The next morning was an 8.15am meeting. We would be going to Nanjing today to open the brand new concert hall there. Due to logistics, it would be necessary to send our suitcases on ahead to Beijing to hopefully meet up with us at the hotel there. Only an overnight bag would be acceptable as there would not be room on the bullet train to Beijing the next day for loads of suitcases…
A little bit of debriefing about Nanjing from Wikipedia
Nanjing is the capital of Jiangsu province in Eastern China. It has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China for several periods. Its present name means “Southern Capital”. Located in the lower Yangtze River drainage basin and Yangtze River Delta economic zone, Nanjing has long been one of China’s most important cities. Having been the capital city of six different dynasties since 3 A.D., it is recognized as one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China It was the capital of Wu during the Three Kingdoms Period, and the capital of the Republic of China prior to its flight to Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. Nanjing is also one of the fifteen sub-provincial cities in the People’s Republic of China’s administrative structure, enjoying jurisdictional and economic autonomy only slightly less than that of a province. Nanjing has long been a national centre of education, research, transport networks and tourism. It is the host city of the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics, which will be happening whilst the RLPO are there.
With an total population of 8.16 million Nanjing is the second-largest commercial centre in the East China region after Shanghai. It has been ranked seventh in the evaluation of “Cities with Strongest Comprehensive Strength” issued by the National Statistics Bureau, and second in the evaluation of cities with most sustainable development potential in the Yangtze River Delta. It has also been awarded the title of 2008 Habitat Scroll of Honour of China, Special UN Habitat Scroll of Honour Award and National Civilized City.
Well, enough of the facts and figures and on with the trip!
The journey from Suzhou to Nanjing looks tiny on the map, as China is so huge. However, it is still over 174 miles by coach, with a half hour stop en route (Chinese coaches are not equipped with toilets!).
We arrived slightly later than expected, so went from lunch straight to the rehearsal. It was considered necessary to have a full rehearsal as this was to be the opening event of the new Nanjing Qing’ao Grand Theatre. The programme on offer would be our programme A (Capriccio Italien, Glazounov Violin Concerto, Tannhauser Overture and Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances).
On arrival at the hall, there was a few minutes to get my chops loosened up by practicing my chosen tour trumpet warm-up on the trumpet. It is really easy to get out of shape on tour so it is important to be diligent. As I play a noisy instrument (well, it’s not a flute after all!) I like to get going away from the stage if I can so I don’t bother my colleagues.
So, I thought I’d be better to go right to the back of this magnificent new auditorium and play a few notes. I started, and imagine my surprise when a young stewardess approached, looking flustered and said, “… You can’t play here. These seats are brand new!” She appeared to be looking around, in case she would get in trouble. After some negotiation, she agreed I could have ten minutes but stood hovering around until I got up and went back to the stage.
We tested out the acoustics and did some necessary rebalancing of corners of our programme and also gave our soloist for the evening, Ning Feng, a good go at the Glazounov Violin Concerto.
Another world class concert hall. The standard of facilities in China is definitely amongst the highest anywhere in the world.
The Bassty Boys!
So, with everyone satisfied with the Golden Concert Hall, it was on the coaches and to the hotel for pre-concert dinner and a chance to relax for two or three hours.
I’ve said very little about the hotels in these blogs, but the Phoenix Palace Hotel was pleasant enough, despite not having rooms ready for many and an early closing bar which was shut after the concert. Boo!
By the time the coaches started off for the concert the sun had gone down and it was dark. The venue struck an altogether different sight at night time. All lit up, as seems to be the fashion in China. The electricity bill here must be a lot higher than mine!!!
Once again the concert was well received by a very enthusiastic audience but we brought the house down with our third encore at the end of the concert. Once again the Chinese piece known so well to the audience.
After the concert, it was back to the hotel. As said earlier, the bar was already closed. The hotel had left the orchestra a free can of beer each to apologise for the rooms not being ready. Many players decided to go for a wander, but I decided an early night was in order at long last.
The morning breakfast was typical of the food offered in China. It may not please those who expect the ‘full English’ but I rather like something a little different.
One thing I haven’t mentioned was that the weather was noticeably cooler up here than in the the steamy, humid conditions of Guangzhou. I for one was pleased with this as it made walking around the streets a lot more comfortable.