Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Fabulous and Awesome"

Enthusiastic comments from Lu Wei and Anne Ofstedal, the parents of YPC choristers Christina and Dustin Lu 

As the parents of a YPC chorister, we were delighted to have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the July 17, 2012 concert in Beijing. This concert, which took place in the auditorium of the Chinese Conservatory of Music, was the culminating event of YPC’s China tour. In the words of a teenage girl in the audience, the performance was “fabulous and awesome.”

Powerful and Moving Performance
Judging from the audience’s delighted response to this performance, the teenager wasn’t the only one who is a newly converted YPC fan.  From the four YPC choristers who introduced sections of the concert in Chinese, to the Chinese traditional “ Boatmen's Song,”  to one of the encore numbers “New York, New York,” with its closing reference to “Beijing, Beijing,”  the choristers connected with the audience members by conveying a level of artistry and feeling which, we believe, came as a surprise to many in the audience.  It was truly awesome. The audience became more engaged and impressed with each piece, and by the second half of the concert, which featured forms of American music from folk songs to gospel to Broadway, the audience’s applause seemed to indicate their hope that the chorus would just keep on singing. Song by song, dance by dance, the YPC choristers, singing and moving as perfectly as we’ve ever seen them, left their audience with a rich impression of the talents and vibrant joy of American young people.

During the concert’s final numbers, many in the audience were enthusiastically clapping and cheering and by the final encore number, “Oye,” members of the audience were dancing joyfully in the aisles with YPC members.  As soon as “Oye” concluded, the powerful emotional connection that the YPC choristers had forged with the audience through 90 minutes of song and movement turned into jubilant hugs, photos, and conversation as many audience members pushed toward the front of the auditorium for a chance to meet the choristers.

In contrast to many YPC concerts in New York City at which each chorus division performs perhaps 4 or 5 numbers, at the Beijing concert, it was truly awesome and fabulous to watch the Concert Chorus, Young Men’s Chorus, and Chorale perform for a solid hour and a half. The choreography was intricate and amazing and the choristers performed flawlessly.  During the second half, the music, choreography, and costumes came together in a way that was truly transporting. The power of the gospel songs, the girls’ white parasols in “Beautiful Dreamer,”  and the connection with the audience during the familiar and moving “Bridge Over Troubled Water,”  really cast a spell.

For us, this concert was also a reminder that we as “veteran” YPC parents are blessed, if not downright spoiled, by the artistry that we enjoy at YPC concerts year in and year out.  At home in New York, we always look forward with anticipation to the next YPC concert; last night’s concert in Beijing was a reminder that what for us is another in a series of highly awaited performances was, for the audience in China, a once-in-a-lifetime event, and judging from its response, eye-opening, moving, and memorable.  In New York, how lucky are we that there’s always the next YPC concert to look forward to?

Especially in China, where education from primary school through high school is an endless pressure cooker of test prep and exams and there are few opportunities for students to engage intensively in the arts, the commitment of our choristers to achieving a high level of artistry sends many positive messages.  After the concert, we spoke with an audience member who introduced himself as a university instructor who plans to begin his doctoral studies at Harvard this fall.  First, he asked me how these university students, who were certainly all majoring in music, got involved in YPC, and was astonished when we informed him that the YPC members were not in college, but are high school students, and that YPC offers opportunities for students as young as 7 years of age.  His next question reflected the Chinese context of grueling pressure and endless hours of study, especially for high school students: “Does participating in YPC give the students an advantage when applying to university?”   His question could be rephrased as “In the long run, what’s in it for them? What’s the rationale? How does this pay off?”   He was astonished to learn that while every YPC member does go on to attend college, the benefits of participating in YPC are for the most part unquantifiable and intangible, at least in terms of the ways Chinese society measures its high school students.  How does one measure the impact of learning music in so many genres and languages? How does one calculate the value of knowing to show up at rehearsals on time and work hard?  How do we measure the ability to cooperate with others, to be challenged by demanding music and choreography and by conductors and staff with the highest of expectations?   And finally, how does one value the friendships and bonds with other choristers from every corner of New York City?  To most high school students in China, such options simply don’t exist, and the concept that students might both perform well academically and participate in an organization such as YPC are all but unimaginable.

With sincere thanks to Francisco, Sophia, Nancy, Jon, Lindsay, Johnny, Sheldon, Kerry, and the entire YPC team.

Memories From China!

     When I found out we were going to Guangzhou, I was very excited. My parents grew up there and I was looking forward to seeing the city and learning more about its culture. It was amazing! It was more rural than I expected but the buildings were colorful and the people were very nice. What I loved most about the city was that it had a very homey feeling to it. The people at the restaurants and the places we went to were welcoming, and one waiter at the restaurant where we went for dinner even offered to teach my friend Sofia some Chinese when I explained to him that she studied it in school. The city was very busy and bustling but there was a small-town feel to it and the hotel was lovely.
     The concert on the first night was with the Gondwana Voices Children’s Choir. We made lots of friends and the concert was a success! In our second concert I especially felt good about our enthusiasm and overall performing skills. The audience loved us and we did “Oye” as the encore. The whole song was an amazing experience because in the heart of the moment, we decided to bring children up on the stage and mothers were practically throwing children into our arms to dance with us. We sang with all the people who came to see us and the ending was so full of power and love. We felt like they took us into their community. After the show ended, the people all came to take pictures with us and shake our hands. I felt so happy when I told some of them I was a Cantonese person.
     Seeing Guangzhou for the first time was life-changing. Getting in touch with my roots was an experience I wouldn’t have missed for the world. I’m happy that I was able to bring my love for singing back to the city of my family.
-       Ada 
YPC at the MasterCard Center in Guangzhou

