(I’m posting this one out of sequence because I’m too excited about what just happened)
As we pulled into Guiyang’s Grand Theatre, “Jackie”, our guide, told us his mother would be watching tonight’s concert on television. This was of course the first we had heard of this and were pretty excited. We all entered the performance facility and went to a large dressing room in the basement to warm-up. Dr. Bierschenk put us throught our paces and reminded us to use our brains (which we needed).
Then he took a brief moment to show us how deeply this experience was touching him and that shot of enthusiasm and praise was something we took straight onto the concert stage. We shared the stage with a brass quintet, a string chamber orchestra and the chorus from the College of Arts at Guizhou University.
The audience was filled with university students and many other citizens as well as members of our delegation. The level of energy and trust on each piece was more than I am used to with this group. It’s a solid group, but often a little tentative. However, there was no holding back tonight, we sang very well and confidently and seemed to b
e well received by the audience.
It was my very special honor to conduct a piece called Water Night on this concert. Dr. Bierschenk was gracious enough not only to allow me this amazing opportunity, but also allowed me to walk out after the choir and take a bow before beginning. The amount of honor this was for me surpasses my ability to capture the experience. However, I felt so supported by the members of the choir that there was no nervousness about the conducting. It was a deeply moving experience and one that would be impossible to forget.
We continued the concert and came to the end and that’s when the Guizhou chorus members all came out with a gift for each of us. They gave us a gift that is a combination of several Chinese customs. The top is an example of elaborate Chinese knotting and below that is supported 3 necklaces typical of the Chinese Miao minority which is native to the Guizhou province. Dangling from these three necklaces are a hundred or so little metal fish.
Each of their chorus members presented each of us with one of these inscribed with the words, “Guiyang– Fort Worth Youth”. Then they proceeded to sing a piece written to the tune of Dvorak‘s 9th symphony. Dr. Bierschenk conducted them as they sang the first time and we were to join them the second time. As the Chinese chorus sang this beautiful hymn like tune with the words, “Goin Home” I completely lost my composure. There was something so moving about the beauty of the piece sung by people who live half way around the world from me. All the generosity and warmth that has been shown to us on this trip piled on top of the emotions of this moment and made it nearly impossible to sing with them.
It was a completely overwhelming experience of emotion met with wild applause and a standing ovation. It was a complete success and a beautiful and touching moment for many of us in the choir. Fort Worth city councilman Dennis Shingleton stopped us all as we were about to exit the concert hall to share a heartfelt and sincere thanks for representing the city so well. It was completely obvious that the emotions many of experienced on stage were successfully transmitted to the audience, because Mr. Shingleton was visibly moved by the experience. His thanks meant a great deal to us all.
Afterward, as we exited the concert hall we were met again by cheering faces of the audience as well as the choir, wishing us well and thanking us for our performance. Dr. Biershenk shared his approval with our performance as we drove back to the hotel. When we got out, every member of our delegation had formed a tunnel of applause and cheering for us to pass through on our way to the hotel. AGAIN – this meant the world to each of us. I’m sure they would have wanted to go up to their rooms, but they took the time to make us feel extremely special.
This whole trip we have been treated like absolute royalty and have been showered with gifts, affection and respect. I don’t know that we deserve the treatment, but it has touched each one of us so very deeply that Guiyang feels like a part of us. It will be so very difficult to say goodbye to our hosts here after tomorrow.
There are too many people to name, but YoYo, Livia, Jackie, and Erik from Guiyang have been a huge part of making us feel so welcome. we will never forget the warmth shown by them and so many other of the Guiyang people.
Tonight was a great example of how of the power of music to unite cultures. Dvorak’s piece with the words “Goin Home” will forever be tied to this evening for me. What more beautiful experience could we have ever hoped for?
Thank you, Guiyang