NEXUS WORLD TOUR – 1984 – A DIARY, Part 4. 2nd Beijing Concert

29 Oct

May 7–5:50 AM

An interesting change of mood at our rehearsal this morning. The lights stay on and there is quiet while we practice. During our set up and breaks, the stage crew and visitors ask us about our instruments and provide information about the Chinese instruments, details of which we were not aware.

After lunch, I slept until our 5:30 PM bus to the hall. Concerts are at 7:15 PM. During my siesta some of the group visited a music store.  Bob bought some thin gongs and Bill purchased a keyboard string instrument. The keys are numbered 1 to 12 and you pluck the strings at one end. Very much like an autoharp but “twangier”. About 15 inches long it has a sopranino sound.

The concert begins with what is called Revolutionary Drumming. We now have four large rope field drums and bass drum. Because of the resonance of the hall the sound is huge and all the low partials come out. We play Palta and then in improv. It’s good to improvise again. The last time was Cardiff in Wales over a year ago? They are listening–polite applause but when we come back for the 2nd half a lot of people have left. Bob’s Tabla playing was good as was the performance. A lot of good things happened in the improv. Something beautifully strange and the communication in the group was good. I felt comfortable playing my C’hang or C’hung depending on dialect. (Note – My C’hang was purchased in Hong Kong. It is small, very light and has 19 wire strings, each supported by a movable bridge, the sound board is curved Koto like and the wire strings are tightened with a T shaped tuning key.)

A conservatory teacher was at our rehearsal with his son and I asked if it would be all right for me to play this ancient instrument my way. When I bowed the instrument he very seriously said,  “this is a new way, a creation”. It is proper for you to play this way. I stressed again that I played no melodies but used it purely for sound purposes. He assured me that it was all right. Another man hearing the bow asked if my intention was to make the sound of wind.

At intermission, a stunning woman from Vienna came backstage to ask for literature on the group. She said she had never heard a Chinese audience so quiet, following a tone to its very end. She almost refused to come when a friend offered her a ticket. She said she would never have forgiven herself if she later heard what are concert was like.

Most of the people who stay for the 2nd half are young. The hall still looks full because the audience is everywhere but there are lots of empty seats scattered about. “Music for Pieces of Wood” is well received. I also believe the African double bell piece was appreciated. Mbira enthralls them and when Bob shows the instrument to the audience after the performance, there is extra applause. Now, “Clos de Vougeot”. We smile knowingly to each other. The rehearsal was very good a great Hall for the piece. Bill sent out front and said the piece never sounded better. All the voices can be heard clearly. One problem with the piece is the blend. Sometimes on stage it is difficult for me to hear the other marimba. It is a fantastic performance. There is almost absolute silence during the performance and we moved as one. The last cadenza is really a dream world. The piece is well received.

The Rags cook along and the joint is starting to jump, relatively speaking. When we play the Chinese piece the audience begins to clap after the 1st measure. Rhythmic applause, a lot of smiling faces that disperse quickly. All we can do is do what we do, Scooby-Doo.

(Today we have a workshop.) A large group of girls from Australia are staying on our hotel floor. It is 6:45 AM and their chaperone goes down our hall knocking on each door. Knock, knock, knock, knock, “Getting up time” unquote.” Knock, knock, knock, “Getting up time. Patty are you awake?”,

The ubiquitous Mr. Wa. Stage manager? His own 4 door Japanese sedan and driver. Nicely tailored Western sport jackets–leather attache case. Today he moved a music stand for us. Otherwise it is difficult to know his function. No doubts about his authority. Kwang Chao was born in Hong Kong.

In a couple of hours we go to the hall to meet about 60 professional drummers who have been gathered to play for us. Sixty? National radio taped our concert last night. So too a fellow traveler. Heard a little bit of the rudimental drumming. Strong and together!


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