weird at first but it got better. It was fun playing the Butterfly Concerto for them because I could tell they enjoyed it.
It was a fun experience to play for them and having them play for us. I also enjoyed getting to know them; one of them asked me for my email.
Being able to interact both musically and socially with Chinese musicians our age was very enriching! It was really interesting to see the IPG perform Hungarian Dance with the orchestra and I could tell that the children enjoyed the experience very much. CD. But most importantly it was the musical exchange that brought a smile to all our faces.
I wasn't too sure how to approach the students but I decided to go towards the cellists. I found it surprising how some spoke very good English and others barely any.
Today was another wonderful day in China. Because of our concert this afternoon, our morning was filled with two visits. The first one was at a famous Buddhist temple, known for its Jade Buddha statue. At first, we saw similar statues that we had seen in the Lama temple in Beijing. However, there is no doubt that the jade white Buddha, which we saw near the end of our visit, was like no other. The facial expression was peaceful and serene. People came to give fruits as an offering to their spiritual leader. Our visit was short but it was worth it.
When we were done with the temple, our tour guide Julia told us that we were to go to a silk factory. As we stepped in, we were greeted by a young lady. She started off by explaining to us the five steps of the life of a worm. When the worm is an adult it creates a web around itself as it is attached to a leaf. Worms can either do this step alone or as couples. The singles have a smaller cocoon, and the couples a larger one. Depending on the type of cocoon a different process is done to collect the thread which will be used to make silk. For the singles, they have to kill the worms by putting the cocoons in hot water. Then, they take a brush and stir it in the water with the cocoons. The thread from each cocoon gets attached to that brush. Then each thread is inserted in a machine that pulls it until the entire cocoon is unthreaded. My interesting experience at the factory was to pull the sheet of silk just to see how stretchy it was. I and three other members of the group grabbed a part of the silk and pulled at the same time. It was incredible how far we could go. We were then introduced to all of the things we could buy made with one hundred percent silk. A full store of scarves, clothing, purses, and many more were in the store. Carol asked me to pick a present for ABT so I picked out a nice green silk scarf for her. I wish her a wonderful Birthday.
Our adventures in Huangshan, in English
Yellow Mountain, began and consisted mainly of our scaling and exploring the mountain of the same name, Yellow Mountain. In this
small and rural Chinese town of 1.5 million, Yellow Mountain is the main tourist attraction, being as it is one of the most famous and beloved mountains in China. From our homely Huangshan hotel it took around 1 hour to reach the base of the cable car we were to take up the mountainside. There was a light drizzle at this time, 11 a.m., and most who were going to venture up the mountain had outfitted themselves with a cheap, 10 Yuan ($1.50 Can.) poncho. The cable car ride was a 15 minute journey up the face of the mountain; the rain, wind, and mist/fog kept the ride exciting, even though it unfortunately severely limited visibility.
Upon reaching the top in our cable car, we hiked around the 900 metre mountain. Due to the large amount of fog and mist, our view was greatly obstructed but regardless, we
climbed to the top (i.e. we climbed the stairs that led to the peak). Because the peak was unprotected by trees or the face of the mountainside, it was surprisingly windy at the top of Yellow Mountain, and after 5 minutes there we'd had enough and wanted to return to one of the 3 or 4 hotels on the mountain for lunch. The existence of these hotels depended on porters carrying goods and supplies from the base of the upper most cable cars to the hotels. Surprising to me, the method of transportation of these goods is very old-fashioned; the porters carry goods wrapped in enormous bags on each end of a pole and carry this across their backs, up and down the hundreds of steps to the hotel.
After lunch, half of our group ventured out in the rain for a 2 hour trek to the
Great Canyon of the West See. The rain and wind had picked up substantially by this time, so by the time we had reached the Great Canyon, everyone was wet, most soaked. With clear visibility, the view would have been amazingly, but traversing through the sometimes gale force wind and sheets of rain was definitely one of the high points of my trip; it truly had an epic feel to it, even if I had to dry my clothes for the next 2 days because of it.
