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From Mark Clague’s blog

Our final performance in China was at the beautiful concert hall of Renmin University, U-M’s Confucius Institute partner.

Preceding our program was a 30-minute prelude performance by the Renmin Chinese Youth Orchestra (below), an exceptional non-major ensemble that plays traditional Chinese instruments. Along with a moving solo guquin performance earlier in the day, Renmin offered us some of the most interesting, intriguing and informative performances of Chinese traditional music that we experienced on the trip.

For background on Sunday, May 29’s concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall, please visit U-M COMPOSERS

From May 25

We learned at the Imperial Palace in Shenyang that the left is the place of honor in Chinese culture. Begun in 1624, the palace was the original home of the Qing Dynasty emperors, who had roots in ethnic Manchurian culture. The plaques above the palace halls were thus in both Chinese and Manchurian languages, with the Manchurian text on the left — in the place of honor.

From May 23

Sunday’s early morning performance left us an afternoon for sightseeing and Beijing provides plenty of opportunities. Within walking distance of the concert venue was Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest public square and the site of both official government celebrations (such as the annual Oct. 1 anniversary of Mao’s proclamation of the People’s Republic of China) and unofficial protests. The security presence is high and officers patrol the vast, open square, some riding on Segways.

From May 22

Michael Haithcock and our student musicians soaking up some well-deserve applausePerforming at “The Egg”—China’s National Grand Theatre, otherwise known as the National Centre for the Performing Arts, proved an inspiring. It’s a coup for us to be here at all, but U-M’s alumni network in China again proved vital. Maestro Zuohuang Chen, music director of the Center’s own orchestra and a U-M alumnus, was key to getting us our 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning slot. It’s a strange time for a concert, but well worth it to play in this exciting venue!

Having played in the Symphony Band myself when I was a student at U.Michigan in the 1980s, I  wish frequently on this tour that I could perform again with the band in some of China’s stunning venues. This feeling must be even more acute for my performance colleagues who are practicing in their free periods, but only have fleeting chances to perform when we visit a conservatory.

From May 20

We’re off to the train station in Shenyang in a few minutes to travel to Beijing, but our visit to Shenyang Normal University last night was a fantastic experience. Our visit to the city coincided with the 60th anniversary celebration of Shenyang Normal University and we were honored to kick off their celebration. More than 4,000 students, faculty, and university / civic officials attended in a sports arena converted to concert hall with a stage and an increadible light set up. (Photo below: Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts)

Mark Clague is an associate professor of music at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance.