Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Temple of Heaven -David Wedeking

Temple of Heaven
(The blogspot website was not accessible while theWind Ensemble was in China from the 28th of April to the 6th of May, but the group had a successful, educational and eye-opening tour of China and have now safely arrived in Tokyo Japan. The blog posts from their time in China are currently being uploaded since access to the website has been restored and the blog will be completely up to date in the next 48 hours. Thank you!           

Located in central Beijing and completed in 1420, the Temple of Heaven was visited by past Emperors for annual ceremonies in which they would pray to Heaven for a good harvest.  This was known as “Heaven worship,” though the temple is now regarded as Taoist.  The temple itself took 14 years to build, occurring during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, the same Emperor who is known for building the Forbidden City (also in Beijing).  It has since been expanded and three other temples also exist on the grounds: the Temple of Sun, the Temple of Earth, and the Temple of Moon.  More recently, in 1914, the President of the Republic of China performed a ceremony at the temple, hoping it would help him in being declared the Emperor of China.  Four years later, in 1918, the temple was turned into a park and was, for the first time, open to the public.  In 1998, the temple was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its spectacular architecture and ancient importance in what is a very prominent country.
            The temple itself is filled with symbolism with many representations of the connection between Earth and Heaven, Earth being represented by a square and Heaven a circle.  The complex that the temple is located in is surrounded by two sections of wall: the taller, semi-circular northern end represents Heaven and the shorter rectangular southern end represents Earth.  The number nine is also very prevalent in the complex as it represents the Emperor.  For example, the Circular Mound Altar located in the grounds is a single round place with 9 plates around it, which is then surrounded by 18 plates.  This pattern continues for 9 rings with the outermost ring containing 81 plates.  The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests which is also located on the grounds along with the Circular Mound Altar are circular in nature and stand on a square yard—another connection between Heaven and Earth.
The Temple of Heaven was a great experience.  Upon first walking into the complex, many of us noted a Geisha who I believe was having a photo shoot.  We were told before the trip that seeing one is very rare, so it was exciting.  I was unable to get a picture of her as we were on our way to the temple itself.  Once we entered the area housing the temple, the symbolism I had noted in my research became very apparent.  The number nine was referenced many times throughout the temple grounds symbolizing the emperor, and the design of a circle and square (representing heaven and earth, respectively) was also very present.  The main structure, where the emperor would come to pray for a good harvest, was extremely large and can be seen in this picture. 
Interestingly, it was built without the use of nails!  This was done to reduce the weight of the structure as well as to prevent the eventual rusting of them which would be detrimental to the strength of the building.  The building is held up by the specific placement of wooden beams.  There are three other temples on the premises, each with their own purpose.
                Outside the complex, it was also interesting to see the community life taking place.  It was just as crowded in the walkways leading to the temple as it was on the temple grounds.  Many people could be seen playing cards – some more animated than others!  There was also a couple playing hacky sack as we walked by, and they were very skillful!  What also struck me about the walkway was how intricate the designs were.  I was not surprised to find this level of detail in the temple, but the attention to it even outside the holy area was impressive.
- David Wedeking

Beijing Zoo- Aren Elizabeth Souhrada

Historical Background:

Situated in the Xicheng District, it was the first of its kind to be opened in China. The Beijing Zoo sits on the most beautiful land in China. It is so attractive that it was set aside by lords and emperors to be used as parks on their estate. In 1906 the land was converted into an experimental farm and zoo, which was called the Garden of Ten Thousand Animals. The zoo opened to the public for the first time in 1908. But the zoo suffered greatly in periods of war and unrest, and by 1937, most of the animals had died.  Under the successive rule of the Northern Warlords, the Japanese and the Kuomintang, the park became increasingly desolate. The only elephant died in 1937, and the Japanese, under the pretext of protecting themselves against air raids, poisoned the remaining lions, tigers and leopards. On the eve of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the park housed only 12 monkeys, two parrots and a blind emu. After 1949, the zoo was rebuilt and was again opened to the public in 1950. It was later given the simple but descriptive name, The Beijing Zoo, in 1955.

The Beijing Zoo is home to around 450 different species and has a population of some 5,000 animals. Some of the most popular attractions among visitors are the wild and rare animals of China itself, like the giant pandas, golden monkeys, native deer and northeast tigers. But the collection is far from limited to those species found only in the People's Republic of China; the polar bears, American bison, zebras, kangaroos, giraffes and elephants attract visitors as well.

The Beijing Zoo is composed of 16 different exhibition areas and halls. One of the most popular of these is the Panda Hall. Built in 1989 and covering an area of around 10,000 square meters (2.5 acres), it delivers a remarkable artistic scene for such remarkable creatures. Inside the hall replicates the style of traditional Chinese gardens and is shaped in the pattern of a Tai Chi diagram.

