Powerful and Moving Performance
Enthusiastic comments from Lu Wei and Anne Ofstedal, the parents of YPC choristers Christina and Dustin Lu
As the parents of a YPC chorister, we were delighted to have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the July 17, 2012 concert in Beijing. This concert, which took place in the auditorium of the Chinese Conservatory of Music, was the culminating event of YPC’s China tour. In the words of a teenage girl in the audience, the performance was “fabulous and awesome.”
Judging from the audience’s delighted response to this performance, the teenager wasn’t the only one who is a newly converted YPC fan. From the four YPC choristers who introduced sections of the concert in Chinese, to the Chinese traditional “ Boatmen’s Song,” to one of the encore numbers “New York, New York,” with its closing reference to “Beijing, Beijing,” the choristers connected with the audience members by conveying a level of artistry and feeling which, we believe, came as a surprise to many in the audience. It was truly awesome. The audience became more engaged and impressed with each piece, and by the second half of the concert, which featured forms of American music from folk songs to gospel to Broadway, the audience’s applause seemed to indicate their hope that the chorus would just keep on singing. Song by song, dance by dance, the YPC choristers, singing and moving as perfectly as we’ve ever seen them, left their audience with a rich impression of the talents and vibrant joy of American young people.
During the concert’s final numbers, many in the audience were enthusiastically clapping and cheering and by the final encore number, “Oye,” members of the audience were dancing joyfully in the aisles with YPC members. As soon as “Oye” concluded, the powerful emotional connection that the YPC choristers had forged with the audience through 90 minutes of song and movement turned into jubilant hugs, photos, and conversation as many audience members pushed toward the front of the auditorium for a chance to meet the choristers.
In contrast to many YPC concerts in New York City at which each chorus division performs perhaps 4 or 5 numbers, at the Beijing concert, it was truly awesome and fabulous to watch the Concert Chorus, Young Men’s Chorus, and Chorale perform for a solid hour and a half. The choreography was intricate and amazing and the choristers performed flawlessly. During the second half, the music, choreography, and costumes came together in a way that was truly transporting. The power of the gospel songs, the girls’ white parasols in “Beautiful Dreamer,” and the connection with the audience during the familiar and moving “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” really cast a spell.
For us, this concert was also a reminder that we as “veteran” YPC parents are blessed, if not downright spoiled, by the artistry that we enjoy at YPC concerts year in and year out. At home in New York, we always look forward with anticipation to the next YPC concert; last night’s concert in Beijing was a reminder that what for us is another in a series of highly awaited performances was, for the audience in China, a once-in-a-lifetime event, and judging from its response, eye-opening, moving, and memorable. In New York, how lucky are we that there’s always the next YPC concert to look forward to?
Especially in China, where education from primary school through high school is an endless pressure cooker of test prep and exams and there are few opportunities for students to engage intensively in the arts, the commitment of our choristers to achieving a high level of artistry sends many positive messages. After the concert, we spoke with an audience member who introduced himself as a university instructor who plans to begin his doctoral studies at Harvard this fall. First, he asked me how these university students, who were certainly all majoring in music, got involved in YPC, and was astonished when we informed him that the YPC members were not in college, but are high school students, and that YPC offers opportunities for students as young as 7 years of age. His next question reflected the Chinese context of grueling pressure and endless hours of study, especially for high school students: “Does participating in YPC give the students an advantage when applying to university?” His question could be rephrased as “In the long run, what’s in it for them? What’s the rationale? How does this pay off?” He was astonished to learn that while every YPC member does go on to attend college, the benefits of participating in YPC are for the most part unquantifiable and intangible, at least in terms of the ways Chinese society measures its high school students. How does one measure the impact of learning music in so many genres and languages? How does one calculate the value of knowing to show up at rehearsals on time and work hard? How do we measure the ability to cooperate with others, to be challenged by demanding music and choreography and by conductors and staff with the highest of expectations? And finally, how does one value the friendships and bonds with other choristers from every corner of New York City? To most high school students in China, such options simply don’t exist, and the concept that students might both perform well academically and participate in an organization such as YPC are all but unimaginable.
With sincere thanks to Francisco, Sophia, Nancy, Jon, Lindsay, Johnny, Sheldon, Kerry, and the entire YPC team.