A mom of one of the musicians apparently annoyed her daughter with requests to send home details of what she was eating. So she took one cell phone picture of a plate of rice and sent it every day.
After the Tianjin concert there were groupies at the stage entrance. They swarmed around Mr. Mitchell for autographs and pictures and did the same with two of the Chinese American musicians, startling them as they made their way to the bus. No worry about big heads, though. The musicians were given a proper hard time by their bus mates when they boarded.
Squat toilets in public rest rooms may have posed a problem for some, but one girl was very pleased with herself for getting the hang of it. She said, “ I even took a selfie.”
Averted disaster list: A discovery of a broken bass an hour before concert time: a replacement was found. The required black shoes left in a backpack in the hotel: a taxi ride to the hotel and back by accompanying parent. A violinist forgot a bow: replacement provided. A ring that was left on a restroom counter in a restaurant: returned to owner by a restaurant employee. The concertmaster’s E string broke at the end of the 3rd movement of Tchaik 4 and he played the rest and the encore on the A string.
There was a giant neon billboard advertising the concert, and featuring Mr. Mitchell’s professional photo, on the concert hall wall in Shanghai. Mr. Mitchell stood on the sidewalk taking it in with some of the parents. He refused the request to have us take his picture next to it, but said, “Wow. My mom would love this.”
One of the dads, self-described as a Type A guy, went running early one morning in Shanghai. When he tried to find his way back to the hotel, he found that street names on Google Maps to be an unreliable resource. Then it started to rain and he couldn’t see with or without his glasses. Finally, he found an app on Apple to guide him. Over the hotel breakfast he said he had never felt so totally lost in his life, without guideposts or resources or language.
For some reason there was an emcee at the Shanghai concert whose extended lectures apparently included program notes, but also seemed to instruct the audience on how to behave. Unfortunately, this included his taking the stage after the encore and ending the audience’s warm and enthusiastic response rather too abruptly. He seemed to be saying, you’ve been a good audience. Go home now.
What wonderful tour guides! Above and beyond the departing of knowledge, they shared details of their own lives, startling us with their openness and candor. You can say anything you like now in China, they said. You only will get in trouble if you publish something critical of the government. We are not happy, they said, but we are optimistic, especially about the present leader. They laugh at their childhood textbooks which taught: America is paper tiger, British are running dogs. They are proud of their country but aware of the mistakes. They want more democracy. We found this openness everywhere we went, too. Many of us were stopped on the street for a friendly greeting in English or request to take a photo. What a wonderful surprise.
The bus drivers in the crazy traffic where lane markings are ignored and rules non-existent: they drive a tour bus as if it were a motor scooter. Our eyes were popping and mouths dropped open like the painting “The Scream”, but we arrived in one piece every time. The saying is: Green light: go. Red light: go carefully.
Brett Mitchell’s speech to the kids at the closing banquet: no parent had a dry eye. The man is a treasure and we all know it. We are so grateful that our kids were able to have him in their lives.
The tour organizers, the staff, the chaperones: well done, well done. The experience of a lifetime.
The kids. Pitching cherry tomatoes into a water glass. Goofing around on the bus. Then going into dressing rooms and emerging transformed into professional musicians. Four concerts in eight days, playing their hearts out, gorgeous music, finding all that energy after full days of touring. The audiences would not let them go, clapping in unison for bow after bow. When they played their Flower Drum Song encore, the whole audience reacted with joy, smiling at each other and laughing. The love was palpable. So was ours.