Shpectacular Shanghai Show

Our concert in Shanghai was a blast!  We arrived at the Shanghai Concert Hall early in the morning, because our concert was going to be a morning concert!  (funny how that works, eh?) Accustomed to our four hours of rehearsal time in Beijing, our allotted two hours of rehearsal had us (or at least Elisabeth and I) a bit worried…but we used our time well and were ready for our performance!  The hall was gorgeous…it had pastel-painted ornate woodwork framing the entire house and stage, it reminded me of many of the scenes from The King’s Speech. This concert was bound to be especially exciting because it was going to be broadcast on national radio; every other week this radio station broadcasts a live performance from the Shanghai Concert Hall, and we were the featured performers of that week!  This, of course, made us a bit nervous, simply because everything audible would be broadcast, and a major aspect of our concerts is our visual appeal! On the other hand, it also made the whole experience a lot more exciting!  We had a full house of around 1,000 people, and the audience was a bit more energetic than that of Beijing.  The concert substantially longer than most of our concerts, because we had a Chinese narrator for this one!  His narrations were so lengthy and laugh-inducing (from the Chinese-understanding audience) that I was convinced he was doing a full-fledged comedy routine in between all of our songs!  But after the concert Mr. Tuet explained that our narrator was actually a very famous television and radio personality, and his narrations were thorough descriptions of the proceeding songs and the histories of both them and their composers as well as information about our group and Indiana University.  He had thoroughly researched not only our choir, but our school, state, and really every other topic that has ever had anything to do with the Singing Hoosiers, and it was obvious.  It was a successful concert, and we got to do our encore again! Here is a link to video of this concert!: http://imedia.eastday.com/node2/node3106/node3138/node3148/node3176/index.html

Love from Laurel Crutchfield

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Apologies again..

Our apologies once again for the delay in posts. We were kept very busy in China, and internet connectivity was often too slow to upload pictures. We are, however, back at it and excited to share with you the rest of our incredible trip! Stay tuned for more updates very soon!

Photos below of how some Singing Hoosiers spent their travel time!

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Shanghai Day One

May 14th, 2011

SHANGHAI, China — One city down, two to go!  Today we got to Shanghai!  We were greeted by our translator/guide Crystal (who happens to be a sophomore at IU!), and at the hotel we met our second guide Sherry (an IU alum!).  Shanghai is a beautiful city comparable to New York City and Chicago.  Everywhere you turn there is a skyscraper, and the streets are filled with an insane amount of lanes, taxis, nice cars, and very nice people!

The first meal we ate here was a traditional Shanghai style called a “hot pot.”  The servers brought out woks filled with broth in the middle of a hot plate at each table.  Then, each table was brought multiple vegetables, meats, and seafood to put in the broth.  The servers also gave each person their own personal sauce varying in the level of spice.  It was very delicious!

After lunch, we went to rehearsal with the Jurnaliste Choeur of Shanghai.  The choir was made up of female journalists from Shanghai.  Tomorrow, May 15th, we will sing a Chinese song and an American song with them at the end of a full concert we will give at the Shanghai Concert Hall.  The concert will also double as a live national radio concert, broadcast to over 1.2 million people!!  After our joint rehearsal, we had a gift exchange with the other choir.  Gifts received included post cards, key chains, and we all got a copy of their CD!  This event was especially spectacular because we met with them on the top floor of a 43-story skyscraper, the 2nd tallest in its district.  All together our first day in Shanghai has been a wonderful one, and we cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Shanghai the Bund! (a famous district and Hoosierism)

— TJ Ford, Elisabeth Gawthrop and Cruz Baisa

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Beijing Music Hall Concert

Beijing Concert

Finally – the reason we came – to perform! We arrived at our venue around 3:00 p.m. We had the hall from 3-6 to rehearse and we used every second of it! Adjusting to the live hall; rented instruments; different risers; and all through our limited a)  number of translators and b) knowledge of Chinese was a bit challenging and took longer than a normal “roadshow.”

However, we pulled through and were ready to put on a show at 7:30pm!  With an almost-full house and audience members in every balcony, we performed our standard hour-and-a-half show, plus some additional Chinese songs.  Our very own Singing Hoosier alum (and our host and sponsor in China) Ali Tuet, even sang a solo during the traditional Chinese “Western” song “Shanghai Bund.”