Another famous hall is the Gorilla Hall. It was constructed two years prior to the Panda Hall in 1987. The building houses a series of artificial mounds and wooden apparatus for the animals which sit against a backdrop of attractive gorilla murals. Rooms presented for the gorillas include a medical room, a mating room and a specialist feeding room. The hall itself is decorated by a series of gardens and pools. All of its halls and exhibition areas are built to ensure that the animals enjoy a both comfortable and healthy living environment.

 Also the Beijing Aquarium is another important part of the Beijing Zoo. It has been open since 1999 and is the largest inland aquarium in the world. The aquarium features thousands of different aquatic species - man-eating fish, precious Chinese sturgeons, huge sea elephants and fierce sharks are among some of the highlights. Tourists can enjoy shows performed by the dolphins, sea lions and whales in the aquarium's Ocean Theater.

 Visitors also have the chance to sample some the nearby historical ruins: Lemarck Hall was built to commemorate the life of Lemarck (1744-1829), a famous French natural historian, and has also been used as the Chinese Botanical Science Research Base. Also on the site is the Song Jiaoren Memorial Tower. Song (1882-1913) was one of the early leaders of the Kuomintang, but was assassinated soon after he was elected as China's premier in 1913.

Another site of historical interest is the Changguanlou: a two storied, baroque-style building constructed from brick and wood. In the late-19th century it was occupied by the Empress Dowager Ci Xi (1835-1908), ruler of the Qing court between 1861 and 1908. Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), the founder of the Kuomintang, is also said to have lived in the hall.

Animal Exhibits:

The zoo has developed quickly and by 1987 it covers an area of over 40,000 square meters. Bears, elephants, pandas, lions, tigers, songbirds, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, antelopes and giraffes were brought in the late 1950s, and a gorilla cage, leaf-monkey cage and the aquarium house, were opened, containing specimens of over 100 species of reptiles from all over the world, including crocodiles and pythons.

At present, the zoo houses over 7,000 creatures of 600 different species, including the giant panda, red-crowned crane and Pere David's deer-all unique to China-as well as the African giraffe, rhinoceros, chimpanzee and antelope; American continent; wild ox from Europe; and elephant and gibbon from India.

April 30, 2013

So we just got back from the Zoo this was so fantastic! It is probably the biggest zoo I have ever been to in my whole life.  Before I actually go into what the Beijing Zoo was like the day we went was also the Chinese national Labor Day weekend. So the Chinese had three days off of work. So as you can imagine the Zoo was completely packed with people. Our tour guide Michael told us we needed to stick together like sticky rice. Now I will get started on the real deal.  The first stop we made as a group and the longest stop was Giant Panda exhibit. The Panda’s weren’t really lively they mostly wanted to sleep or eat. I would do that too if I was locked up in a cage. Some of the weren’t even on display that day either.

After we had finished going through the Panda exhibit inside and outside we were allowed to go out on our own for about an hour. So Catherine, Stephanie, and Chelsea and I went off on our adventure of the Beijing Zoo. We really didn’t have a clue where we wanted to go right away but then they said the five words that just made my night complete. “Let’s go find the elephants.” So we went searching for the elephants, let me tell you that was work in itself. It actually took us about 45 minutes or less to actually get to the elephant display. On our way we saw hippos, lamas, and a monkey. So when we finally made it to the elephant display it was hard to tell that it was for the elephants until you saw the sign. The only part of the elephant display I actually got to enjoy was looking at the elephant from behind. The elephants weren’t very photogenic today. But I was still happy because I got to see my favorite animal of all time whether it was a good view or not.

So seeing the elephant and the Giant Panda were actually the highlights of the Beijing Zoo. But there was one thing that struck me as strange. In China apparently public urination is okay. It isn’t uncommon I guess to see just see a little child squatting down and going to the bathroom either on the side walk or off in the grass. Some parents won’t even put diapers or underwear on their kids. I was so shocked they actually make baby pants with no zipper just a slit in the front and the back so it is easy for them to either pee or poop. Which as you might imagine caused some areas to smell like urine. That is definitely one thing that I noticed right away. Other than that I thought the Beijing Zoo was a fantastic place and if I can ever come back I wouldn’t mind visiting it again.

www.china.org.cn, www.tripadvisor.com, www.chinahighlights.com, www.travelchinaguide.com, and www.ebeijing.gov.cn

Hutong Neighborhoods - Beijing -Ben Harting

Hutongs are a type of narrow streets or alleys, most commonly associated with Beijing, China.  In Beijing, hutongs are alleys formed by lines of siheyuan, traditional courtyard residences.  Many neighborhoods were formed by joining one siheyuan to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another.

Since the mid-20th century, the number of hutong neighborhoods in Beijing has dropped dramatically because they are being demolished to make space for wider roads and new buildings. More recently, some hutongs have been designated as protected areas in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history.  Approximately one million people still live in hutongs in Beijing.

