concert, and another first

April 30th, 2007

Somehow I’m developing a record of notching up ‘firsts’ here in China that really should’ve been done back in New Zealand. I mean, my first trip to the opera in Beijing should’ve been to a Peking Opera performance, right? Well, as it turned out, it was to Madam Butterfly, performed by Chinese, but otherwise entirely Western. And I was underwhelmed. But still, that was the first time I’d seen Western Opera, here in Beijing, at the Tianqiao Theatre several years ago. Really should’ve seen my first Western Opera somewhere Western, I think, but no, it was here in Beijing.

Last night the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs held a concert for foreign experts (some of whom actually looked like they might really be experts) at the Zhongshan Forbidden City Concert Hall (dammit! It’s 中山公园音ä¹?å ‚ in Chinese. Why’d they have to go giving it a completely different English name?) . My school, of course, got tickets and invited both us foreign teachers and our wives (about bloody time she was included in something!). My colleague turned down the invitation for whatever reason, but I decided, having turned down a few too many invitations since I’ve been here, that lzh and I should go, especially considering they invited her as well. So off we went, with absolutely no idea what kind of concert we’d be attending or where….. Fortunately the school did provide a driver. And a car. Kind of useful, that.

Because of May Day, we had to work this weekend. Actually, I got off pretty light, I only had to work yesterday, but Friday, Saturday and today I have no classes. Anyway, with a car leaving the school at 6pm, that meant lzh had to rush home from work. Probably she should’ve gone straight to the concert hall, but nevermind. She got home on time. We got in the car, and were handed our official invitations. No tickets yet, though. Apparently we had to wait until it was time to go in to the concert before we’d be given them. So, we opened up the invitations and saw we’d be seeing the China Philharmonic Orchestra/中国爱ä¹?ä¹?团 (I love how ‘philharmonic orchestra’ is translated into Chinese) conducted by Long Yu/余隆 (why did they have to ‘Westernise’ his name? I can’t stand that! When was the last time you heard about Zedong Mao or Xiaoping Deng? Why can’t we just stick with Chinese names written Chinese style, only Romanised?)

So, another first. Growing up in the Salvation Army, I saw plenty of brass bands. More than enough for several life times. I’ve also been to my fair share of pop and rock concerts and gigs and festivals of various kinds. But never a classical concert with like, a real orchestra and stuff.

Well, there’s a good reason for that. I was never really in to classical music. I’m going to blame a childhood of torture at the hands of brass bands. Classical music was a kind of collateral damage. Well, it was always a matter of time and place. In the appropriate time and place, classical music can be cool. For example, the film Immortal Beloved really brought Beethoven’s music to life for me. I guess that’s what happened last night. Even though I know next to nothing about classical music, and even though I would not normally bother to listen to anything classical, I really enjoyed the concert last night. It’s not my favourite style of music, but somehow last night’s concert brought the music to life and I felt its power and I really enjoyed it.

So there you go. I went to a concert. I had a good time.

Actually, what I liked best were the trombones. Maybe that’s my bias speaking, though, I mean, I am a reformed trombone player. But I played really badly. I sucked, actually, and I gave up when I was about 16. But still, the trombone is by far the coolest of all brass instruments.

And I bumped into a fellow blogger during the intermission. His university had also brought along its foreign teachers. His university had a busload of foreign teachers. Had the other foreign teacher from my school come along, we would’ve still fitted into the Santana comfortably. Had he brought his wife, the secretary who was charged with getting our tickets probably wouldn’t have gotten to see the concert. This school is kinda small.

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