Monday, March 19, 2007

A Weekend in Beijing

This past weekend I had the opportunity to take my first flight across China completely on my own. Eckerd College's Choir group is touring China this week to participate in 4 perforamces over 10 days. One of my closest friends, Rebecca, was on the trip and worked out a way for me to hop up and visit for the weekend. I'm going to add more from my visit to Beijing once Becca emails me pictures, but in the meantime, here's an article I just finished for Common Talk based on my trip.

Tianjin Cultural Exchange
Jesse Johnson
March 19, 2007


An exciting and important cultural exchange took place in the northern city of Tianjin on March 17th. It involved a meeting between Tianjin University students and students from Eckerd College, a university located in the southern United States. The communication breakthrough came through a language that is universal to all people of all nations: music. Tianjin University invited Eckerd College's vocal choir to help kick off the opening ceremony for their 22nd Culture and Art Festival.

Eckerd College brought over 70 choir members and faculty to share the spotlight as honorary guests to China. They traveled from the university's campus in the state of Florida to take part in the event.

Featuring not only their talented vocal choir, Eckerd also boasts a unique musical team of ringers. The Eckerd Ringers are equipped and trained with special bells. Each bell rings in a very specific musical note, allowing the team of ¡°ringers¡± to perform some very intricate and pleasing musical tunes. With 56 bells total, this is certainly no simple task. As the ringers team is only a small portion of Eckerd's full choir, each ringer must be able to quickly move between multiple bells, as each of the ringers are responsible for specific sets of bells.

While all of the performances during the opening ceremony were of the highest quality, it was the Eckerd Ringers¡¯ performances that received the most enthusiastic response from the crowd in attendance. One Tianjin University student explained, "The bells are amazing. I've never seen anything like this before."

Learning new practices and ideas from one another is certainly the hope of any such international exchange. The American students were equally impressed by the performance of their Tianjin University peers. Tianjin's choir wowed the audience by exhibiting a very diverse set of songs. Each song managed to stand on its own as unique and memorable in their own right.

The Americans especially noted a beautiful solo by one of Tianjin's female vocalists. Dressed in a traditional white dress, she stepped to the front of the stage and took control of the room. All eyes (and ears) were on her as she sang.

Another unique aspect the US students appreciated was from Tianjin's final song. In a wild frenzy of an ending, the chorus soared, while a large drum clapped like thunder, leaving only silence in its wake. From the silence came the choir singing softly and using the snapping of their fingers to mimic a pleasant spring rainfall.

Despite their campuses being thousands of miles apart, Tianjin and Eckerd both share special stories linking the schools to Xiamen. One of Tianjin¡¯s choir boys grew up in Quan Zhou and has fond memories of Fujian Province. He loves Xiamen and would've loved attending XiaDa for schooling if he wasn't so intent on moving far from home to gain his independence. Tianjin's choir actually traveled to Xiamen just last year to attend a national music contest hosted in the city. The students of Tianjin refer to Xiamen in positive terms, not only for the city's natural splendor, but also because the school had good fortune at the contest, taking two awards home to Tianjin.

Eckerd College is currently working in a close relationship with Xiamen University, as the school has sent 12 students to study and live together on XiaDa's campus for the first time ever. Students from Eckerd have been living in Xiamen since February and will stay to finish their semester until May. "I never want to leave," says Eckerd College student Chas Macneil, referring to Xiamen's overall beauty.

Mr. Macneil may be on to something. It is stories like the interactions that were shared on March 17th in Tianjin that go to show how wonderful it is to discover the beauty each of us have, from east to west.


Big sister said...

Sounds like they're keeping you busy over there, Jess. I'd love to have a hard copy of the paper you're writing for, especially the one where you interview the Italian mayor. Sure do miss you! Take care. I love you! XO XO XO

Dad said...

Hi Jess, I just caught the Rolling Stone article you posted. I read it , yes it is sad but true, who do you believe in the media. The world is spining, and so is the media. Love Dad

Big Sister said...

What Rolling Stone article?