The term “hutong” first appeared during the Yuan Dynasty to describe the residential areas of Beijing.  The residential areas of Beijing were originally organized by social class.  The wealthy/upper class lived in an area together while the working/lower class lived in other areas.  When these courtyard residences first appeared, they were very organized.  At the beginning of the 20th century (the end of China’s dynastic era), the formerly organized hutongs were neglected and became rundown while new hutongs appeared seemingly haphazardly constructed.  Hutongs have now become a part of Beijing’s history.

The way we accessed the hutong neighborhood was via rickshaw.  It was amazing the way the rickshaw drivers were able to navigate through the chaos.  There were cars and people everywhere in the narrow streets, but we managed to make it unharmed thanks to our wonderful rickshaw driver.  The hutong we visited was like new.  There were workers repairing and fixing the walls and adding fresh coats of paint to the wooden window panels.  This is not necessarily typical of all hutongs, but this particular hutong is used for tourists, so it is well cared for. 
Rickshaw Ride

Walking down the narrow street to the courtyard

The family that occupied the hutong came from a long line of calligraphers.  It was fun to watch one of the men work on the calligraphy and also see many of his finished products.  One of the women of the family explained to us the traditional living situation in the hutong: the northern building was reserved for the older members of the family because it is cool in the summer and warm in the winter; the other males of the family lived in the eastern building because they symbolize hope for the family; the females lived in the eastern building; and the slaves lived in the southern building because it was hot in the summer and cold in the winter.  This was something that I found important because it shows the respect and importance the family places on their elderly and ancestors, and it also reminded me that this culture has traditionally valued male children over females.

 Resident Calligrapher

 Hutong Courtyard

I think it would be very interesting to live in a hutong neighborhood.  Our culture tends to value our personal space a lot, but there is very little room for personal space with all the buildings so close.  The courtyard in the middle of the buildings was a nice outdoor space, but it still didn’t offer a lot of extra space.  The rickshaws were a lot of fun, and I thought it was kind of intriguing that there was a point in which it was impossible to even ride a rickshaw through the narrow streets.  I would be interested in visiting a hutong that was not “prepared” for tourists to see the differences (if any).  The ones that I have seen from a distance riding the bus seem to be more run-down.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The wind ensemble has arrived safely to China! They were so great on the 13 hour flight that the pilot gave them a shout out.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

And we're off! -Stephanie Reinert

Today is our last day in the United States!

This morning several small ensembles played at local church services. My clarinet quartet group played at St. Marcelline Catholic Church in Schaumberg. It was great to play music other than our concert pieces, and the congregation was excited to have us there. I enjoyed talking to some of the ladies after Mass.

Around noon we headed to the home of Jason Brescia. Jason will be a freshman at Wartburg in the fall, and he (and his family) graciously provided us with a meal at their home. We hung out at his home until supper time, when we ate pizza as a group. Thank you, Brescia family, for your hospitality! It was the perfect way to spend our Sunday! We had a great time!

Levi and Jason (our host)

Mollie, Nicole, and Alex

As I write this, we are sitting in O'Hare International Airport waiting to board our plane. Our flight leaves at 9:30 pm and lasts 14 hours, so we will arrive in Beijing, China around 11:30 pm. I am anxious about this plane ride, because 14 hours is a LONG trip! However, I am excited to step off the plane and discover the culture of China. I'm ready to share our music with the Chinese people, and I can't wait to see their reactions to Dr. Wachmann's solo piece, Black Dog. I am most looking forward to our concert on the Great Wall and our visit to Hiroshima.

We will not be able to post on the blog while we are in China, but we will be posting updates around May 7. Be sure to check in at that time to catch up on our China trip.

Stephanie Reinert

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Our Last Full Day in the Grand USA -Kamryn Kronschnabel

(Apparently there’s no public Wi-Fi available at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church here in Schaumburg, IL, so this blog post is up a little late. Whoops.)
Today, we got to sleep in for a little longer than normal because we only had to ride the bus for a little while this morning. Our drive was moderately boring.
Just kidding! Brittany Manning and Katie Aldrich serenaded everyone, assisted by Freddie Mercury. It’s one of the many tour-related traditions that has happened during this trip so far.

We rode on the bus for only an hour, from Naperville to Schaumburg. When we got there, we immediately went to a nature trail in a park to stretch our legs and breathe in some fresh air – we’ve been told we’ll miss that in Beijing. There was a cabin, a small lake with a large dock, and (somewhere off the beaten path) a “heritage farm.” Afterwards, we took a trip to a nearby mall, intending to buy some of the last-minute items we’d discovered we needed. Not everyone found what they were looking for, but it seemed like everyone had a good time as a whole.

