Up Gallery » Trip to China 2008 » Xiamen Slideshow

Gulangyu is an island in the bay of Xiamen, well- known for its tropical splendor and variety of activities. Apart from the five-star Marine Garden Hotel where we stayed, it boasts one of the world's finest collections of pianos in the Gulangyu Piano Museum, a large tropical bird sanctuary, and many other fascinating points of interest. Perhaps due to the influence of Michel Wu, an ex-pat living in Australia who founded the piano museum, Gulangyu has become a major musical center. The concert hall there is first rate, the students excellent. One of the indelible memories I have is walking up a side street with a Bach violin partita wafting out of an upper window of a house that has doubled as a sort of launderette, with shirts and underwear hanging from long lines on an open porch on the same floor. The juxtaposition was startling. The violinist's intonation was nearly perfect, and he/she was searching in different ways for the meaning behind the notes. I stood listening for quite a while, and was very moved.

One of the great surprises, and joys, of this trip was to see just how young the audiences are in China. Young parents bring their young children, who for the most part sit quietly and listen carefully. I had been told by Zhu Yafen (朱雅芬), the great piano pedagogue and our interpreter for the trip, that I would be surprised by this, and I was! This, in my view, is the future of classical music on our planet. I know of no other country that is building young audiences like this.

During our entire trip, our group was treated to first-class meals of endless variety (I feared getting on the scale when I came home!). The meals at the Marine Garden Hotel, in particular, were outstanding. Major dishes were presented with beautifully crafted sculptures, carved from vegetables, in the middle of the plate. The chef's specialty at the Marine Garden was shellfish, which was a plus for everyone but me, as I'm allergic to shrimp and crab and the likes. But there was still plenty else to feast on.

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© Craig Sheppard, 2008