After a free evening for all in Guanzhou, it was bright early for breakfast at the hotel and a whole symphony orchestra outside on the street, awaiting the arrival of three buses to take us to Shenzen. Shenzen is about 123 km/ 85 miles to the East of Guangzhou and is one of the economic miracles of the world, just to the north of Hong Kong.The area became China’s first—and one of the most successful—Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Shenzhen has a population of approximately 15 million.
Shenzhen’s modern cityscape is the result of the vibrant economy made possible by rapid foreign investment since the institution of the policy of “reform and opening” and the establishment of the SEZ in late 1979; before which it was only a small village. Both Chinese citizens and foreign nationals have invested enormous amounts of money in the Shenzhen SEZ. More than US$30 billion in foreign investment has gone into both foreign-owned and joint ventures, at first mainly in manufacturing but more recently in the service industries as well. Shenzhen is now considered one of the fastest-growing cities in the world.
China is investing a large amount of it’s new wealth on culture, arts and sport. Today, we would be performing the opening concert in the new hall in Shenzen, which forms part of just such a huge sports and culture facility. The opening ceremony was to also take place outside the venue with dignitaries and local politicians in attendance.
The new concert halls, which are beginning to spring up are state-of-the-art facilities which also make a very impressive statement. Both in size and modern architectural design. The authorities want to show they take art and culture very seriously indeed.
Is this the China that the government wants the West to see? I think they also want to make a statement to the world that they intend to take the lead in cultural investment and, eventually, to set the way for international standards.
We arrived in Shenzen in plenty of time for lunch and a bit of a look around. The new concert hall still hadn’t had the chairs delivered for our rehearsal, but there was still time. The back stage was still covered in construction dust! My goodness, they must have only just got this place ready in time…
The interior of the concert room was very impressive. All decked out in red and gold with many lights. I found the trumpet flight box, which houses all our stuff on tour and dragged out the four trumpets I would be needing on strode off to find a quiet corner to get my ‘chops’ in order. I had brought along three Arban studies for this tour ‘warm – up’.
Brendan’s China Tour 2014 Warm Up!
Walking round the impressive complex takes a while. The weather was gorgeous and the back of the concert hall lay across from an Olympic pool on the outdoor piazza. Oh, I wish I could have just jumped in. It didn’t look as if it had been used yet. Beside it was a ‘fun’ pool and the next building held other magnificent swimming pools.
It was a little difficult to find anything to eat on the site. I suppose the retail and food outlets would open in timeAll the chairs were set for the delegates to arrive for the opening ceremony outside the front of the concert hall. I wandered a little further afield, with Paul and Jenny Marsden (Paul is RLPO 2nd trumpet and Jenny is a regular extra in the percussion).
We wandered past a few back streets with very interesting smells of food cooking and livestock gradually awaiting preparation for dinner. This was intermingled with strong smells of other, indeterminable nature. We shortly arrived at a shop which looked like a shop for those interested in stocking fish tanks etc. Turtles in tanks, a small shark, a big cat fish… A young lady dressed in a traditional golden and red dress spoke to us and asked if we would like food! We were ushered upstairs into a smart restaurant which specialised in fish and sea food. In view of the very hot weather, I chose plain cold sliced rare beef. Perfect!
The rehearsal went well. Vasily Petrenko spent the time getting us accustomed to the acoustics of the brand new facility and giving Ning Feng, our violin soloist, a good run on the Glazounov Concerto. This was wise as the lighting guys also got to test out what would happen during the show.
In fact the performance went very well. For me personally, most of the concert programmes were beginning with Capriccio Italien, which has a tricky first cornet part. Professional trumpeters will all agree, I reckon, that this part offers a lot of rope with which the performer can hang him/herself!!! Especially on tour. One of my old trumpet teachers, John Wilbraham, used to joking say about touring that a trumpet player going on tour needed a large packet of immodium and an even bigger bag of top C’s! He was of course trying to get the point across that touring places strains on the trumpeter that make it hard to maintain optimum levels of performance. For this reason, I like going on tour with Vasily Petrenko, as he likes to rehearse, as I do, and this gives me a chance to have a good few goes at difficult pieces in tour rehearsals. Sometimes, rehearsals on tour are very scant.
I think the concert went well personally, the audience seemed to love it and Petrenko stood the trumpets and cornets up first for an ovation in Capriccio Italien. Nice one! A further surprise happened. RLPO Director of Artistic Planning and Ensembles, Sandra Parr came to speak to me at the end of the gig. She mentioned that Karen Chan was by the stage door waiting to see me. Karen is an avid fan of the RLPO and attends many performances. She hails from Chester but teaches Science in Hong Kong. She was on her way to Taiwan but had decided to stop by to hear the RLPO in Shenzhen at this new performance complex. Isn’t that fantastic! The honour is entirely ours.
Incidentally, reports had been reaching us of the rioting and police brutality in relatively nearby Hong Kong. It was a little disconcerting in China that you can watch CNN News on the tv but as soon as any mention of Hong Kong happened during our stay, the television falls silent for a couple of minutes! Karen didn’t express her opinion about the troubles but did say she hoped for peace on her return.
The coach the returned to Guangzhou and that city was still very much wide awake so players enjoyed the street scenes.
The Chinese try very hard to accommodate us Westerners but some of the translations into English still do cause some amusement from time to time…
A successful evening!
NEXT DAY! – PERFORMANCE DAY IN GUANGZHOU
Guangzhou is well established in the classical music world. The fantastic Arts complex already plays host to many of the world’s top artists and many famous ensembles have visited.
The next day, I got up to breakfast in the Hotel Donlord but decided to have yet another lie in afterwards. Yawn! On waking, I thought that perhaps I would try the hotel restaurant for lunch. Previously, I had concerned myself mainly with street food to get more of a feel of how the locals live. As far as I was concerned, the cost of living on the street was thirty pence for a beer of an evening, whereas the hotel was four pounds eighty. Even so, for lunch, I thought I would go to the third floor Chinese restaurant. It was brilliant! Absolutely fantastic!
Meanwhile, as I often blog about growing vegetables and fruit at home, my wife sent me a photo of our Japanese salad leaf, Siso. I have had terrible trouble getting this to grow over the Summer, but under the rather more inexperienced care of my wife, in my absence, they are flourishing. Well, she is Japanese after all!
The arts complex in Gangzhou is fantastic.
I think the acoustics are superb and the staff are well used to holding classical music events here.
Vasily seemed impressed with the facilities too, stating that this hall would take more extreme quiet and loud playing from the orchestra.
The complex is also most tastefully designed and is a pleasure to look at, nestled in besides the bank of the Pearl River. As night time descended, I felt the lights on the waterfront and the hall actually added to it’s beauty.
It is said by many trumpeters across Europe, that I bear more than a passing resemblance to the German trumpeter, Reinhold Friedrich. I have had my hair cut of late and am temporarily carrying an extra pond or to, but let’s see…
In my opinion Reinhold is one of the finest trumpeters in the world and he will be displaying his solo wares in Guangzhou shortly after the RLPO have departed back to the UK. A pity.
The concert went really well and the orchestra was bussed back to the Donlord hotel. I went out to experience the street culture for the last time. I shall miss this vibrant little place. What a great, happening atmosphere and pleasant ambience.
We were able to have a lot of fun with the locals, get to know them better, indulge in a spot of dice gambling for a few hours. I won too! They didn’t seem to mind too much…