Hidden from small

2019 China: Guest Post from Principal Trumpet David Bilger

May 24, 2019

Our Orchestra travels are mainly focused on playing spectacular concerts and building relationships with musicians and audiences around the world. That doesn't mean we don’t find ways to get out and about and have some fun, sometimes as tourists, and other times in our more official roles as musical ambassadors.

On our first full day in Beijing, as few of us made a trip to the Great Wall. I had previously made that pilgrimage only once, during my first Orchestra tour to China in 1996, and I thought it was time to make sure it was still there. These guys are indeed still there, guarding the walkway to the tourist shop where we were able to purchase much needed water. Photo by David Bilger


Photo by David Bilger

Since my last visit to the Wall, the steps must have gotten much steeper—it sure seemed like much more work to climb! Photo by David Bilger

It is hard to believe there is actually a marathon that takes place on the Great Wall. Photo by David Bilger

Trumpeter Tony Prisk and violinist Julia Li posed for a photo after literally doing their own run on the wall. Photo by David Bilger

A unique addition to our performing schedule this year was our participation in the final round of the inaugural China International Music Competition. The finalists were all exceptional and we had a chance to work in depth with all three of the young piano talents. Photo by David Bilger

Yannick never passes up an opportunity to share his insights into the music with us, and sometimes he can be caught singing a phrase or two to make a point, even during rehearsal break. Photo by David Bilger

During many of my travels, Yamaha (whose trumpets I play) sets up opportunities for me to work with young musicians, and this time they arranged for some fun activities in Beijing. First was a master class at which I coached five young players, ranging in age from nine to 17 years old. This young man makes a wonderful sound on the trumpet.

Following the master class was a musical salon, which included some performing, an interview, and a question-and-answer session that went on until almost 10:30 PM. The salon was hosted by Soloist Coffee Shop, which transforms into a restaurant/bar after sundown. The room itself is decorated with found “antiques,” proving that one person’s trash is another’s treasure. I played some duets with my friend Ray, who is a member of the National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra in Beijing.

Talking trumpet and playing in that relaxed setting is always best with a tasty beverage. Photo by David Bilger

This vintage Hollywood light wasn't plugged in—I have no idea if it still works—but it added a wonderful ambiance without casting a single shadow. Photo by David Bilger

There were some technical difficulties with the sound system, which was also “vintage,” so I gave the local sound guy a chance to fix the problem by playing some jazz. The lighting seemed just right.

The only real solution to the sound problem forced us to improvise. I never expected to be working behind a bar in Beijing.