Day 2 – the CICF opening ceremony

19th July 2018 – DAY 2

Never did we think that we’d be performing to a packed audience in an ex-Olympic stadium, but that’s exactly what we did today. After a morning rehearsal (with several of us suffering from the rather confusing jet lag!) and another “lazy Susan” lunch, we headed across the city to rehearse for the evening’s performance. As part of the 14th CICF, the Cadillac arena hosted a grand opening ceremony that brought together 59 nations and 16,000 singers from across the whole world. We were asked to perform alongside 17 other countries in the ceremony — choosing to sing Britten’s ‘Green Broom’ from the Five Flower Songs.

On stage rehearsing for the ceremony’s final group number


before opening ceremony
In our green room, just before performing our solo item

We weren’t prepared for the extravagance of the whole event. Every choir had an intricate outfit or their national dress and we quickly found ourselves surrounded by singers from Hong Kong, Zambia, Latvia, Israel, Canada, the USA and many, many other countries. We felt a little intimidated in our smart all-black concert gear! The music was all exciting and varied, with many groups opting for pop tracks as backgrounds, and instruments on stage with the singers — quite the contrast from our a cappella Britten piece, which certainly demonstrated the British choral tradition in its full glory. Ten of us also had the chance to go on stage for the final piece, with representatives of the choirs that had been involved in the opening ceremony. Donning various flags of the world and having quickly memorised the Mandarin we’d be singing (or having tried at least…), we ran onto the stage with the huge crowd, all broadcast live on television to the nation.

Opening ceremony schola
Us performing Britten’s ‘Green Broom’ at the CICF opening ceremony
Schola at opening ceremony
… and with a slightly more colourful backdrop…

Although a slightly surreal experience, it was a pretty unforgettable thing to be part of. It was amazing to meet so many choirs across the world in one place, many of whom had travelled even further than we had!

CICF opening ceremony group song
We are hidden away somewhere, furiously waving flags, along with the 500 other singers on stage for the final song of the CICF opening ceremony

Welcome to Schola’s China Tour blog!

18th July 2018 – DAY 1

We’re here! After months of fundraising and tour preparation, we are thrilled to have all safely arrived in Beijing for what promises to be an incredibly exciting tour. We are extremely grateful to everyone who has made this amazing tour possible.

View from plane
The last blue skies we are likely to see, given Beijing’s fog in the rain season!

The summer season in Beijing means it is both hot (often above 30C) and although it is extremely humid, we have been told that it’s not too badly polluted at the moment! We got off to a busy start, and after landing around lunchtime, we headed with a rehearsal at the Wukesong Gymnasium for tomorrow’s opening ceremony of the 14th China International Choral Festival (CICF). The CICF began in 1992 and has since run biennially. This year’s festival welcomes 308 choirs to Beijing, and over 15,000 singers. The venue for tomorrow’s opening ceremony was originally built as the basketball stadium at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and is certainly one of the largest venues Schola has performed in, with a capacity of 18,000!

As a demonstration choir at the CICF, we have been selected to sing a solo piece in the opening ceremony, as well as in the final group song, performed by representatives from almost all of countries participating in the festival. We are all very excited that the entire ceremony will be broadcast on Chinese television!

A rehearsal in Wukesong Gymnasium
Rehearsal in the Wukesong Gymnasium

Our participation in the CICF over the next five days in Beijing will also include recitals and masterclasses, before we head off the Lanzhou for the second leg of the tour.

After our rehearsal, we went for our first supper together at a traditional Chinese restaurant, before heading back to our hotel for a well-earned rest.

Supper day 1
Some of the choir enjoying their first real Chinese food

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog entry!