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Shanghai Surprises

23 Oct 2019
  • ASO on Tour
  • Behind the Scenes
by Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
Shanghai Surprises

Every trip is not without its hiccups, and touring internationally with a symphony orchestra is not exempt! Paola Niscioli, our Director, Special Projects (International) was one of the team of people who worked to pull this tour together, and here she reflect on one of the more challenging – but most rewarding – parts of the trip.

Pictured above – performing in the beautiful and acoustically magnificent Shanghai Symphony Hall

Saturday 19 October

With the first concert of the tour under our belt in Zhuhai, half the group left the Pearl River Delta early on Saturday 19 October for Shanghai.

Once we arrived, we had the afternoon at leisure and wanted to explore some of Shanghai’s famed areas while we had the chance. So some of us set off to the French concession area to find lunch and check out the historic sites. This part of Shanghai shows the colonial past of the city through its architecture, all restored beautifully and, being a Saturday afternoon, was filled with tourists, all getting a glimpse into a part of China that is steeped in stories.

Shanghai French Quarter

It was quite a contrast to what we saw later on the same day from a rooftop bar at the famed Fairmont Peace Hotel on the Bund. The 70th Anniversary celebrations were continuing in this area through a spectacular light show along the river. Literally tens of thousands of Shanghaiese and tourists were packed in this area to enjoy this display of contemporary Chinese ingenuity.

Sunday 20 October

In putting together the schedule, we always knew that Sunday 20 October was going to be the most complex day of the tour: set up and performance in an outdoor concert in Gongqing Forest Park at 2pm and then a 7.30pm concert in Shanghai Symphony Hall.

We boarded the bus at 10:30am. There was lots of nervous energy around what to expect in the park. Upon arrival, we neared the stage and discovered it was in full sun – not what the precious instruments need to perform at their best! So there was an amazing (AKA stressful) moment of cross-cultural negotiation as we carefully explained that we needed a solution otherwise there would not be a performance.

Before the concert in Gongqing Forest Park and before a solution was found to protect the instruments (and players!) from the baking sun.

The on-the-ground Chinese team at the park came up with the required answer. All of a sudden we saw 10 men all in black suits come to the stage carrying trusses which they then proceeded to rig and form a canopy which was enough to shade the musicians from the blazing sun! All this in 45 minutes. It meant rehearsal was delayed and then cut short to just 15 minutes. And while all this action was happening in and around the stage, the musicians were fed Chinese lunch boxes under the shade of the trees. The deliciousness of lunch helped appease some of the tension.

Almost miraculously, the improvised rigging worked and shaded the performers magnificently. The doors opened at 13:30 and almost 3,000 people came in to sit in the glorious sunshine and enjoy our wonderful orchestra. The concert went off without a hitch, and the traditional Chinese piece played as an encore ‘Purple Bamboo’ was met with authentic applause.

During our performance in Shanghai’s Gongqing Forest Park, where there were more than 3,000 people in attendance – you can see the shade cloth that was miraculously rigged up!

Then our operations team of Will, Janet and Declan, had to swing into gear to pack down in 30 minutes and get all the gear onto two trucks to transport across town and re-set for a 6pm rehearsal in Shanghai Symphony Hall. David Khafaghi, who used to be in our operations team and is on tour playing trumpet, reverted to his old role in operations to help out. The transfer was seamless and the trucks arrived at the hall at the same time as the two buses filled with musicians!

Once we got to the Hall, the excitement really set in. The Shanghai Symphony Hall opened in 2014. Its fine acoustic immediately became apparent in the rehearsal. And while the musicians were getting stage ready, Managing Director Vincent Ciccarello and Director, Artistic Planning Simon Lord were giving media interviews to local crews and I was sorting out VIP ticketing for the Premier’s delegation numerous other organisations who have a connection to South Australia. 

– Paola Niscioli, Director, Special Projects (International)

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