Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tour 2013 Continues!

In Hanoi, BCC took in some wildly contrasting tours. We took a tour of the "Hanoi Hilton" where Senator John McCain spent time.  On a lighter note  we saw a traditional Water Puppet show. While it may be "lighter," it does carry cultural heft as traditional legends and historical tales are transmitted through this enchanting artistic format. It was colorful and elegant, gorgeous and lush. 

The following day, we embarked upon a 2 hour trip the Thuy An Center for Disabled Children.  About 200 local students from Hanoi also were there; they have adopted this center to help the students.  An elaborate program of performances by the disabled children and the volunteers along with BCC entertained everyone.  Many of the students from Hanoi were eager to practice their English on us, and I think some are 'liking' us on Facebook as I type :)  Then we helped deliver food and gifts to all of the children. As always the singers displayed a great dignity and captivated our hosts. 

in the afternoon we visited a very interesting museum - the Museum of Ethnology - which gives information about how the many different ethnic groups in Vietnam live.  There are over 50 different ethnicities in vietnam.  There were wonderful examples of the homes they lived in and still live in today.  That afternoon our students met their host families from Hanoi.

The following day (June 29) the singers all had nice individual experiences with their host families then we all met for lunch at the Seasons Restaurant before going to rehearsal at the beautiful Hanoi Opera House.  As you've read, the concert was sold out again and the audience was very appreciative of the show.  The MCs did a great job of interviewing Marlon, Mr. TK and our youngest singer Amechi.  

An early morning awaited us as we said farewell to Hanoi to head to the airport for Phnom Penh.  The driving is a tricky especially in a bus. We safely arrived in Phnom Penh and met Amanda from ACFEA and our tour guides.  We checked into the Phnom Penh hotel and the singers had the afternoon to swim and rest after visting the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda.  You could take photos of the beautiful buildings but not of the inside.  We had a beautiful dinner at the Bopha Restaurant, which was next to a river.  We were able to watch two traditional dancers show us a traditional dance about the growth of the lotus flower.  

Kind Words from a Host Family in Hanoi

Our family had a great time hosting Nafisa Ware and Olivia Duvall in Hanoi, Vietnam. They were true Ambassadors of Culture. We admired their professionalism, the love for music and the seriousness about their job. My kids will surely miss their new friends. 
From Nguyễn Quỳnh Trang

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hanoi Opera House Performance

A spectacular building in Hanoi played host to the Ambassadors of Harmony on June 29, as a large crowd were enthralled by the vibrant songs of BCC.

But enough of my words...Nguyet Minh Le was an audience member and said thus: "

YOU GUYS BLEW MY MIND TONIGHT ♥ ♥ ♥ :"i had just wonderful and unforgetable moments ! ! ! hearing you guys gives me the inspiration and...feelings that i can not express by words!!!! "

Not a bad job in expression, in fairness :) In addition to the old favorites such as "Rock My Soul" and "We Sing" that were sang with great gusto, the folk song from Vietnam was a big, big hit. It's especially poignant that "We Sing" was first performed in public on Boston City Hall Plaza in September and has traveled all the way to Hanoi Opera House.

The theater itself was a thing of beauty- a French neoclassic style building with a wonderful acoustic value. It's truly an honor for BCC's young singers to perform in such a space. Hats off to everyone for making this happen!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June 26: Tour

Our hosts, Tran Nhan Tong academy, organized a very special viewing of the very new show A O.  A O show is a new kind of art performance commonly acknowledged globally as "new circus".  It was a wonderful acrobatic show revealing some traditions of Vietnam through music and movement as well as connecting the audience to the modern Vietnam.  Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the performance.  

We had another wonderful lunch and then had a rehearsal in the HCM Opera House.  Mr. TK, Mr. Hires, Emma Kromm and Branden Miles were interviewed by Ho Chi Minh TV  ( about the special concert and what our experiences have been in Vietnam so far as well as why we wanted to come here to perform.  

The evening's concert was well attended and very well received, especially when we sang a Vietnamese Folk Song.  They also requested we sing Up to the Mountain since many knew we sang it at the Interfaith Service in April.  It was a wonderful evening of crossing boundaries and connecting with new friends.  Sadly we leave Ho Chi Minh in the morning for Hanoi, but we are excited to continue our Southeast Asia adventure!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

First Impressions: Tour 2013

Our travels on China Eastern went very well with everyone either watching Diary of the Wimpy Kid or getting many hours of shut eye.  Other than a 2 hour delay in Shanghai we had very easy travel.  The delay meant, however, we arrived at the Liberty Central Hotel at 3am and had to be up at 8:30am for breakfast and sight-seeing!

Our hotel, Liberty Central Hotel, is in the heart of District 5 and downtown Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City.  Though today the city is called Ho Chi Minh many people still call it Saigon.  We met our guides Ti and Man, who met us at the airport though we were too sleeply to notice and our ACFEA tour guide Robert Latimer from Australia again.  They took us to the Reunification Hall where South Vietnam surrendered to the Viet Cong, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the French built Post Office building, a Chinese pagoda, a Chinese market place and the Siagon Central Market.  There is a very large Chinese population in Vietnam and a China Town larger than San Francisco's.  The most interesting and impactful stop of the day was the War Remnants Museum which gave a very particular view of the American or Vietnam War especially through photo journalism of photos from photographers from Japan, Australia, Vietnam, and the US.  The horrors of US torture, use of Agent Orange, and the escalation of the US involvement are all portrayed very honestly.  As they say, there are 3 sides to history, the winning, the losing and the truth. Before dinner the chorus had a debrief on the very (chilling) images and information.  Many of the singers picked up on the fact that the presentation was very one sided but at the same time took away the horror of war.

However, today, Tuesday, we extended the mission of BCC of breaking down barriers using music when we visited the Organization for the Support and Education of Disadvantaged Children.  For over 39 years, two men have been giving children affected by Agent Orange and other very poor orphans the opportunity to gain an education and explore learning traditional Vietnamese music.  We were given a very nice performance of many traditional instruments by students who were blind and had other physical disabilities as well as some very spirited young marital artists.  BCC had a chance to share some of their music and get to play some of the special Vietnamese instruments.

In the afternoon, we all had the once in a life opportunity to learn about how the Viet-Cong survived the war by living in very deep tunnels dug in the ground.  Many of the singers bravely went into some very tight dirt holes in the ground and crawled 30 to 60 meters under the ground.  

So far it has been very humid and lived up to our expectations that we were going to sweat!  luckily the bus is airconditioned and fully stocked with water and these little wet napkins we use to refresh ourselves.  Driving in the bus is the most exciting thing as there are 10 million people in Saigon and 4 million motor bikes.  There are no driving rules!  Everything works organically.  Ocassionally our bus gives a big toot on the horn to work motor bikes to not come too close.  Though today at the orphanage another truck hit one of our buses and quite the argument ensued.  Our bus driver somehow confiscated the other driver's license so that he would come back with some $$ to pay for damage.  Cash is king here; no insurance.  Also, we've all got use to using Vietnamese Dong and many of us are millionaires as 500,000 dong is about $25 USD.  But the US dollar is widely accepted and one doesn't even need to change money to buy anything. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Tour 2013 Blog with Regular Updates

Tour 2013 Blog with Regular Updates

The singers are on their way to Southeast Asia! We will be documenting their progress here an also on the Southend Patch blog. Here they are leaving and looking wide awake at an early hour as they trundle towards JFK for a flight that will take them to Shanghai for a short layover, and then onto Ho Chi Minh...and then the experiences will just come rolling in! Stay tuned!