After the rather leisurely pace of the last three days in Guangzhou, it felt like a rude awakening to wake up to have all cases and passports ready by 8.30am in the hotel lobby! We departed Guangzhou for Suzhou. I was quite looking forward to this leg of the tour. I had discovered that Guangzhou is known as the place for food in China, Suzhou is called the Venice of the Orient. This portion of the tour was half way up the East coast of China. The two cities we would be performing in, Suzhou and Nianjing, were relatively just inland from Shanghai.
We would be flying again on this leg of the tour, from Guangzhou to Shanghai. From there the RLPO would be bussed to the Days Hotel, about thirty minutes away from the venue in Suzhou; the waterfront Culture and Arts Centre.
The Days Hotel had a very large entrance hall which served as the communal RLPO internet and meeting area. There was also a small bar there too. The internet was still rubbish but people were able to use Viber and Skype etc to call home.
There were plenty of markets and a colossal shopping ‘mall’ which contained many of the same shops we enjoy in our own Liverpool One shopping ‘mall’. Still, it was interesting to compare the variances in detail, product and atmosphere. This was another evening off and provided a good opportunity to have a bit of an explore.
The Kentucky Fried Chicken appeared to offer the addition of rice etc with the chicken nuggets!
There were also so many restaurants to choose from…
The following morning was free and enabled many to visit gardens, canals etc before the 1.30pm bus journey for the rehearsal at 3pm. Today would be the first offering of our ‘lighter’ programme B.
My goodness! What an impressive and imposing venue and what a beautiful setting too. Nestling (entirely the wrong word perhaps, but looking as if it entirely belongs) by the side of the ‘Jinji Lake Scenic area’ this was beautiful. The space in the venue was also impressive. Apart from the Ballet Theatre, the multi-plex cinemas etc this ‘Concert Performance Hall’ would dwarf anything the Royal Opera in the UK have. It must have cost a fortune. What a fine investment to enrich the lives of the citizens of Suzhou and provide a focal point for the cultural area of the city.
The hall was just as spectacular inside.
This programme would have Chinese pianist Ji Liu playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue and are own Simon Haram (Simon has also been an absolute star in the other programme playing the saxophone solo in Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances) playing the Rhapsody for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra by Debussy. Other ‘potboilers’ for this popular classics programme would include Shostakovich ‘Festive Overture, Suite from The Nutcracker, Finlandia and the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor by Borodin.
I was sat outside the adjacent ‘traditional’ German Beer Garden between the rehearsal and the concert. The weather was just glorious, as was the view/setting. It just doesn’t get much better than this!
I ‘girded my loins’ for the performance with a rather hefty plate of German sausages, mash and sauerkraut whilst the sun set over the other side of the lake Jinji. We didn’t see many Chinese dining at this German place. It was relatively expensive.
Finishing my meal (could hardly manage half to be honest!!!), I decided to go for a walk around this huge Arts complex and marvelled once again on the amount and quality of investment the Chinese are investing.
It took rather a long time to walk round the complex, it is huge. The biggest surprise for me was to find that the birds nest structure, which is so eye catching was merely icing/decoration. It provided a horseshoe style surround to a solid structure in the middle, with an open side to the lake.
The sun was almost down by the time I got round and the changing light effects are also spectacular.
The concert was very well received. We had been playing the Russian Dance and the Chinese dance as our encores but the whole ambience changed after we included this little beauty, ‘China, My Beloved Motherland’, I think it is called…
The Chinese audience went crazy as soon as they recognised what we were playing; singing, clapping etc.
A LITTLE ABOUT SUZHOU FROM WIKIPEDIA
Suzhou, is a major city in the southeast of Jiangsu Province in Eastern China, adjacent to Shanghai Municipality. The city is on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and on the shores of Taihu Lake. The administrative area expanding to over 10 million of population as of 2010, Suzhou is the ninth most populous city in mainland China. It is considered one of the richest major cities in China.
Originally founded in 514 BC, Suzhou has over 2,500 years of rich history, and relics of the past are abundant to this day. Circa AD 100, during the Eastern Han Dynasty, it became one of the ten largest cities in the world due to immigration. Since the 10th-century Song Dynasty, it has been an important commercial center of China. During the Ming and Qing Dynasty, Suzhou was an economic, cultural and commercial center of China, as well as the largest non-capital city in the world, until the 1860 Taiping Rebellion. When Li Hongzhang and Charles George Gordon recaptured the city three years later,Shanghai had already taken its predominant place in the nation.
The city’s canals, stone bridges, pagodas, and meticulously designed gardens have contributed to its status as one of the top tourist attractions in China. The classical gardens in Suzhou were added to the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1997 and 2000. Suzhou is often dubbed the “Venice of the East” or “Venice of China”.