Soprano Tricia Drummond writes: On Monday 20 March, after a rehearsal in the chapel at Heathrow airport, the choir set off for Taiwan. After 16 hours of travelling (including an exciting layover in Dubai), we arrived in Taipei and drove to our hotel.
Now settled, we were presented with the opportunity to become more familiar with the culture of the island and its capital, Taipei. To begin with, the National Palace Museum revealed visual delights, most notably the astonishing calligraphy and the much anticipated jade cabbage; to follow, the cyclopean architecture of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall offered a striking setting in which to observe the lengthy, intricate and frankly baffling choreography that constituted the changing of the guard. The local inhabitants of the nearby pond will surely be eternally grateful to the choir for their generous servings of fish food.
Later that day came the concert in Xinzhuang Culture and Arts Centre, where we performed a programme of music from our latest No. 1 album A New Heaven (http://hyperurl.co/ANewHeaven), as well as a variety of well known songs both in English and Mandarin. We were cheered with rapturous applause after every piece and director, Owen Rees, was presented with the most enormous bouquet as a token of gratitude.
We then left Taipei and moved on to Nanhua University in Chia Yi. We were greeted by friendly Nanhua students who treated us to a tour of their university. As well as being shown the green surroundings of the campus (that have earned Nanhua the status of ‘Forest University’) we were also allowed to try calligraphy, given a performance by some of the music students, and later allowed to have a go on the traditional instruments ourselves! We especially enjoyed hearing a performance on the Pipa- a pear-shaped plucked string instrument known for quick tremolo plucking with all the fingers of the right hand.
After the concert we were given time to explore the area- the giant golden statue of Buddha looking out over the complex was a particularly impressive sight. Dinner was hosted by Nanhua University and Fo Guang Shan and included a delicious combination of Western and Traditional vegetarian food.
Tenor Andrew Sanchez writes: Friday was filled with school visits across the Taipei area, where we were greeted with unflagging hospitality and kindness. The Chang Kiao International School sits atop a lovely mountain, and the school’s impressive facilities were certainly matched by its student body.
We were welcomed by the high school string quartet, girls’ choir, and orchestra in performances which showcased the school’s vibrant art program. Queen's choir offered a short program in tandem with a presentation by our director, Owen Rees, about university life in Oxford.