We were told that the Chinese usually don’t clap for very long following each number, but the audience exceeded our expectations, especially during the songs in Chinese.  At intermission, a few audience members cried out “Encore!!!”  But we waited until the end of the show to indulge them with second performances of our Michael Jackson medley and “Half Moon Rising Up,” a Chinese song.

The performance was a hit, and we left the concert hall ready to a) get out of our character shoes as quick as humanly possible and b) go to sleep!  But being the under-privileged performers that we are (joke!) we had yet to eat dinner!  We ate a delicious meal with Ali Tuet and our other Beijing hosts. We were even treated to the renowned dish “Beijing Duck.” The meal ended with a resounding rendition of the Alma mater, a triumphant fight song, and an inspiring “Happy Birthday” for Singing Hoosier Dan Stinson, who turned 22.  We returned to our hotel and crashed.  It was awesome.

Love, Laurel Crutchfield

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Exchange with choir from BN Vocational School

BEIJING, China – On Thursday afternoon we headed to the BN Vocational School to watch their volunteer choir perform a few songs and vice versa. We came into the school without any knowledge of its history and mission. We learned that the student body of the school consists of children of migrant workers from 18-22 who are too poor to afford university. The school is completely free to these students: their uniforms, books, and tuition are entirely paid for by sponsors of the school including corporations such as Deloitte Consulting, Dell, and Sony, as well as foreign embassies and private donors. The students at the school take classes in pastry making, air conditioner systems, service (which includes training in service jobs such as hotel maintenance, road maintenance, etc.), and electronics. These kids were the happiest people we have ever seen! When we performed for them, smiles were on all of their faces. They performed a song that acted as their tribute to the victims of the Chinese earthquake in 2008. It was a very emotional experience. The kids each gave us a flower that they made with a customized note attached. The school and its students were life changing for all of the Hoosiers!

Yi La La! (translation: …Yi La La)
-TJ Ford and Cruz Baisa

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Fun Facts from the Forbidden City

Our third day in Beijing started with a visit to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. As we approached Tiananmen Square, Cindy, our tour guide, pointed out to us Chairman Mao’s mausoleum. Many Chinese travel to Beijing to see Mao’s preserved body. They wait in line for at least two hours to see him for only a few seconds as they file by! This was not an activity we participated in! After some pictures in Tiananmen Square we headed into the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City consists of the palaces and “office space” the Chinese emperors. It was occupied until the fall of the last dynasty in the early 1900s.

Fun Forbidden Fact #1: The soldiers chosen to guard this revered area must be exactly the same size (even shoulder width) so as to be perfectly uniform when marching.

Fun Forbidden Fact #2: The Dragon Line is a line running north-south through Beijing on which only the emperor was allowed to walk. It bisects the Forbidden City, Mao’s mausoleum, and the Water Cube and Bird’s Nest built for the 2008 olympics. Like many ancient Chinese traditions, it is still highly respected.

Fun Forbidden Fact #3: The Forbidden City is named such because it was forbidden for any commoner to enter. Any commoner who saw the emperor was killed, even if the emperor was outside the gates of the Forbidden City. To warn the people of Beijing if the emperor was leaving his palace, the palace guards would sound bells if the emperor turned left, drums if he turned right, and both if he went straight.

Fun Forbidden Fact #4: The Forbidden City also contained the residences of the emperor’s concubines. One emperor had over 10,000 of them(!), but the last emperor had only two.

Fun Forbidden Fact #5: Nine was the lucky number for the emperors because it represents heaven, and the emperors are said to come from heaven. They thus built nine gates surrounding the inner palace of the emperor, several of which were palaces or offices themselves. They all looked rather similar, but we were in awe of the ornate details of each gate and the length they went to to protect their ruler.

Fun Forbidden Fact #6: The stone sculpture shown below is along the Dragon Line. It weighs over 200 tons and is made from a single piece of stone. To transport the stone to the city hundreds of horses pulled it along an ice road with men pouring water on the road to decrease the friction. It took them more than two years to get to Beijing!

Fun Forbidden Fact #7: Two giant lion statues, one male and one female, guard the entrance to the inner palace. The male has a silk ball under his paw that represents power, and the female has a cub understand her’s that represents life.

Fun Forbidden Fact #8: In addition to the many gates, there is also a moat surrounding the palace. It used to contain metal stakes to deter people from trying to swim across.

Fun Forbidden Fact #9: The last stop (and many people’s favorite) on our tour was the beautiful emperor’s garden. It had some crazy rock structures (pictured below) and 300 year-old cypress trees.