Following the cable car journey back down through the mist in the middle of the afternoon, we drove back to our hotel, soaked but satisfied and happy, to have dinner. After dinner we went to a tea shop where we experienced an elaborate Chinese tea ceremony, most of which was so complicated that I forget even now. Many different types of tea, from green tea to rose tea to chrysanthemum, in which a flower is placed and when boiling water is applied to it, it blooms in the tea and gives off a flowery taste to the tea. After this, we went along the shopping street of Huangshan, but it was one that was more oriented towards the needs of the locals, which gave us both a true Chinese shopping experience and a chance to save money with cheap goods and bargaining. Upon return to the hotel, a well-deserved rest was had after such an exciting and rewarding day in Huangshan, China.
My 2006 edition of Frommer's China provides a small section of advice to the unfortunate traveler who needs to seek medical help, but little did we expect that we would be turning to that page on the very first day of our China tour!
On the last weekend before leaving Canada, we heard that SS injured herself in a spectacular tumble off her moped. When we were at the Toronto airport lounge, waiting for our flight to Beijing, SS pulled back her large gauze and duct tape bandage to reveal the oval shaped gash across her knee. At the time it was developing a nice crusty surface. Unfortunately, after the rigour of the long journey, and our first morning of sightseeing in Beijing in 34°C weather and 98% humidity, the wound became infected and swollen. Sage was limping painfully and she needed a doctor.
At about 1:30 pm, while the rest of the musicians were having their first rehearsal at the hotel, our guide Ping went out to hail a cab to take SS and I (one of the four parent chaperones), to the nearest hospital. One after the other, the taxis refused to stop, even when empty. This was perplexing. When at last we grabbed a taxi that was unloading passengers at the hotel door, the driver explained to Ping that taxis were no longer allowed to stop on that particular street (the fine was $300 CDN).
After we arrived at the main hospital entrance, reception told Ping that we needed to go to another part of the hospital. This is when we discovered that the Beijing hospital covers an impressive number of city blocks. We followed Ping to the other building, with SS bravely hobbling along, obviously in pain but without a word of complaint. Inside that building we followed Ping along a long dark corridor, to another reception desk. At that reception desk we were sent to a third building. We followed Ping to that building, where, on the fifth floor, we met a concerned nurse who asked how old SS was. This was very promising progress and SS and I answered eagerly, in unison, with the single required word, but our contribution to the discussion ended there, rather abruptly, due to the arrival of a second nurse who appeared to have different opinions about where we belonged. A vigorous and loud debate ensued, in rapid-fire Chinese, with SS and I watching back and forth like on-lookers at a tennis tournament. All we understood was that Ping was strenuously advocating for treatment for SS, for which I was deeply grateful. Then a third nurse appeared, who looked at SS and nodded while she was being briefed. Suddenly the matter was decided. Ping told us we had an appointment with the doctor. Hooray for Ping! He explained that the doctor was back in the first building, and before we went there, first we had to go to the bottom floor in the present building to pay the cashier.
Eventually we met with Dr. Chen in Clinic Number 15, and this time the consultation actively involved all four participants—the thirteen-year-old musician, the parent chaperone, the guide, and the doctor. At the end, SS was prescribed a dressing, antibiotics, Chinese traditional medicine for pain and swelling, and an x-ray. For the doctor, writing each prescription seemed to be an arduous task—every time he wrote out SS's name at the top he chuckled, shaking his head, and commenting to Ping. Then Ping explained to us what the doctor was finding so funny. SS's name involves seven syllables, each of which would require a separate icon in Chinese, and the hospital computer system accepts only 3 or 4 icons at the most. The doctor had never seen anything like it. Our trio then tackled the arduous task of carrying out the steps required by each prescription, which meant more cashiers, long corridors, and waiting rooms. When we finally completed our hospital visit, the humidity had reached 100%, and SS and I sheltered ourselves from the torrential rain while Ping walked blocks to find us a cab. He received a text message that there was a hailstorm in parts of Beijing.
