We had SUCH a good time in Beijing! Back home now, with some serious jetlag and what feels like thousands of new memories to collate and enjoy. One in particular that really stands out in my mind was our trip to visit the National Traditional Orchestra of China. It was one of the things I was most looking forward to about the trip to China and so at 10am I was ready and raring to go despite only getting to bed at 8am (Tim and the Keane crew lads' fault as usual!). Bleary eyed we boarded the bus and sped across Beijing. If you've ever visited Beijing before you'll know that I mean 'sped' very literally. I'm pretty sure that road signs and markings are merely seen as decorations rather than something that you should take any practical notice of.
On arrival at the Chinese National Music Hall we were warmly greeted by, amongst others, Mr. Qiang Xi, who is president of the China National Orchestra. He told us that he felt that although traditional Chinese music and English Rock & Roll sound very different, the feelings and meaning are the same. I think he very eloquently explained to us something about music that we had all probably felt for a long time but never fully realised. It feels like one of the main joys and inspirations behind travelling to places like China and trying to spread the emotions and passion behind the sounds and songs of a group of English musicians with other people, is the hope that despite different cultural backgrounds, languages and societies, we can feel united about the universal love people everywhere feel for music. Maybe that makes me too much of a hippy!
After meeting Mr. Qiang Xi, we went through to the main auditorium and watched the orchestra rehearse for half an hour. There were also guest musicians from another orchestra based in the province of Xinjiang Uygur visiting, so we got an even bigger treat than we'd bargained for! The sound was incredible and we were all completely entranced by it. After a while, everyone took a break and we were invited up to explore the stage and look at all the instruments. Four members of the orchestra then asked us to come and stand by the conductor's podium as they wished to play us a piece that they had prepared specially for our visit. It was amazing! We felt deeply honoured.
Then, two of the visiting musicians joined in for a 'jam'. Although, it wasn't like the kind of jam that you'd hear coming out of the Keane studio! Everything was in tune for a start. I felt like a complete fraud for ever having had the gall to have called myself a musician! They asked if we would like to join in, so I was promptly handed an instrument that I'd never even seen before (I think it's called a 'Pipa') and made a complete fool of myself trying to play it. They then switched me to a double bass which, although more familiar to me, I still managed to make sound like it was being thrown down a long flight of stairs. Tim and Richard looked equally smug and relieved that I was taking this humiliation alone. That's what happens when you're the new boy. I still managed to enjoy myself immensely though.
After I'd finished ruining the jam session for everyone, it was time for the orchestra to get back to work so we left them to it. Needless to say, I think we departed feeling like we'd experienced something amazing. We were all brimming with a million ideas of how we could collaborate together on a song. Although, I don't think Keane will turn into a Chinese based world music act just yet!
To sign off in the same way as Mr. Qiang Xi does in the orchestra's official book;
May the world be full of peace and love forever!