This is an amazing thing to watch. The Preston Lodge High School Pipe Band at the 19th Nanning International Folk Song Festival.
You should watch the first few minutes to get a sense of the magnitude of this event, a stadium audience of around 50000 and a massive TV audience – Scotmid are getting their monies worth from the sponsorship message on the bass drum!!
The show is around 2½ hours long but the section featuring our Pipe Band starts at around 01:44:00 with the band making their appearance around 01:47:30
Monday was to be a busy day rehearsing for the opening gala concert but we had some free time in the morning so visited the Quangxi Arts Institute which would be the equivalent of the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow.
There were many music shops in the area and we visited the biggest one. The staff were incredibly helpful and demonstrated and allowed us to try a wide variety of traditional Chinese instruments. Lee bought a Hulusi flute which has similarities to the bagpipes in that it is a reeded instrument with a chanter and two drones. It is also in the same key as the bagpipes so perhaps we will be able to combine the two instruments in the future.
Lunch was a challenging affair with a variety of pretty unusual delicacies. Ducks feet were the order of the day and though a few of us tried to give it a go, in the end none of us had the stomach for it.
Our interpreter, Kimi, spent some time with us teaching us how to say our “Chinese” names with sometimes hilarious outcomes. In the end she awarded us all 90 – 100%.
The rest of the day was spent rehearsing for the show. The press were out in force and we gave interviews for various television stations throughout Asia. We were also in serious demand for photos and I’m sure by now the entire cast has had a selfie taken with at least one of us.
The day finished quite late and we did not get back to our hotel until 12.30am.
It’s showtime tomorrow so everyone will hopefully get a good nights sleep.
Sunday was supposed to be a day of rest for us but the musical director of the opening concert decided to call another rehearsal in the evening. With the concert being such a large scale production and viewed live by millions on television they were leaving nothing to chance.
We still had most of the day free so our guides took us to a traditional Chinese spice market. We took the metro, which has been a new addition since our first visit to Nanning in 2013, which was very busy but quite comfortable with air conditioning. The area where the market was located was in a much less developed area of the city which gave us a good feel for what ‘old’ Nanning would have been like. The market was very busy and the sounds and smells were an assault on the senses.
We sampled a variety of Chinese herbs, dried fruits and roots, and tea, and bought some things to take home. We then visited a traditional clothes market which was a multi storey building with small stalls inside. Each floor was dedicated to a particular item. One entire floor of shops selling suitcases and bags, another completely dedicated to underwear, another for men’s clothes and another for lady’s clothes. There was even a street with 4 or 5 shops beside each other selling umbrellas. This gave us a good opportunity to test our haggling skills as if you weren’t getting an item for the price you wanted you simply moved to the next shop and continued until you got it for the price you wanted. Competition for our custom was fierce amongst the traders and we all came away with some serious bargains, with the possible exception of the hats that Josh and Blair bought.
After dinner we were taken to the stadium for more rehearsals. The rehearsal was a very long drawn out affair but it gave us a good opportunity to see some of the other acts rehearsing, and also mix and have fun with many of the other artists backstage.
Everyone is really enjoying themselves and coping admirably with the intense heat and humidity.
We were allowed to have a fairly relaxed morning after the busy day yesterday and were picked up at 11.30am and taken to the Guangxi Sports Stadium which is the venue of the International Arts Festival of Folk Songs Opening Concert which we are to be part of.
We are performing a piece of music called “Song across the Land” which is a culturally diverse piece of music, including Chinese music, singing in the Zhuang minority language, Malaysian singing, and of course the bagpipes with Scotland the Brave included. This piece is to be the finale of the concert. It was explained to us that professional musicians from all over the world have performed at the festival many times but very few have ever taken part in the opening concert, and never before have they had a school group from outside Asia performing, so for us to be involved is indeed quite a coup.
We started the afternoon by recording what we were to play for their backing track for the concert, because although we would be playing live on the night it was going to make the sound engineer’s job easier to have a pre-recorded mix coming through. Nothing is left to chance here and the sheer scale of the production is very impressive.
After dinner in our hotel we were again back to the stadium that night for more rehearsals.
We left Edinburgh at 4pm on Wednesday and after a long journey via Paris and Shanghai we arrived at our hotel in Nanning at midnight on Thursday night. Our rooms are lovely and spacious and on the 33rd – 37th floors of the hotel giving us excellent views across the city. The temperature is in the low 30’s and very humid.
We are joined on the trip by Olivia Contini who is a representative of Scottish China Education Network(SCEN). Olivia is originally from Musselburgh and is living in Guang studying Chinese.
We were up bright and early on the Friday morning. Breakfast
at 7am and left the hotel at 8.30am dressed in full band uniform ready to do our first gig at Nanning Out of School Educational Activity Centre for Primary and Secondary Schools. When we arrived at the school we were led into the concert venue and across the top of the stage was a huge banner which said, “Welcome to the teachers and students of Preston Lodge High School Pipe Band,” which did indeed make us feel very welcome. We gave a short 10 minute performance which was warmly received and were then treated to a variety of performances from young people playing traditional Chinese instruments and songs. The talent on display from the Chinese children was truly impressive.
At the end of the performances Olivia Contini and the Director of the school signed a “Memoranda of Understanding” between SCEN and the school to establish long term links and exchanges.
Lots of photos were then taken and various members of the band were interviewed for local television.
We were then treated to a short tour of the school and had some fun in their award-winning robotics department.
We had lunch in a local restaurant where we sampled a vast array of strange and wonderful foods. Everyone in the group tried most things on offer however nobody was brave enough to eat the chicken head that was served with the chicken.
After lunch, we went on a trip with some of the Chinese students to Qingxiu mountain, which was akin to the botanic gardens on a hillside. The weather was far too hot for us to do any serious walking so instead we were driven around on a small open sided bus. The gardens were immaculately kept and the views from the top across the city were stunning.
Afterwards we were taken back to our hotel where everyone was glad to change out of our pipe band gear into shorts and t-shirts and for some much needed rest and relaxation.
Everyone is in good spirits and making the most of what should be an unforgettable trip.