I had a blast at the Choral Summit! When we entered the hall for the opening ceremony I was blown away. I took so many pictures of this huge stadium. We also had an opportunity to meet different choirs. The great thing about meeting the other choirs was seeing all the diverse cultures from around the world represented! My personal favorite was the Zimbabwe College Choir from Africa. They were extremely friendly. I gave a YPC pin to one friendly girl who I spoke to. In return she gave me one of her bracelets from Zimbabwe! It made me feel so special that I connected with them.
Another cool aspect of the day was when we were filmed and recorded for TV and radio interviews. They wanted to know more about YPC, its purpose and mission, and it felt so good to sing for them. Later, members of the choir from Zimbabwe came in to take pictures with us, and our entire backstage experience morphed into a choral music fiesta! We had so much fun listening to them sing and learning dance moves from them, and it wasn’t long before the Australian choir joined the celebration. It was such a wonderful way to build morale so that we could perform wonderfully in China. In my opinion, we were fantastic!
-       Noni 

Filming for international television!

Concert at China Conservatory of Music in Beijing

This Joint IS Jumpin'!

Monday, July 16, 2012

YPC Arrives in Beijing for World Choral Summit Main Events!

YPC China sojourners arrived in Beijing on July 14 and immediately began rehearsals for the World Choral Summit Opening Ceremony the following evening. Here are some pictures as they prepare for the big night!

YPC Arrives in Beijing.

Rehearsing for World Choral Summit Opening Ceremony in MasterCard Center

Perfecting Their Choreography

Taking a Rehearsal Break

Tea Time

Minutes Before Performance!

Stay tuned for more updates!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Performance Day...

Rehearsing for YPC's First Guangzhou Opera House Concert...Looking Good!

Performing Beautiful Dreamer in YPC's new look!

YPC Brings Down The House!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

More Adventures in Guangzhou!

Greetings from Guangzhou, China! This is Nick here to report on the 2012 YPC China Tour. So far it has been a crazy, yet exciting trip to this amazing country. China is full of three extravagant things: architecture, ancient culture, and very interesting food. All have captivated me equally. The people here, although they speak a completely different language from us, are very hospitable and are making China even more pleasant. The foods here are definitely something else, and very good! Being Chinese myself, it’s truly amazing to be fully immersed in my culture. When visiting the Buddhist Temple I truly felt in touch with Chinese culture and practices. This trip is opening my eyes to so many new and wonderful ideas and it’s only day three! I feel nothing but grateful and blessed to be here with YPC and I cannot wait for what else is to come!
-       Nick
Here I (Nick) am in Guangzhou!
Sights in the Buddhist Temple

Soaking up the sights of Guangzhou!

Some things remain the same! 

This is my fourth international trip with YPC and it’s always amazing to travel the world and experience so many new things while doing what I love. So far we’ve visited a temple, the market, an island and finished the day on a boat cruise where we got to see the bright city of Guangzhou! It was fun to try out the Chinese language we’ve learned so far and experience a new culture. We saw a man carrying at least 20 boxes taped together, on a stick on his shoulders. l prayed in a Buddhist temple and experienced an entirely different religion - I joined Chinese ladies as they danced to traditional music in the park too. I made new friends and it’s great to connect through music. I knelt down to let a child play with my hair and the amazement in her eyes was unforgettable. So far it’s been an amazing trip and I’m so honored to be singing Beautiful Dreamer in the Guangzhou Opera House. You can feel the excitement in the air and after weeks of LONG rehearsals…HERE WE GO!
-           Monica 

Architecture in Guangzhou!
Guangzhou Opera House

Rehearsing for our first performance!

Friday, July 13, 2012


Though we were mentally prepared to experience China, I think I speak for everyone when I say that Guangzhou, China is incredibly breathtaking! Of course the incredibly long plane ride and the travel tired us out, but nothing could stop us from being excited. This is just the beginning of our YPC tour but everything has already exceeded my expectations.
            The hotel is great, the opera house is gorgeous, and the city overall is astounding. My personal favorite experience so far was the boat ride on the Pearl River. The LED lights and the scenery were absolutely mesmerizing! In addition, we were exposed to Chinese culture such as fan dancing and tai chi on the island we visited. I am ecstatic to be in the country where my culture is from. I hope to get more chances to sing for the public in the future, it really brightens up people’s days. I can’t wait to meet the other choir in tomorrow night’s concert.
-       Samantha

Sightseeing on the Pearl River

Sightseeing on the Pearl River

Today after a long and restful sleep, we woke up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. We started by going to a beautiful island. We walked around and learned much about culture. When we first walked to the river, all we could see was a sea of pink fans. When the fans parted, they revealed about 30 women of all ages. We looked to our left and saw another 20 men and women practicing tai chi. On our right were children, no older than ten, doing Tai Kwan Do forms with such precision. Just around the corner from this peaceful scene was a police headquarters. In the ironically named “Friendship Garden” outside was a line of crisply dressed soldiers. As we got closer one of them commanded sharply “No Pictures!” Then he gave a kind smile and walked back.
            Shortly after we visited the Qing Ping Market. This too showed us what true Chinese culture was like. The market was full of all sorts of animal and plant products. Sitting next to the tree roots were animal bones, barrels of dead flies, and turtle bellies. A few of us got a bag full of dried lemons for three dollars. Although we’re not doing any more sightseeing tomorrow, we’re going to finally meet the other children’s choir and have our first performance!
-       Jamie

Friendship Garden in Guangzhou

YPC in Guangzhou

Thoughts of home...our local Starbucks!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hello China!

We have landed safely in Guangzhou! 

Let the Musical Journey Begin! 

Stay tuned for more updates from YPC choristers!

Arriving in Hong Kong at sunrise
Layover in Hong Kong

Landing in Guangzhou

Morgan our Translator/Guide in Guangzhou