If you want to get a glimpse of the Forbidden City for yourself, watch the 1987 movie The Last Emperor!

Don’t swim in the moat!

–Elisabeth Gawthrop

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Tea-riffic Thursday!

Following our morning at the Great Wall, we got a drive by view of the Olympic Village and a brief photo-op at the Water Cube and Bird’s Nest. Given our early morning workout, we were all ready to head back to the hotel, but our guide had other plans! He took us to a Chinese tea ceremony during which we learned about and tasted several traditional teas:

Oolong- good for the kidneys and circulation.
Jasmine- good for the liver and memory.
Jasmine peach flower (pictured below)- place in a glass with boiling water and the flower bud will blossom. The blossom will remain for seven days!
Pu Er- good for sleeping, lowering high blood pressure, and losing weight.
Fruit tea- summertime tea that’s energizing and aids digestion.

We also learned that the process of making tea is much more complex than in the states! In fact, instead of “making” and “drinking” tea, they “cook” and “eat” it. One difference is the importance of the temperature at which the tea is brewed. Oolong and Jasmine are cooked at 120 degrees C, but the other teas we tried are more delicate and must be brewed at a lower temperature. One way they determine if the water is the right temperature is by pouring it over a small terra cotta figurine. If the water is hot enough, the figurine shoots it out of its..well…you can guess! When she demonstrated this, Megan Keller and Abby Kunkel were sitting in the lucky seats and received a nice warm shower!

Though we were tired going in to the ceremony, everyone loved it and said it was a highlight of the trip! Every day seems to bring a new “best part” of the trip. We are all very grateful to have already accumulated so many unique experiences!

Bottoms up!

–Elisabeth Gawthrop

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The Great Wall!

May 15th, 2011

BEIJING, China – On May 11th, we saw the Great Wall! On the way to the wall, our tour guide told us that it is one of the only man-made structure that could be seen from space. Being one of the Seven Wonders of the World, we were all very excited to get there! The Great Wall spans over 11 provinces and is over 5,000 miles long. If a worker died while building the Great Wall, they were buried inside the wall, making it a 5,000-mile cemetery. From the point where we started, there were two choices of paths that we could have taken: the North which was more crowded but less challenging, and the South which was very steep and less crowded…which one do you think the majority of us chose? (shameless joke..) Climbing (yes, climbing) the Great Wall is one of the best experiences that a lot of us have experienced. Chairman Mao climbed the Wall and proclaimed, “Until you reach the Great Wall, you are no hero.” Along with the great experience of climbing the Great Wall, it was our first chance at haggling! (Obviously, I was not that good the first time … I paid 30RMB for a bottle of water which is around 5 US dollars). We all came back to the bus with a plethora of hats, key chains, shirts, etc. All great gifts for our parents that are reading this blog!!

“直到你到達長城,你真不是個英雄。“ (Until you reach the Great Wall, you’re not a hero.)

Pa Shang Lai (climb on up),

–TJ Ford, Cruz Baisa and Elisabeth Gawthrop

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The First 24 Hours

May 10th, 2011

BEIJING, China — After 25 hours of travelling, the group of 42 Singing Hoosiers made it to Beijing.  Our journey began when we met at 3:15am in front of the MAC circle in Bloomington, Ind.  After 2 and 14 hour flights and several hours of layovers and bus rides, it has ended at the Jinglun Hotel in Beijing, China.  The trip was a long and tiresome ordeal but not without its rewards!  For example, the 14 hour flight from Newark, NJ to Beijing was made difficult by the constrained space provided by our coach class seating.  However, the time passed quickly thanks to the high-tech televisions/multi-player gaming units mounted into the seatbacks; a few of us were even able to play each other in a game of Texas Hold-Em poker from our respective seats!  In addition to a couple dozen games, we had free access to over 150 movies and TV shows.  The trip was long and tiresome, but we’re excited to see what tomorrow holds.  We’re going to the Great Wall!

Xie xie (thank you),

— TJ Ford and Cruz Baisa

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Our Apologies

SHANGHAI, China — The Singing Hoosiers have been too busy!  Due to a packed schedule and a poor hotel internet connection in Beijing, we have been unable to upload images and blog posts as we had originally planned.  The rest of our day has just been given to us, and a team of three of us are adding our past week’s activities to the blog currently.  Sorry for the delay.  We hope you enjoy catching up with us!

Zai jian (goodbye)!

— Cruz Baisa

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