CHINA 2012 part three!
Saturday, November 24th
As to the concerts themselves: our opening show was in Tianjin, a port city of 10 million near Beijing. The hall was a little cold and funky, the tech set-up minimal, an audience of perhaps 600. They were polite and restrained pretty much till the end, when they opened up in loud cheering and effusive applause. Ensemble Español is a very good looking group that really knows how to perform. They just seem to overcome the less-than-ideal conditions and pull off great shows, night after night. Its definitely a case where the sum is greater than the parts.
Then it was on to Hainan Island, a 5 hour plane flight. China Air fed us well (as they did on every domestic flight over the next 10 days). Twice. We are in a gorgeous, totally state-of-the-art theater even if the local sound techs seem…well, a little challenged. They walk around with cordless mics and shout through the PA whenever an opportunity arises. We completed 2 shows: each had a house of around 1100; enthusiastic, mostly young, many seeing flamenco for the first time.
A curious side note is: they often have a really upbeat, bouncy, pert young girl in the wings (with a powerful cordless mic, of course), who shouts joyously at the audience between numbers. I glanced over and saw her dancing wildly during our actual performance. Talks a mile-a-minute, I have no idea what she’s saying.
Tonight’s scheduled concert was completely usurped by the newly elected (appointed?) Communist regime in China. They apparently decided, last minute, to have some sort of meeting in the concert hall. We were informed minutes before last evening’s concert. So, we have a day off. And, it is cool and rainy.
Paco Fonta (guitarist, singer), Zoran (violinist), and I rehearsed the music, set some new stuff then joined Mick (percussionist) and set off in search of fresh adventures. We eventually found ourselves at an upscale coffee house with a charming outdoor terrace. After great difficulty in communicating, I finally got a fancy espresso drink for a lot of money. I went to pay with a large bill. Two minutes later, the waitress came to our table and gave me back my 100 yuan note. Curious! Then the owners appeared, a smartly dressed couple, and proceeded to hook us up in really royal fashion: a large brass pot contraption, with a sterno-burner heating the pot which was filled with water…pot had a spigot…connected through elaborate (and archaic?) brass tubing to a glass retort (think chemistry class) full of lovely, finely powdered coffee. As the water heated, the vapor passed through the tubing and condensed in the retort, eventually filling it with coffee. The additional weight caused the retort to tilt and the coffee flowed back to the brass pot. They then opened the spigot and filled our fancy demi-tasses with delicious coffee, a cross between espresso and turkish. This was accompanied by an immense tray of fresh fruits, all pealed and sliced into charming geometric shapes.
Cameras appeared, photos were taken. We realized that they thought we were some type of famous celebrities. We finally left, after effusive hand shaking, bowing, and exchange of website info and emails. An absolutely delightful afternoon!