SS and I arrived back at the hotel at 5:30, with half an hour to spare before dinner. Ping had another hour's subway ride before he got home that night. I will never forget the kindness and understanding of Ping while he was helping us that afternoon.
…so here we are in China, and three concerts in, the kids are doing fabulously! Most excitingly, our musical delivery is still improving…it would be nice to have another 2–8 weeks of tour over here…perhaps visiting Manulifee-Sinochem's other 30 or so branches around China, particularly Chengdu, Xian, and Kuming. The students are definitely becoming more comfortable drumming up the energy to play after a long day, and most importantly now have a real self confidence in themselves and the ability to consistently provide a great performance. There is a deeper level of commitment too, with impromptu extra rehearsing as individuals or small groups…often when still tired. We are still working on looking a little happier, and holding the emotion of love to engage the audience at a deeper level. When the kids do achieve this, it really shows immediately on their faces.
We have been very well received by the audiences. Of course, their concert favourite is the
Cai arrangement of the The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto. We are most grateful for Naxos Digital's support on this matter. It would be nice to have further opportunities after the concert to speak more more with the audience, however, most people are heading home with their young children to sleep. The pre-concert violin Petting Zoo has been a hit with Chinese families. The children are sometimes, like our own, a little shy, but generally thoroughly enjoy getting to try to play the instruments. There is also a certian excitement too interacting with Westerners. Throughout the trip, there have been encounters with young children, or even older kids and adults warmly engaging us with their English. Our encounter for today was solving a youing woman's problem…a messy Rubiks Cube thanks to David's skills…she was totally delighted to have a made up cube adorning her purse.
Well, tomorrow we have our penultimate engagement, and it should be fabulous…bravo to the kids…they have been angels the entire trip…true ambassadors.
Very different from Beijing with its striking highrises, manicured gardens, and bumper-to-bumper traffic, Huangshan is a city of
1.5 million with low rise buildings, and scooters and bicycles (no helmets) as the predominant mode of transportation. Our hotel was adequate, but just barely.
The first morning we traveled through rural countryside to the Yellow Mountains, noting roadside stands of fruit - and cellphones! Rice paddies and gardens dotted the landscape. As the landscape became mountainous, we were amazed to see steep slopes cultivated with crops, particularly tea bushes special to the region. Stands of fern-like trees waved prettily in the breeze, bamboo we discovered. We transferred to gondolas and scaled the mountain. We then hiked 1.5 km. in rain and fog up - and down - stone steps winding up the mountain to a LUXURY HOTEL where we enjoyed yet another best meal ever! En route, we saw porters carrying loads of watermelons, soft drink cases and linens on either end of a bamboo rod across their shoulders. Two porters carried an elderly woman seated between them on a bamboo carrier. After lunch, a hardy subset headed out for a two hour mountain hike—in rain, high winds and whirling fog It was the experience of a lifetime: sheer cliffs, breathtaking glimpses into the valleys below, narrow tunnels, graceful pines growing out of granite. A chain-link fence edging a cliff was hung with hundreds of padlocks, affixed by newlyweds who tossed the keys into the valley below as a symbol of their eternal love. Completely sodden head to toe but with smiles all around, we rejoined our group at the hotel where I enjoyed a really excellent tall latte :-)
On the way up the mountain our guide informed us that we were in the region where Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was filmed. When boarding the gondola to go back down the mountain, our own Crouching Tiger (a.k.a. Pat the chaperone) used her quick reflexes and strength to aid an elderly gentleman who had slipped on the wet concrete and fallen directly in the path of the oncoming gondola. Officials came running from all directions and soon the gentleman was seated and recovering from the shock. Crouching Tiger boarded the gondola with us and we proceeded down the mountain. When I commended her for her rapid response, she humbly said it was not a big deal to hold back one gondola. I pointed out that in holding back one, she was actually holding back all of them. But apparently that is all in a day's work for a Crouching Tiger.
