Members of the Spivey Hall Tour Choir had only imagined what China is like. The recent Olympics provided a glimpse into Chinese culture. And in watching the 2008 world games, Spivey members anticipated their upcoming tour in China even more.
A recommendation from the American Choral Directors Association made the trip possible. The association contacted Harmony International, a Kennesaw-based company that coordinates international tours for performing groups. The choir has performed at American Choral Directors Association conventions in the past.
Harmony International scheduled the tour and put the choir in the air. The choir performed at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music on June 14, the Sun Village Orphanage in Beijing on June 19 and the Beijing Concert Hall the following day.
But China wasn’t the choir’s first international tour. The 50-person youth choir travels nationally and internationally to perform. To date, the choir has performed throughout the United States, as well as Sweden, Norway, England, Austria, the Czech Republic, Canada and this year — China.
Rockdale resident, Judy Mason, was delighted to learn that the choir was traveling to China. Judy is the assistant director and accompanist for the Spivey Hall Children’s Choir. Seven-year Spivey choir veteran and daughter, Katie, recalls how she felt when the choir found out about the trip. "I've wanted to go [to China] for a while... It was amazing!"
During the trip, the Spivey group not only performed, but they inundated themselves in Chinese culture. Visits to Shanghai and Beijing included The Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, a silk factory and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower.
But the trip to China was more than site-seeing and singing. On June 19th, the choir performed at a Beijing orphanage. The listening orphans were children of incarcerated parents.
"They're so happy with what they have. Even compared to what the poorest American has, they have so little," Katie said.
Judy recalls the experience as, "The most life-changing place of our tour… They are happy, beautiful children, even in their circumstances."
The following evening presented the greatest finale. The Spivey choir sung "America the Beautiful" and other musical favorites before a sold-out audience at the Beijing Concert Hall the night before heading to Atlanta. As the first verse of the famous arrangement was sung, whispers of an audience singing the lyrics along with the Spivey choir could be heard across.
Choir alto Ellen Terry and Katie’s best friend, reminisces the moment.
"The song was patriotic for us. And for so many Chinese to know it and sing it too was amazing!"
After Spivey’s performance, the audience was serenaded with vocals from the China Children’s Choir. The evening concluded with an impromptu encore of "Children Go Where I Send Thee" with both choirs.
"I had heard the [China Children’s Choir] in New York in 1993, and had kept up with them through the years," Judy recalls. "The opportunity to share the stage with this legendary group was quite an honor."
For Terry, singing as a unified choir of different cultures was rewarding.
"It’s indescribable," she remembers. "Being able to sing with the Chinese Children’s Choir was just wonderful! I wasn’t sure if I would be able to sing the song, because I was crying. The experience was moving."
Marsha Terry, mother of Ellen Terry, said about the evening: "This concert was a very special ending to a very special visit to China. I am so blessed to have been able to share it with such a wonderful group of people."
As the tour came to an end, the Spivey choir could only appreciate all that they had experienced. Together, they performed. They explored a new country and culture. They gained a new appreciation for life. Most of all, they made memories to last a lifetime.
"To be able to go on these trips with a choir that is like my family, is one of the best experiences anyone could ask for," Katie said. "I can't think of anyone I would rather go halfway across the world with."
A blog of the Spivey Hall Tour Choir’s trip to China is available at www.harmonyinternational.com/spivey-hall.htm. For more information on the choir, visit www.spiveyhall.org.