As the tour draws to its conclusion we need to thank Rex Barrington for bringing this tour to fruition at long last, and for his and Dixie’s cheerful shepherding and managing while we’ve been in China. Thanks also to Kirk Larsen who taught the China culture class, and for his efforts to keep us culturally correct and informed while we’ve been here. A big thanks to Sheldon Poon, who helped so much to help set up the tour, and who took personal vacation time to travel with us and help in every way to make the tour run smoothly. It has been wonderful to have Sister Staheli with us through the tour; there is no one who has sacrificed more for BYU Singers than she. Her beautiful smile lights up the room as she interacts with the choir or listens to them sing.
Our day began with a final session of shopping at Nanjing Street, again in the pouring rain. Our luck has been consistent, but we have refused to allow it to dampen our spirits or our wallets.
The first of two concerts was at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, an important connection for BYU’s School of Music. Dean Stephen Jones has worked hard to make this concert happen. We have been glad to have him with us for much of our tour. The conservatory is for opera training rather than choral; after Singers performed, a 20-year-old baritone and a soprano sang arias; then the students acted like a chorus to sing Beethoven’s “An die Freude”. We hope this exchange established some ties that will continue between the two schools.
As the rain continued, we quickly left to drive to Changzhou for our final concert in the Phoenix Valley Cultural Centre. We drove and drove and drove…and about the time we passed road signs for Wuxi and then drove on farther than the place that had been deemed “too far to return to our Shanghai hotel” after the concert just 2 nights ago, we began to seriously doubt the sanity and kindness of whomever had scheduled this last night of tour. This part was scheduled by our China link; obviously someone who has never driven 3 hours after a full day of travel and performances with an international flight the next morning.
Despite all the hassle and inconvenience, the choir and Dr. Staheli rose above it to deliver a final wonderful performance. There was a good-sized audience there who loved the concert, though the acoustics of the hall kept the choir guessing about their response. Many favorites were sung tonight, with the last an encore of “Sing a Song”. Fitting for the occasion.
This has been a wonderful tour, and we have learned to love China and its people. Thanks to all of you who have hung on to the end with this blog!
It is always difficult to say farewell to close friends who have shared so much music and life experiences during the last 9 months; for some, this ends 4 or 5 or 6 years of singing in the choir. The added poignancy of Dr. Staheli’s retirement makes this leave-taking all the more painful. As sad as we are to see this all end, we are eager to return to our homes and the loved ones we left in the USA.
And so our tour ends, along with the close of the Staheli years with BYU Singers. This groundbreaking tour with its always-spectacular and ever-improving concerts has been a fitting end to Dr. Staheli’s BYU career. Just when I’ve thought they couldn’t perform a piece any better, they did! This year brought the definitive performances of “Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine”—a goal of Dr. Staheli’s from the year’s beginning. It has been a real validation of the combination of hard work, great spirits, and the blessings of Heaven for the entire choir and Dr. Staheli.
This has truly been a bittersweet year with the choir as they and we (the audiences) have reveled in their glorious music-making while yet marking a series of “lasts” for Dr. Staheli and the choir. Those “lasts” have been piling up faster and faster these last three weeks.
Knowing this day would come has not made it any easier; but we also know Dr. Staheli has many more productive years ahead of him. I know that I am eager to see what the next chapter will bring—both for him, and for BYU Singers with their new conductor. We are grateful to Dr. Staheli for 37 years of teaching and mentoring with BYU choirs, 31 of those years with BYU Singers.
There are 600+ alumni and countless others who know well the lyrics of “Peace Like a River”: “I have peace like a river in my soul. I’ve got love like an ocean. I have pain like an arrow. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. My peace I give to you, not as the world giveth. I have joy like a fountain in my heart.”
All of us who have sung with Dr. Staheli during his years at BYU will be forever grateful for the many lessons learned, both musical and personal. Though we have pain like an arrow right now, we ultimately have joy like a fountain in our hearts for having been part of BYU Singers—and for having BYU Singers forever a part of us.