21st JULY 2018 – DAY 4
Today was our first day of proper sightseeing around Beijing. After an early breakfast we headed to Tiananmen Square, the largest city centre plaza in the world, and host to many key political events in the city. Passing under a one tonne portrait of Chairman Mao we entered the beautiful Forbidden City. Cue many group photo opportunities, sometimes featuring enthusiastic locals. The temperature was the highest we’d yet had, so after walking outside for the best part of two hours, we were extremely grateful to visit a small museum within the city not just for the ancient artefacts but also air conditioning. The architecture of the Forbidden City is entirely different to everything we had seen until now in modern Beijing, and we were very grateful to have the chance to explore such important parts of the city and learn more about China’s history, while on a choir tour.
After a quick stop to fill our water bottles (and try pea flavoured ice cream!), we walked to Beihai Park, a lakeside oasis behind the Forbidden City. The park is centred around a hill, scattered with Buddhist temples that lead to the White Pagoda. Despite the heat, the clear air meant our climb was rewarded with some of the best views we’d seen so far.
To round off a packed morning we had a delicious Chinese meal, and returned to the hotel to cool down before our solo concert at the Beijing Concert Hall, the most prestigious concert venue in Beijing. Although the concert hall is huge, the acoustic is incredibly receptive and and picks up every sound, which allowed us to give a more expressive performance than at previous venues. Our programme, in particular two arrangements of Chinese folk songs, were greeted very warmly by the audience, who invited us for an encore performance of the second folk song, The Flowing Stream, and even accompanied us with clapping. To be thanked with this energy by such a grateful audience was highly moving for us.
We were all buzzing from the atmosphere and returned to the hotel to celebrate over a few beers. It was one of those days that upon evening reflection, you are rather impressed by the amount achieved during it. All told, we had a top day in Beijing.