Indian Springs choir returns from China

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 9, 2002

The Chamber Choir of Indian Springs School recently took part in a real-life &uot;cultural exchange.&uot;

The nationally heralded group returned in late June after a 10-day concert trip to China.

Forty-seven students and 21 adult chaperones made the across-the-world voyage.

The choir, directed by Dr. Tim Thomas and accompanied by Alina Voicu, sang at the High School of the Central Music Conservatory in Beijing, the Great Wall of China, Xian Music Conservatory and Jiao Tong University in Xian.

Thomas said the conservatory performances were &uot;cultural exchanges&uot; in which the conservatory choir and the Indian Springs School Chamber Choir each performed separately for 45 minutes. The two choirs then sang a Chinese folk song together.

&uot;There were a few surprises. We had a couple of elaborate welcome ceremonies. When we arrived (at the Central Music Conservatory), we were given the same welcome ceremony as given to former President Bill Clinton,&uot; Thomas said.

&uot;The ceremony was complete with Chinese actors and a proclamation of our visit. It was overwhelming.&uot;

Singing in seven languages, Thomas said, the Indian Springs Chamber Choir performed the Mozart Requiem and works by Gabrieli, J.S. Bach, George Gershwin, Robert Starrer and Eric Whitacre as well as the

music of several nations including China, Germany, Norway, Spain and American spirituals.

Choir members received a favorable review by a Xian newspaper, Thomas said, and were even interviewed on national television in the country, which boasts some billion residents.

&uot;An American on our plane back said he saw the interview,&uot; Thomas said with a laugh.

As far as the concerts, he said, &uot;They went quite well. We even received an encore on our last two performances.&uot;

The Indian Springs group did some sightseeing during its Far East visit as well.

Besides a stop at the Great Wall, Thomas said the group was treated to a demonstration at a martial arts school. The students, when asked, he said, gave an impromptu performance to show their appreciation.

&uot;It was a wonderful success,&uot; he said. &uot;The students and the parents got a great deal out of the trip.&uot;

The culture was unique, Thomas said.

&uot;They are so hospitable &045; almost aggressively friendly. I tried to explain to them what Southern hospitality was about,&uot; he said.

Although still under a Communist regime, Thomas said, the country has become more westernized.

&uot;One of our Chinese escorts implied that the country is not as repressive as it once was,&uot; he said.

&uot;(The people) can even be somewhat critical of their government. Of course, it is no where near the freedom we have to speak our mind on say our president, for example.&uot;

Traveling is nothing new for the Indian Springs choir students.

The choirs have performed for national conventions of the Music Educators National Conference, the American Choral Directors Association and the National Association of Independent Schools.

The choir’s New York debut at Lincoln Center was reviewed in the New York Times as &uot;a superb production that would have done credit to any professional chorus,&uot; Thomas noted.

European tours for the groups have included a performance at the International Society for Music Education in Dijon and a combined performance in Vienna with the Vienna Boys Choir.

In preparation for their trip to China, the choir and members of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra,

directed by Thomas, performed in May. The Mozart Requiem and the premiere of The Pond by Neely Bruce, which was composed in honor of the school’s 50th anniversary, were the featured musical selections.

According to Indian Springs School statistics, 50 percent of the student body takes part in the school’s nationally recognized choir.

The school is a private day and boarding school in Indian Springs which educates some 270 students from grades eight to 12, representing eight states and six countries