Shanghai Festival Opening Parade
An important feature of the trip was to perform in the opening parade for the Shanghai Festival. The event was spread over two nights with a dress rehearsal on 11 September. The dress rehearsal was the first indication for most of us as to the scale of the event we were taking part in. We arrived at a school somewhere in downtown Shanghai at about 7pm and were ushered into a large playground full of performers from all over the world. Pipe bands, American marching bands, Danish marching girls, an unclassifiable and very loud group of Swiss musicians, samba dancers, folk dancers…it was an incredible thing to be a part of. Everyone was extremely enthusiastic which made practising our display routine almost enjoyable – it is always better to perform to an audience. Eventually we were taken to the parade route and there was a lot of waiting around but that is standard drill for a dress rehearsal, we finally ended up back at our hotel sometime around 3am after leaving at 8am the previous morning. A long day but a good one.
The following day we prepared for the parade. From the high school we were shepherded off to the parade start and left waiting around for a couple of hours before the 7.30pm step off. Although this was a bit tedious it did give us a chance to meet the groups around us and learn a bit about them. There was some instrument swapping and a few of us got to have a go at an alpenhorn. The alpenhorn owner responded by grabbing a flugel and producing a note perfect performance of Concerto de Aranjuez which was a little unfair. Eventually the parade started moving and finally it was our turn.
Every group had to do a 2 minute performance in front of a stand full of VIP’s and dignatories. Our routine involved us marching up to this point playing the first few bars of Simoraine and then breaking into a display march featuring snippets from Simoraine, Sing Sing Sing, and Brass Machine. Our secret weapon was an arrangement of the Song of the Yangtze River, a much-loved local folk song. When we started playing this the crowd went wild which was a huge rush for all of the performers. The audience loved the rest of our display and then we marched off down Huiahai Road with a couple of stops on the way to run through our routine. The march was about 3 km long and it was hot and tiring work but very rewarding. A couple of days later we found out about the audience figures. 75,000 people watched the dress rehearsal, 473,000 watched the parade and 250,000,000 (Yes 250 MILLION!) watched the parade via a live broadcast throughout China and elsewhere around the world. Pretty incredible numbers.
The day after the parade we had our first public performance at the Shanghai Bubble Wine festival. The audience here was most enthusiastic (we are choosing to attribute that to the band’s playing rather than the free sparkling wine available in the tent next to the stage). Whatever the reason, they loved us and it was great playing to such an appreciative group of people. Our second performance was at the base of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. This iconic building is one of the most recognisable buildings in the world and, while it looks good during the day, it really comes into its own at night when it is lit up in shades of red, purple, pink and blue. After the performance we were treated to a tour up the tower.
The final stop of the tour for most of the band was Ningbo a city 2hrs south of Shanghai by road. Things were a bit more relaxed here after seven full-on days in Shanghai and we spent some time exploring the city. Ningbo has a population of 8m so relatively small by Chinese standards. It is a very modern city and like Auckland (its sister city) it has a port and has a high level of commercial activity, in fact it is considered to be the birth place of capitalism in China.
The Department of Foreign Affairs in Ningbo were the band’s hosts and had organised a concert to commemorate the 20 year sister city relationship with Waitakere City/Auckland at the Ningbo Polytheater. This Auditorium was extremely modern, with capacity for audiences 1000+, and was acoustically fantastic to perform in.
The band prepared an entertaining program for the concert including The Song of The Yangtze River and the NZ arrangements of Hine e Hine, Hinemoa and Pokarekare ana, along with lighter entertaining items (Sing Sing Sing, Faith and All the things you are). Our major works included Hinemoa and Le Roi D’Ys. The audience was 600+ and the band received some very favourable comments from our hosts from the Ningbo Foreign AffairsOffice who all enjoyed the concert.
The concert concluded with official presentations of gifts from Sir Robert Harvey and the Mayor’s office of Auckland Council.