While in Huangshan we visited the only and remaining ink factory in China where the ink is made completely by hand. We were able to see each step of the process and view some beautiful calligraphy nnd artwork. The black ink used for calligraphy is made using pine branches. The branches are broken into pieces and burnt in little porcelain bowls. A larger bowl placed over the top forms a lid which becomes coated in black soot, the basis for the black ink. To this base is added twelve Chinese herbs and the mixture is formed into a paste. Long ago the ink maker would mould the paste into a stick by pressing it in his fist, which forms it into a bamboo shape. Now the paste is pressed into wooden moulds, which often have designs carved into them. The ink sticks are baked ????
Grinding stones are also carved at the factory. They are made from local black stone carved into a tray with some type of decoration added. At the end of the tour we browsed in the showroom. Sticks of ink were available in a range of shapes and sizes for both artwork and writing. Grinding stones of all sizes, some with elaborate carving were also displayed.
Our tour guide demonstrated the process of grinding the ink stick onto the stone with some water in order to prepare the ink. Using a brush of horsehair and some rice paper she wrote the Chinese characters for the city. Several of our group tried the brush and ink. Several of us now own some of the handmade black ink and natural brushes and look forward to trying them out back in Ottawa.
I had just finished two glasses of Sprite and a bottle of water and boy, did I have to go! After I finished my yummy Chinese meal, I ran to the bathroom and flung open one of the stalls. I stopped. I looked around the stall. Where was that toilet? As my eyes met the floor I let out a frustrated sigh. Sitting there, on the floor, was a porcelain hole. "You've got to be kidding me!"
I eyed it with suspicion. How was I supposed to sit on it? Which way am I supposed to face? By this time I was so desperate to go that I just sighed, made an exaggerated gulp and shut the stall door. As I exited the stall to wash my hands, mortified, I thought to myself, "Never, never again!"
Easy day, but nevertheless enjoyable. I seem to finally have conquered my jet-lag as I was able to sleep without interruption from 10:45 to 6:45. The previous nights had been pretty horrid, with as much time spent sleeping as trying to sleep, so it was nice to finally get the full night of rest which I feel we all deserved!
It was our last night in Beijing and we consequently spent much of the morning packing away our belongings and assembling our suitcases in the lobby for transfer to the airport. I also had to pay my hotel laundry bill, which turned out to be quite a complicated affair since I had accidentally used the form for sweaters instead of socks…It would have been easier (and far cheaper) for me to wash all my laundry my hand, but (and forgive me for sounding extremely full of myself with these next words) I just don't have enough time. Between concerts, rehearsals and sightseeing, the few hours of free time which I have is used up with private practicing. So unless I can find the energy to stay up past eleven o'clock at night (which I can't), I have to used the hotel service and stoically weather the raid on my pocketbook.
Speaking of eleven o'clock at night, it's currently 11:24, so I should get to bed. Quickly, I'll just mention the other activities of the day.
- We started off with a trip to the zoo to watch the mythical Chinese pandas. It was certainly wonderful to see real, living pandas, but the cages were extremely small which was quite unfortunate.
- After lunch, we visited the Lama Temple, one of the most important Buddhist places of worship in China. It was simply spectacular, with elaborate carvings, beautiful paintings, and many, many, many statues of Buddhas. I also had to chance to meet up for the third time in two days with my absolutely wonderful cousin Pascale who has been living in Beijing for ten years and knows the city like the inside of her pocket.
The day, alas, ended on a delayed flight and a Burger King meal. Our plane left more than two hours behind schedule and we only got to our hotel in Huangshan after midnight. But, hey, you can't have everything!