We had been very much looking forward to visiting the Shanghai Conservatory, as western musicians have for many decades.
They graciously welcomed us for a morning there there before our plane to Beijing this afternoon. It turned out to be a fascinating, fun and moving moment and we were so glad we could do it. While most visiting performers exchange and work with the students on solo material, we were, we think, the first to come and exchange with one of the choruses.
Legendary Professor Zhou Xiao Yan welcomes us.
There are now four choruses at the Conservatory. A group of 20 mixed voices - from the western opera ("bel canto") department, directed by Professor Yi Jie- sang for us first: a Chinese folk song which was very beautiful, and which we might like to do ourselves, and a chorus from Elijah. What lovely rich voices! We talked about singing in ensemble and the different responsibilities of the singer in that context- not only to the horizontal melodic line, but to the vertical aspect ( the chords) and to the underlying accompaniment, and the tuning. We demonstrated some particular challenges from the set of Barber songs which are on our program. Another group -all women from the Department of Chinese music - then gave an amazing performance of a contemporary Chinese composition.
In response to a question about whether singing in the counter tenor register is damaging, Gregory vocalized all the men up into their falsetto voices. They were skeptical, and there was a certain amount of laughter, but they did it, and we hope we proved the point that the counter tenor voice is natural and not dangerous, and doesn't hurt.
He Xiao Nan, a singer from the Chinese music department, gave a beautiful rendition of a Chinese song, complete, of course, with formalized gestures.
Matt then asked her to sing Molihua (the folk song which we sing on our program) with us. Not only do we never get to sing with girls and that was fun, but she was not shy about leading us through her interpretation of the song, and we learned a lot!
Then we were invited to lunch and friendly exchange with the professors, students, and our travelling patrons who had
observed this special moment.