After 2 years in the planning, the Tour Choir set off for Hong Kong and China during the recent September school holidays.
Travelling with 42 boys between the ages of 9 and 14 generally keeps you on your toes – travelling to a foreign country with 42 boys tends to raise the bar just a tad. Fortunately, with the experienced staff and meticulous planning that preceded the tour, the 17 days passed without incident.
Hong Kong was the first stop, to meet up with new friends at the Yip’s Children’s Choir before flying out to Shanghai for a couple of Expo commitments and a special VIP gig in the Wattle Room of the Australian Pavilion. The heat and humidity of both Hong Kong and Shanghai was a shock to the boys as they had left Melbourne on a chilly pre-dawn morning rugged up with jumpers! Despite the difficult conditions the boys rose to the occasion and several days later we heard that the staff of the Aussie Pavilion were still talking about the performance as one of the most successful since the pavilion opened in June.
Fortunately the weather changed as we headed south. Rain and cold winds dropped the temperature by 15 degrees – just like Melbourne.
The next concert stop was Hangzhou, a very pretty treed city with the beautiful West Lake and surrounding gardens. The following concert was in the city of Xi’an – home to the Terracotta Warriors. It would be fair to say that the boys experienced a little taste of ‘stardom’ here. It was not only girls, but many boys rushed the stage at the end of the concert all screaming for photos and autographs etc. – quite extraordinary.
An overnight train trip took the boys north to Beijing – humble city of approximately 20 million people. What an exciting place to be. It was a busy time for the boys with three major performances. At the invitation of the Australian Embassy, the boys sang at a Reception given by the Australian Ambassador to the Peoples Republic of China, Dr Geoff Raby. The reception for over 200 invited guests was held in the Library of the prestigious National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing.
As well as the Ambassador’s reception, the boys performed at the Concert Hall of the Central Conservatory of Music – a beautiful building reflecting traditional Chinese architecture. This venue hosts many fine orchestras and soloists and is popular with foreign embassies for concerts by their visiting musicians.
A concert in Tianjin, a sister city to Melbourne, completed the 12 concert tour of China. As well as the formal performances the boys also enjoyed several exchanges with schools and choirs along the way.
Of course ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ is true on tour, consequently the boys managed to spend a day at Ocean Park during their time in Hong Kong, explore a little of what Expo had to offer, visit The Bund and Yu Garden in Shanghai, the Xitang Water Town (where Mission Impossible 3 was filmed), Six Park Pagoda, Terracotta Warriors, Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, The Great Wall, ride bikes on the old city wall in Xi’an, sip Green Tea as they learnt a little of the Chinese Tea culture, watch in awe as they were shown the story of silk from worm to product, ride a pedicab (rickshaw) into the Hutong alleys of Beijing, and watch craftsmen carve jade.