The Concert Hall contains a Symphony Hall and a theatre. The Symphony Hall seats 1800 people. It is roomy enough for the largest symphony orchestras and can accommodate choirs with up to 300 singers.

We first took it in on a cool November night. Outside there was a definite buzz in the air. The Civic Centre was bathed in floodlight. Laser shows played along the facades of the 30 and 40 storey buildings lining the central axis. Cars lined up for hundreds of yards fighting for a place in the underground car parks, not the Mercedes and BMWs, which we had expected, but rather the Hondas and Buicks of the middle classes. Oh yes! It was culture time with a vengeance. We lined up in the rush through the door. A few furs the temperature had just plummeted a smidgen below 20 degrees, just enough excuse to break out the animal skins. And the odd spangle and bauble. But not too many. This was a sensible crowd.

And being Shenzhen, kids. Hundreds of them, ranging from twelve year olds down to some who seemed to be barely weaned. Yes, these were the young Mozarts who plonked out D’ye Ken John Peel in their thousands in every apartment block in Shenzhen. And by God they were going to get music.

We had been in the downstairs lobby before but this had done little to prepare us for what we were to see when we went up the escalator to the main lobby. A great space greeted us. White marble glistened, the undulations of the glass, which wrapped the front wall of the building, were emphasised by the placement of hundreds of tiny lights. The glass roof cones which we could see from the outside turned out to be supported by four enormous gold pillars from which seemed to grow, apparently randomly, like branches of giant trees, triangles of great golden girders. Above us was the outline of the Hall itself in light coloured plywood. And the crowd was buzzing.

As is so often the case in a Shenzhen crowd, we felt a little out of place. The kid factor had further reduced the average age of the crowd to well under 20. They sat there with

their proud mums and dads, be-uniformed in some cases but usually just bespectacled. The language around the hall had a decidedly northern burr. None of the agricultural accents which you so often hear around the town. And we had uncomfortable feelings that not only were we the only people over 25 without PhDs, we were the only people at all without perfect SAT scores.

As is often the case, things weren’t exactly as they had been represented. The blurb had told us that it was the La Scala Orchestra playing for the 150th anniversary of Puccini’s birth. Actually it was the China Broadcasting Orchestra with the participation of the La Scala Orchestra. But they were good. The conductor twirled, the soprano trilled, the tenor heaved his diaphragm and everybody roared approval.

Now you must appreciate that Chinese opera and Chinese theatre are different. The idea that performers are important people who should be treated with awe doesn’t really rub. They’re just one part of the fun and traditionally people chat, eat, spit and walk around during performances. Shenzhen audiences have had a reputation for following this rich tradition. Not anymore. A troupe of smartly uniformed girls applied quick justice the moment any excess chat was heard and the crowd was surprisingly docile.

An interval sadly free of bad champagne and we were back into it. We’d never heard of Nino Roca but the skinny blonde pianista played it with great passion. And then Respighi’s Pines of Rome. This was just wonderful. Trumpets and French horns appeared seemingly at random throughout the audience. Then the trilling of a bird. We couldn’t work out where this came from until we realised that there was somebody at the mighty organ. Something so small and delicate from something so gigantic. A great crescendo of percussion followed: kettledrums, gongs, cymbals and base drums and the crowd clapped and cheered.

We noticed that the program had been to four new opera houses in China’s four greatest cities, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and now Shenzhen. This venue was one worthy of the evening.

Check the website of the Shenzhen Concert Hall for the programme during your visit. Major international and Chinese orchestras perform in this world-class venue and you may have the chance of an outstanding musical experience.

Address: 2016 Fuzhong 1st Road, Futian 2016

Metro is either Shi Min Zhong Xin or Shao Nian Gong on lines 2 and 4.

Buses Nos. 25, 228, 65, 111, 71, 64, Shao Nian Gong bus stop

Library Website

Concert Hall website http: //www.shenzhenconcerthall. com Ticket hotline 0755-82841888 9.00-20.00


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