Shanghai, China

Shanghai at Night Adventure on the other side of the world! (April-May, 2014)
~by Zarina Varley

At an impossibly early hour on a mild morning at the end of April, 41 sleepy musicians arrived at Pearson airport. Excitement surged as we bade farewell to our loved ones and prepared for the 15 hours of flying that was to come.IMG_4957
After breakfast in Chicago, two “lunch” meals somewhere over Northern Canada and Russia, endless daylight, and several renditions of “Everything is Awesome!”, we arrived a day later to a wall of humidity, on the other side of the world…in Shanghai, China.

Upon clearing Chinese customs, we were greeted by the smiling face of Maria with her sunflower, who would be our tour guide and interpreter for the week. Shortly after our arrival at the hotel, we were joined by the only other ensemble from outside Asia to perform at the festival, Opus 92 from Lyon, France. Some musicians faded before dinner, while others tried valiantly to hold out as late as possible. 092

The first of our cultural experiences was a trip to Zhujiajiao, the Ancient Water town, followed by a cruise of the Huangpu River, where we were introduced to the sights, sounds (and smells) of Ancient Chinese culture.

The following day consisted of a visit to Yu Garden for some shopping and to learn more about Chinese culture – specifically how silk is made, and a Chinese tea ceremony. That afternoon we had our first major rehearsal followed by TYWO’s first-ever concert outside North America. We were thrilled that we had our own entrance music for when the curtains opened, as well as when Colin walked on! The Wind Orchestra’s performance was met with thunderous applause, a standing ovation and requests for two encores.

Maria IMG_4862informed us that she particularly enjoyed the Disney Medley we played, as “King of Lion” (aka the “Lion King”) is quite popular in China.

Wednesday saw an outdoor performance for our adoring fans, where the Mandarin speakers in the band informed us that in her announcement, the MC had translated Howard Cable’s “The (river) Banks of Newfoundland” as “The (financial) Banks of Newfoundland”! This was followed by a rehearsal at Fudan University stadium, where our Gala performance would take place later in the week To continue on with our exposure to Chinese culture, that evening we attended the ERA Chinese Acrobatic show, which our band members watched incredulously as the performers did seemingly impossible things with their bodies!!

Thursday was our busiest (and warmest) day, which started with a short performance dockside for the Grand Chancellor of the Festival, before hurrying to our boat for a floating performance with our new friends from Opus 92. We joined forces for several renditions of “The Old Friend” before taking turns to perform our own repertoire. This performance was particularly fun as our French friends sang and danced to our performance, to an accompanying chorus of cheers from those watching from the shore.

After a quick lunch back at the hotel (broccoli and cabbage featured prominently at breakfast, lunch and dinner) to round out our trio of Thursday performances, we played another short concert on the steps of the Oriental Pearl TV tower – the iconic building being the CN Tower of Shanghai. After a much-needed rest, or for the ambitious, a trip to the People’s Square, we returned to Fudan University stadium for our final dress rehearsal – at which we learned that the following night, not only would we be replacing the Chinese Army for the Gala finale, but that TYWO would be required to become a marching band to make its entrance on that occasion!

With our week drawing to a close, we split up for some free time on Friday morning (shopping…shopping…), before boarding the bus for what would be our final performance on Chinese soil that evening. Arriving at Zhengda Stadium in time for a quick lesson in marching and then it was time to take our places for the Gala Concert. It was such a thrill to play alongside, and make friends with the participating bands including Opus 92 (France), Hong Kong Vigor Marching band and Yum Kwang Drum and Bugle Corp (Korea).10154138_10152023574125899_3125796290341022331_n IMG_5107

After an emotional farewell to Maria, and our kamikaze bus driver whom we nicknamed “Andy”, those same 41 sleepy musicians boarded the plane for the return flight, enjoying our last few hours together before the end of the tour. Landing in Pearson, musicians exchanged hugs with each other and with their loved ones as we began recounting the stories of the week’s adventures. We had survived the bus driver, a constantly evolving schedule and following a sunflower for a week. We had brought our Canadian band to Chinese audiences and they had responded warmly and enthusiastically. Our whirlwind trip to Shanghai was the adventure of a lifetime, to live on in the memories of our musicians. Group Shot I