The attendance at the festival to celebrate ‘Peace, Friendship and the Future’ was a great opportunity both musically and culturally for 20 young musicians from New Zealand to interact with many hundreds of young people from around the globe.
Our young people were enthusiastic, well prepared and very proud to be representing their bands and their country at an international festival, and the Beijing leg of the tour was very thrilling, hot and exciting. The accommodation was first class with amazing food and facilities.
Musically the band members were enthusiastic, trying very hard whilst in rehearsal at the NZ Embassy. They connected well with their MD Peter Adams (below right) and played maturely and musically under his excellent direction.
We had the most amazing experiences performing at the Imperial Palace in Beijing and mixing very successfully with the children and Musical Directors of the Imperial Palace.
Our group performed several passionate ‘Haka – Kamate’ and sung ‘Pokarekare Ana’, which was always well received.
The performance was repeated at the Beijing Fengtai District Children’s Palace and the band received a similar warm welcome and fellowship from the young musicians from the school.
Our day at the Dandelion School was also another day that we will remember for a very long time.
The children at this school are from some of the poorest families in Beijing. Our group responded well and was pleased to understand more about life and education in a modern China.
We had an opportunity to share music from both cultures, sharing the stage with the Music University Summer Camp students from America, and the students from the Dandelion school.
Each of the concerts in Beijing was attended by dignitaries, politicians and financial sponsors of these music schools, all very keen to share culture and the experience with us.
The music schools that we attended have up to 20,000 students enrolled to study music in all forms; many groups attend festivals throughout the world.
The Beijing experience was punctuated with sightseeing, scrumptious food and good shopping, all very exciting for young people from New Zealand.
The Tianjin Festival was a huge venture with several thousand participants from fifty five nations around the globe represented. The festival was an opportunity for the band members and management to foster and build relationships with other students and cultural groups.
Many of these groups regularly participate in Festivals throughout the world.
The band made the best of every situation and participated fully in all activities, performing well under sometimes difficult circumstances. This was a valuable performance experience for our youngsters and will equip them well for future pressure performances.
Despite the challenges, heat, tiredness, dehydration, Riki McDonnell (beow right), as our guest soloist, performed faultlessly every time and was an inspiration to the band members.
Having the guiding, steady Kevin Dell on board was also a stroke of genius!
It was valuable to have had someone who has toured the world with bands and knows about pressure and fatigue, to encourage and support the very young band that we had on tour.
The Chinese were very interested in us and keen to build relationships for the future. There is much potential with China to build on the relationships already formed and develop our musical connections.
Our hosts were very gracious, the people welcoming, friendly and very willing and proud to share their amazing country with us.
At no time did we feel unsafe. This festival and tour provided our young musicians with an opportunity that not many get to have.
At the final performance musical director Peter Adams congratulated the band on their performances and said how proud he was of the twenty young New Zealanders who made up this National Youth Band.
They rehearsed willingly and enthusiastically and strove to be as good as they could be - Riki's example here was a great inspiration - and they gave 100% in every performance.
The last two concerts at the Tianjin festival were outstanding and the band was received with great enthusiasm. The talent and musicianship of this group is huge and it was a pleasure to be associated with them.
Assistant Musical Director Kevin Dell told of one highlight in particular – that being when the producer for the opening concert in Tianjin, after hearing all the participants in rehearsal, asked the band to open the concert.
There cannot be many times when a musical group from New Zealand has been asked to open a major festival in China.
The band responded splendidly. One of the strengths of this band was its enthusiasm to do well.
Their haka when our flag was raised at the festival was also a very moving moment.
All the members, and particularly, the soloists and leaders performed well. There are some very talented young musicians who will undoubtedly take centre stage in a few years.
Principal cornet and band leader Nicholas Garrett was awarded the prizes for both ‘Best Bandperson’ and ‘Best Soloist’ for the outstanding way in which he led the band and performed as a soloist.
Evan T Sayer