MCC in China December 2017 - January 2018

A very excited choir on their first rehearsal for the tour

It all began at 7am on a December morning at Manchester airport. After months of planning, hundreds of emails, and some very stressful trips to the Chinese visa office in Manchester, we were finally off!

50 singers all managed to assemble on time and in place (who'd have thought...) to board our 12 hour flight to Hong Kong.

After a brief nap on the airport floor, we boarded our second flight to Xi'an - a slightly strange feeling to be flying back in the opposite direction to a city we'd flown directly over just a few hours before...

Some very happy singers *before* spending 14 consecutive hours on planes...
Arriving in smoggy Xi'an

The kind thing to do after 14 hours of travelling would be to let everyone have a good sleep. But why do that when you can dive straight into a Beethoven rehearsal instead?!After meeting our Chinese choral counterparts and conductor, Dane Lam, it was finally off for a well-earned sleep.

Concert day number one! We got a bit of a lie in, followed by some interesting (?) breakfast choices including noodles and spiced donkey!

We then headed to the city walls to film some Beethoven concert promotion for Chinese State Television. As well as singing al fresco on the walls, some choir members filmed interviews for the cameras.

After a morning's excitement and brief sightseeing, we headed downtown to the concert hall for rehearsals. Beethoven was followed by a rehearsal for our own concert of English song cycles, accompanied in parts by the beautifully adorable children of the XSO. Our own conductor, Jonathan Lo, also arranged a Chinese folk song for us to sing, complete with all the phonetics you could wish for.

Day three, and the event we'd travelled 8000 miles for was finally upon us. After a morning orchestra rehearsal, we headed to the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda for some sightseeing.

The Pagoda was build in 652 and, standing at 64m tall, offers incredible views over the city. As well as being a World Heritage Site and impressive in its own right, the Pagoda also has extensive gardens which offer a little corner of nature in a place where the air is dense with pollution, and allows visitors to enjoy calm in the centre of such a big and busy city.

After a rest back at the hotel, we headed back to the concert hall for Beethoven 9, broadcast live on State Television. An epic affair with Soprano Heather Engebretson, Mezzo Victoria Simmonds, Tenor Bryan Register, and Bass Michael Druiett as our soloists, the Xi'an Symphony Orchestra, and Dane Lam at the helm. Truly worth the hours of rehearsals, days of travelling, and months of planning.

To celebrate our success, we were taken out for a dinner of tradition Chinese hotpot afterwards. Forget everything you thought you knew about hotpot - lamb? potatoes? What are those? - this was truly a meal for the brave and the true. A pot of boiling spicy broth between a table of 6-8 people, enough meat and vegetables to feed an army, and enough spice to blow your head off several times. Certainly a unique experience for everyone involved!

Trying out some of the spicest food Xi'an has to offer
Xi'an by night

After an intense few days of singing, it was time for a day off before New Year celebrations began. No trip to Xi'an would be complete without a trip to see the Terracotta Army, so off we went.

The warriors were only discovered in 1974, although they are estimated to date from the 3rd century BC. In total across the three pits, there are over 8000 soldiers, as well as 520 horses, and 130 chariots.

Photos by Denis Pan & Alan Greenwood

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and no large group trip would be complete without the slight hiccup of losing a team member. Take our word for it that one of the largest tourist attractions in the world is not the best place to do it! Thankfully Sue was swiftly found, and we returned to our hotel a complete set.

After a well-earned afternoon nap, our new year celebrations began!

Apparently 'English New Year' is not as big a deal in China as Chinese New Year is in England, and we became minor WeChat celebrities for our rendition of Auld Lang Syne in the street, as well as our ability to drink a bar completely dry...

The next day was, sadly, hometime. Whilst a few brave souls ventured off to the mountains or the other big cities that China has to offer, the rest of us headed home.

A 6 hour stopover in Hong Kong provided the perfect end to our tour, as we were able to enjoy a moonlit dinner on the waterfront before catching our plane back to Manchester.

An enormous debt of thanks must be paid to our superb Choir Manager, Dave Hoult. Dave worked tirelessly for months running up to our trip, and ensured that every moment ran smoothly.

We would also like to thank the Xi'an Symphony Orchestra, Dane Lam, and xx.

Words: Laura Pullin, Laura Rushforth

Design: Alice Capper

Photos: Members of Manchester Chamber Choir

Created By
Alice Capper

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