China is a country of extremes and there has not been a place on the tour where this became more apparent to me than in Wuhan. Going out through the door of our 5-star hotel was like stepping into another world. From shiny marble to cracked pavement, from the high life with cushy beds and wi-fi in a huge glass-and-steel structure into the street life with markets where live chickens are sold for 5 Yuan (80 cents). From individual, spacious rooms full of luxury to tiny little garages where whole families live, the man is welding window-frames, the kids play on the street and the woman is cooking dinner over a coal fire in an empty oil drum. The contrast could not be bigger and yet, walking through the streets of Wuhan, I get a sense of authenticity that I have not felt in the other cities we have been in. Maybe it’s because the chaos and poverty is exposed and not hidden behind concrete walls, maybe it’s because of the friendly and curious Chinese who want to have their picture taken with me.
It is 11 o’ clock on the 23rd of October and I am walking from our hotel in the outskirts of Wuhan in the direction of the Yanghtze River. Somewhere on Hanyang Avenue I should turn left into Jiangcheng Avenue. After that it is just one more right turn, after what looks like a little lake on the hotel-map and I should walk straight into tonight’s concert venue. The fact that there is no indication of street names in any language whatsoever makes this morning walk somewhat more challenging, but I manage to find my way and my fake-Rolex, souvenir from Bejing’s Pearl Market, reads exactly 12.15 when I find myself at the Qintai Concert Hall.
This is where I step out of the world of colourful Wuhan street-life and get into a pavillion of steel, concrete, glass & clean lines: the sort of cutting-edge architecture that all China’s big concert halls seem to be made of. Inside the hall it is gold and red velvet as far as the eye reaches, the contrast with the outside of the building could not be bigger. With 4 hours to spare until the rehearsal, I practise a bit, have lunch and spend the rest of the afternoon reading on a sunny terrace at Yuehu lake.
The concert goes very well. Everybody seems inspired by the great acoustics of the hall, the best one so far. The audience, scrutinized by strategic placed guards who immediately correct any misdemeanour, is loving it and ends up clapping rhythmically. They are treated to the encore of this tour, Chinese composer Yanji’s “Reflections of the moon on the Water”
In the bus on the way back to the hotel, I imagine, that in an apartment on the top floor of one of Wuhan’s highrises, someone sees the reflection of the moon in lake Yuehu.