Tchaikovsky, Bizet, Offenbach, Grieg, Strauss, Chen Gang, He Zhanhao, Mo Li Hua and Angry Birds. Last night at the Jiaxing Grand Theatre we were treated to a concert of wonderful classical and folk music. Last week the parents of one of Terry’s students gave her tickets to the annual symphonic offering courtesy of the China Construction Bank. (The parent is a senior manager with the bank.)
Our first dilemma was what to wear. If you have been following the blog carefully, you will understand that this is not a moot question. Frequently, Chinese buildings are lacking in central heating – or any heating (see Nanhu Revolutionary Memorial Hall). Thus, we weren’t sure – do we layer up and then have to disrobe or just trust that a symphonic hall would have heating? We went with the former and layered up. Tom and his father picked us up at 6:15. As we approached the car, we wondered why they would be standing outside their car with both front doors open. I guess it cools down an already cold car more quickly that way. Anyway, Tom says to us – “This is my Dad – you can call him Johnson.” Johnson is a very gracious man who spoke little English – Tom says he doesn’t speak it but watches English movies with Chinese subtitles to help him learn English. I know – a little convoluted, but what can I say.
We arrived at the theatre at about 6:35 for a 7:15 performance. It was good that we layered up as it was FREEZING in the lobby where we sat chatting for half an hour. My feet were like little blocks of ice before we even went in. When we went through two sets of doors into the theatre, we discovered HEAT. There were small heaters under each of the seats – my feet were so cold though, that even after the two hour performance they were still mildly cold. At the front of the stage, we think there were thousands of planted flowers – it was quite a spectacular setting. Unfortunately, the photos didn’t turn out.
The French Railway Symphony was the orchestra and they were fabulous. They opened with an overture I didn’t recognize and then played Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slav (Not Terry’s favourite), the Overture and a couple of small pieces from Bizet’s Carmen, and a selection from Offenbach’s Belle Helene. We were then treated to a soprano, who sadly will have to go unnamed. She sang beautifully, but the program is all in Chinese and I don’t know enough to translate her name. She sang two songs of Grieg’s. Then there was an intermission.
The second half of the program featured a selection of beautiful Chinese music including The Butterfly Violin Concerto by Chen Gang and He Zhanhao, the folk song Jasmine Flowers, sung by the soprano (in Chinese) and the audience. They loved the fact she had learned the Chinese words. We then had the Angry Birds theme – not sure why. The next fifteen minutes was taken up with an extended version of Strauss’ Blue Danube. Four members of the orchestra came out into the audience to dance and after a few minutes of dancing with each other split up and got members of the audience to dance with them. Mostly they were successful, but one woman had some difficulty finding a partner until a young man (20ish) ran across the auditorium to dance with her – and received a rousing reception for doing so (it certainly wasn’t applause for his ability). The final song was great fun. It too was a Strauss – an extended version of the “Unter Donner und Blitz” polka. A number of the violinists, the tympanist (who was a real character), and a drummer came into the audience playing and wandering about.
Here is a 30 second clip from last night’s performance.
The principal violinist – again must go unnamed but Chinese, had a great personality and the deepest most melodious voice we have ever heard. I have looked all over the internet to find information on the concert – both the orchestra and the principals but alas have come up empty-handed. Speaking of hands, however, the entire audience was given a gift of two Chinese knots – a traditional form of Chinese Folk Art. All in all, it was a wonderful evening and we are most grateful to Johnson for sharing the tickets with us. (Even 15 year old Tom, who had to go in place of his Mom, enjoyed it!)