23rd JULY – DAY 6
Today, instead of performing concerts, we were a demonstration choir for two masterclasses, directed by Steven. Both took place in Beijing no.35 Middle School to large audiences filled predominantly with choral directors, but also singers.
The aim of the masterclasses was to teach choral conductors from all across China some of the tricks of the trade and develop conducting techniques to get the best out of a choir. In the morning, this workshop was led by Steven for most of the time, in a lecture theatre, while the choir went out to find some coffee. We then came back and took part in a brief demonstration as part of the talk, singing through some of the music we were performing in concert to demonstrated some of what Steven had presented to the group.
Following a quick lunch at the school, we were back into another workshop, this time in what seemed to be the school’s concert hall. It was quite a surreal experience as the hall was more or less full and the vast majority of people had their phones out filming the whole thing (it was very Black Mirror-esque) – we all felt very ‘on show’ as it were! Similarly to the morning session, Steven led most of the talk and we came on to perform towards the end. The crowd were greatly appreciative and it was interesting to see the differences in choral culture between the UK and China.
Once we’d say our goodbyes, we headed back towards the hotel and asked if we’d be able to visit a flea market nearby. He willingly obliged, warning us about the significant overpricing that the market vendors would try on some seemingly naïve tourists! For example, if something had an asking price of 400 yuan, we could probably get away with asking for it for 50 yuan – useful information given the high prices we were met with! There was a lot on offer, from crockery and trinkets to jade and fabric stalls. Some people managed to snap up a bargain, but most people just took in the experience. That evening was our last together in Beijing before we headed to Lanzhou the next day, so we enjoyed some relaxed social time post dinner before preparing to leave.