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Hawkes Bay Orchestral Society’s cultural exchange to China a success

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Hawkes Bay Orchestra

The Hawkes Bay Orchestral Society’s 10-day cultural exchange to China (April 2016) was a great success. The exchange was funded by the New Zealand China Friendship Society’s Simon Deng Li Fund

As a result of this tour, it is highly likely that a visit from a performance and arts group from Guilin Childrens’ Palace to Hawkes Bay will take place in 2017, and more school exchanges will follow.

The 26 school children and 16 adults enjoyed a huge range of experiences, largely organised by the Guilin Foreign Affairs Office. Incidentally, Guilin’s Mayor Zhou Jiabin, told us that this was the biggest cultural exchange that Guilin had hosted. 

The first event was a reception hosted by the Mayor of Guilin, attended by Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule, and included NZCFS President Dave Bromwich, NZCFS Secretary Heiko Lade, NZCFS Hawkes Bay Branch executive member Charlotte van Asch, and student representative Jessica Hope.

Mayor's welcome in Guilin. Left to Right: Heiko Lade, Shannon Warren (Principal Iona College, Hawkes Bay), Jim Poppelwell, Dave Bromwich (NZCFS President), Lawrence Yule (Mayor of Hastings District Council, Zhou Jiabin (Mayor of Guilin), Zhong Ping (Director of Guilin Education Bureau), Chen Qianghua (Director of Guilin Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office), Ding Dongdi (Secretary General of Guilin Municipal People’s Government), Charlotte van Asch, Jessica Hope and Ning Song (Deputy Director of Guilin Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office).
Mayor’s welcome in Guilin. Left to Right: Heiko Lade, Shannon Warren (Principal Iona College, Hawkes Bay), Jim Poppelwell, Dave Bromwich (NZCFS President), Lawrence Yule (Mayor of Hastings District Council, Zhou Jiabin (Mayor of Guilin), Zhong Ping (Director of Guilin Education Bureau),
Chen Qianghua (Director of Guilin Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office), Ding Dongdi (Secretary General of Guilin Municipal People’s Government), Charlotte van Asch, Jessica Hope and Ning Song (Deputy Director of Guilin Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office).

This was followed by a grand banquet with speeches and items from Chinese performing artists as well as from a small group of the Hawkes Bay musicians. This set the tone for the tour: a warm welcome at every event, and wonderful meals served up for lunches and dinner.

In Hastings’ sister-city, Guilin, the orchestra played at four different schools, where the local school children also played or danced, many in costume.  2016 is the 35th year of the Hastings-Guilin Sister City relationship, and this visit was the major activity between the two cities to commemorate the anniversary.

Rehearsal at the Children's Palace
Rehearsal at the Children’s Palace, Guilin

The Orchestra also performed in Yangshuo at the Zhang Yimou Lijiang Performing Arts School and that night everyone enjoyed their amazing night-time outdoor performance: ‘Impressions of Liu Sanjie’ by Zhang Yimou.

[Editor’s notes: Liu Sanjie is a fairy singer in the myths and legends of the Zhuang ethnic minority, and Zhang Yimou directed the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony.]

Another school visited in the Guilin area was a Vocational School where many of the group had beauty make-overs, drank tea, tried Chinese calligraphy and other activities.

By way of a river cruise on the Lijiang [River Li], the group visited the neighbouring town of Yangshuo.

Other tourism outings included a prince’s palace, a large limestone cave complex (Reed Flute Cave), both in Guilin, and market shopping.

Four days in Shanghai completed the trip, with one more school visit (Qingpu Experimental School) where, after the performance, each student was paired with a Chinese student for a session of clay hand-work and interaction.

There was a visit to a Museum and factory of traditional instruments, where a group of expert musicians of traditional instruments played both traditional and classical western music.

Qingpu Experimental School Traditional Instrument Orchestra - erhu, pipa and guzheng
Qingpu Experimental School Traditional Instrument Orchestra – erhu, pipa and guzheng

As well, a night cruise viewing the downtown Shanghai lights, acrobats show (a favourite), Buddhist temple visit, markets and downtown shopping, and yet more amazing meals.