American Festival Orchestra Inner Mongolia Tour

2019.12.25 – 2020.01.02 AFO (American Festival Orchestra Tour)

Musicians of Germany, Malaysia, Uruguay, China and the USA met up on December 25, 2019 in Yinchuan, Ningxia Province for a symphony orchestra tour of several cities in Ningxia and Inner Mongolia. Many of the players comprising the orchestra are regular players in the York Symphony of York, Pennsylvania and the Yakima Symphony Orchestra of Yakima, Washington. Half of the program was traditional Chinese music and the other half was western classical favorites.

Yinchuan, Ningxia Autonomous Region, China

After a somewhat grueling first rehearsal, we enjoyed an elegant, fantastic holiday dinner together on December 25, 2019 which was hosted by the organizer and the hotel. Some members stole away back to the theater to attend the last performance of Phantom of the Opera interpreted by the Cuban National Ballet, one of many astounding unexpected pleasures.

Christmas in Ningxia, China with AFO
Holiday dinner for musicians

The first concert was held at the Yinchuan Theater, where we were warmly welcomed and the public stuck around for some pictures and interaction afterward. The second concert took place in Ningxia Theater, also in Yinchuan, which was also enthusiastically received by the public.

Holiday dinner on 2019-12-25 in Yinchuan, Ningxia Province, China with AFO American Festival Orchestra tour

Next stop was Alxa in Inner Mongolia (阿拉善盟 • ᠠᠯᠠᠱᠠ ᠠᠶᠢᠮᠠᠭ), passing through the Helan Mountains to reach the destination. Along the way, we enjoyed the landscape and passing by wild camels.

a segment of China’s Great Wall built during the Ming Dynasty along the border between Ningxia and Inner Mongolia in the southern Helan Mountains.

So far on the tour, this public was even more excited about our visit, being the first western orchestra concert ever to be held there. This, I gauged by the third standing ovation, for which we were running out of encores. It was also televised for the local schools. The organizer also mentioned that a teacher comes there (a two hour drive) from Yinchuan to teach violin classes, so it seems the need for and love of stringed instrument education certainly does reach far and wide.

Inner Mongolia – Alxa, Erdos and Baotou, China

Erdos (also written as Ordos) is a fascinating area known for Genghis Khan, its cashmere and wonderful museum.

Erdos Museum, AFO Musicians 2019.12.31

Erdos Theater by day

The concerts on such a tour are amazing, to be sure, but even more incredible are the friendships and relationships formed by doing this. Music has brought together professionals from five countries to promote friendship and music between each other, China and western countries.

One of the highlights for many of the musicians was contact with the audience after the concerts. A lot of kids and adults loved to take pictures together after the wonderful musical experience together.

Another incredible fact regarding this tour is that each orchestra player (professionals willing to spread international friendship through the language of music to far-flung places) has footed his or her own bill to reach China, while the tour organizer arranged for all of the ordinary domestic expenses such as the hotel, transportation and meals. Thus, there were some hours available for exploration and touring, which we took full advantage of!

Of course, it would not have been possible without the patience and persistence of the people leading this through to completion, such as Mary Winterfeld (Yakima Symphony Orchestra Manager and patron saint of patience), Lawrence Golan (Music Director) and Dr. Larry Lang of Fred Fox School of Music of the University of Arizona, not to mention the 60 or so talented and dedicated musicians who gave up their holidays to become musical diplomats during the coldest part of the year in China.

Pagoda climbing in Yinchuan, Ningxia Province in December, 2019
Ice biking, dragon boating, chair racing and all around fun at -14 C in Alxa, Inner Mongolia with the Helan Mountains in the distance

Like it? Share it! 🙂

If you enjoyed this blog, you’ll love our non-commercial quarterly Museletter with stories and interviews by and for string teachers around the world! Sign up (free) here >> a Museletter