Part 3: Ugh, War

I’m beginning to believe it’s characteristic of the Chinese culture to rush to implement something without thinking it through and then realize there is a lack of support for it. These last few days have been the classic example.

The push to have the off-stage chorus up and running had brought us to a Monday-evening rehearsal, exactly one day after the decision to even have an off-stage chorus. I was impressed because I was expecting to have a hand-selected group that was ready to jump in and learn the music. I was entirely wrong. The quick move was to call an audition for that evening. I was left out of that loop so I arrived at rehearsal planning on working on singing skills with the cast. Instead, an audition took place right in front of the current cast’s eyes. The cast was looking on terrified as they thought they would be fighting with the auditionees to keep their parts (which was not the case). How’s that to break the cast’s confidence? Not only do I tell them I’m bringing in backup but then Mr. Liu, the Pippin music director, auditions people right in front of them.

Then, to my absolute horror, I heard the auditionees. They were as bad as my worst singers in the current cast. Where did we find these forty students? Weren’t these singers supposed to be such good singers that they would be a quick boost to the music in the show? No, I was informed that these singers were taken from the Singing Contest website (i.e. not classically trained singers that can read music and hold their part). Bad call, whoever dreamed up that one. The Singing Contest is like a gigantically bad and over publicized, elementary school talent show.

Before I knew it, Mr. Liu proceeded to pick 15 from the group for the off-stage chorus. The next day, I objected to bringing these non-trained singers aboard since our purpose was to raise the quality of singing. Mr. Liu countered that Ms. Jiao, the choral teacher and head of the arts department, was being difficult by blocking any access to the higher-trained singers. So, what to do?

I had a late night meeting with Mr. Liu where we discussed “where do we go from here?” We determined that we weren’t going anywhere by getting trained choral singers. We wanted belters that felt the groove of the music. That was all good and well until tonight where the adminstrative support fell through with only 11 of 20 off-stage chorus members showing up for rehearsal and Ms. Jiao taking back some of the students she had sent off to work with us.

Just when I think I’ve layed it down, straightened things out, and made sure everybody was on board, something goes haywire. I guess that’s what I get for not sticking to the cast (like I had an option…). It’s going around in circles, and I am working to bring this saga to an end soon.