Touring China Part 3 – Chengdu

Carvings at Wu Hou Temple

Carvings at Wu Hou TeFor the final leg of the tour we returned to Sichuan province and to the city of Chengdu, the scene of my residency in 2011. It was wonderful to be back and I was very excited to see everyone that had worked on the album again.

Chengdu is a huge city sitting on a large plain and is bordered by mountains to the North and West. The area has been inhabited for thousands of years and the city is host to many fascinating historical sites. It became the capital of the ancient kingdom of Shu in the fourth century BC and has remained an important city ever since.

Chengdu is laid back depite it’s huge size and it was great to show Jen around the city. I have a special soft spot for Chengdu food, particularly spicy dishes like Hot Pot, Dandan Mien and Twice-Cooked Pork.

On arrival I went immediately to the rehearsal rooms of the Chengdu Associated Theatre of Performing Arts on the outskirts of the city. There I was reunited with Huang Weizhi, Sun Xianxhu and Zhou Yuanlin, three of the musicians that recorded with me in 2011. It was very special to see them all and it was wonderful to play the songs from the album with them once again. I also met Suzy Chan, who plays Guzheng and would be performing with us on the night.

I had two events in Chengdu, the first was a talk and Q&A session similar to the one we’d had in Kunming. The venue was an enormous bookstore called Fanguso Commune and I was amazed by the size of the audience that turned up. I described the process of making the album and performed some songs before opening up the talk to questions from the audience. The questions were extremely intelligent and it was very revealing for me to get insights from such a thoughtful audience.

The next day was the day of the concert, which was in the same venue as the talk had been. I had a long rehearsal/soundcheck with the musicians late in the afternoon and before I knew it I was once again being ushered on stage for the last show of the tour. Once again, the place was rammed.

It was a really special moment to be joined on stage with such beautiful musicians, especially since 3 out of four had played on the album. We hit a few hitches along the way which were mainly down to lack of familiarity with the pieces, but overall the performance went really well. After a brief interval myself and Jen went back on stage and performed a selection of both old and new songs together. The response from the audience was fabulous. It was extra special for me as I knew that somewhere in the audience were my friends Jenny Zeng; who supervised my residency for the British Council, Vivi Xu; who interpreted for the theatre in 2011 and showed me around Chengdu, and Lin Yaping; with whom I recorded and wrote parts for the ensemble.

It was a fabulous way to end the tour and I hope that I’ll be able to return soon. I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity to present my album to Chinese audiences and have been very humbled buy the warmth of the response.

I’d like to thank the Welsh Office of European and External Affairs, The British Council and Wales Arts International for funding this tour. I’d also like to thank Sinba Duan and Joanne Yang for organising such special events, pulling in great audiences and for looking after me and Jen so well!

Diolch. Thank you. Xie xie!

The rehearsal space at the Chengdu Associated Theatre of Performing Arts

The rehearsal space at the Chengdu Associated Theatre of Performing Arts

Rehearsing with Mr Huang and Mr Sun

Rehearsing with Mr Huang and Mr Sun

Stone carvings at Wu Hou Temple

Stone carvings at Wu Hou Temple

Street Calligraphy, People's Park

Street Calligraphy, People’s Park

Jenny Zeng playing beautiful guzheng in her gorgeous home

Jenny Zeng playing beautiful guzheng in her gorgeous home

Zhou Yunalin on pipa and Suzy Chan on guzheng at Fanguso Commune

Zhou Yunalin on pipa and Suzy Chan on guzheng at Fanguso Commune

Myself and Jen sound checking at Fanguso Commune

Myself and Jen sound-checking at Fanguso Commune

The talk at Fanguso Commune, chaired by Joanne Yang

The talk at Fanguso Commune, chaired by Joanne Yang

Teahouse, Chengdu

Teahouse, Chengdu

Talking at Fanguso Commune

Talking at Fanguso Commune

With the gang

With the gang

Suzy Chan and Zhou Yuanlin

Suzy Chan and Zhou Yuanlin

WIth the musicians

WIth the musicians

Gig at Fanguso Commune

Gig at Fanguso Commune

Gig at Fanguso Commune

Gig at Fanguso Commune