Finally, we departed again for the Friendship Village of Schaumburg. Acoustically, the room of our rehearsal and performance was perfect. Jason Brescia (who will join the WCCB as a first-year in the fall) met us there, and many of us were very excited to see him again. Since it was a Saturday and there were no students available to hold any kind of clinic, we only had a short rehearsal to help us focus on the music we were playing that evening. After Doc seemed satisfied with our practicing, students who had been nominated for WE President-Elect and Secretary were encouraged to come forward and give short speeches; voting is supposed to be on Sunday, before we leave the country. Then, we went to the Prince of Peace Church, where we ate dinner and stored our luggage. After quickly getting dressed, we took the bus back to Friendship Village again, where we prepared for the concert.
 Out of all the audiences we’ve played for so far, I think this one may have been my favorite. The people had wonderful reactions to our playing and to Doc’s introductions for our pieces. When he said that we were going to China, the collective gasp that we heard in the room was enormous; Jason mentioned to me later that the residents couldn’t stop staring at our Japanese taiko-drums with huge eyes during “Yagi-Bushi.” They were very quick to applaud all of our pieces, and they all had a genuinely good time. It was also a great surprise to see some alumni there to hear us play, and everyone said we put on a fantastic performance.

If I didn’t know it to be a fact, I wouldn’t have any idea how this trip could possibly get any better. It was unbelievably refreshing to perform for an audience so eager to show us their praise; even during our rehearsal early in the afternoon, an elderly man named Fred had seen our bus pull up outside and was so excited that he came down to hear us practice for a short while. It makes me wonder how the audiences in China and Japan will react – are they going to be more reserved in their applause, or will they be even quicker to get on their feet? I suppose we’ll find that out soon enough, because ready or not, we’re leaving the US in less than 24 hours. As fun as pre-tour has been, it has also been exhausting and gone past in the blink of an eye. Our last clinic feels like it was a week ago already, and it makes the remaining hours pass by even more slowly for most of us.

We’re going to China? And Japan? Bring it. The Wind Ensemble is definitely ready for this.
Kamryn Kronschnabel


A huge shout-out needs to go out to Jason. He made practically everything happen for us this whole day: his school loaned us instruments, he and his family made us dinner, and he had done all of the work to make sure we had a place to perform and – just as importantly – a place to sleep! This thank you also extends to his entire family for being so hospitable and helpful to everyone in the Wind Ensemble over these past few days. In case he’s reading this right now, we appreciate it more than we can say and are super excited that you’ll be an official member of the WCCB family soon. Arigato!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Romeo and Joliet?-Alex Bokemper

Alex Bokemper

Imagine seeing this every morning! This is Sarah White and Joe Amsberry on the bus headed to Joliet, IL. I decided that it would be something to brighten your day since I don't have any pictures of Joliet or Naperville themselves because I never had the chance to take out my camera. :)

Anyway, today we are in Joliet and Naperville, IL. Joliet is home to Hufford Junior High school, where the first school band originated. It's crazy to think that there was a time when there was no band in school! From what I remember, they are celebrating their hundredth anniversary this year. We got to Hufford Junior High school around lunchtime and met up with Wartburg alum Laura Jelinek. She was wonderful (although, I must say I'm a little biased because she is also a flute player which is obviously the best instrument). I always love working with younger students. When I imagine what I would have felt like if I were in their position, I feel honored to help them get better at their instrument. Even more than that, to stick with it through college and through the rest of their lives.

We were not in Joliet for very long so it's on to Naperville! We arrived at St. Timothy Lutheran Church at around 2:00. Set-up and loading went fairly smoothly (I'm loading chief so that's important to me). However, we soon realized that the church didn't have any music stands. In order to understand the performance space, we ended up playing some scales during rehearsal. Eventually Doc decided that we could play with the music on the floor. Our sound wasn't as good, but we got a decent idea of what we were going to be faced with acoustically. It was a very "live" space. In case you're a parent of a band kid or a random person that stumbled upon this blog, that means it had an echo, which means it is harder to play together, and the loud dynamics get ten times louder. It's difficult to play in, but I've always loved a challenge.

The concert went pretty well. Doc talked a lot, but he always does, and he talked about our traditions this time, something I don't think I've ever heard him talk about during a concert other than singing at the end. It brought a smile to my face thinking about all of the crazy traditions the flutes have (The Spoon, tie-dye, tattoos, hugs and tinks, etc.). I know most of you don't know what any of those are, but if you're a current or former Wartburg flute player you'll know, and it will make you smile too. We are a family after all, and I have come to realize that is ever more prevalent during tour. I can't wait to see how our family grows closer over the next few weeks.

At this point, it is 10:58, which means there are less than 48 hours until we depart for Beijing, China! I'm so excited! I'm also very impatient, I just want to get there already! However, getting to interact with the Hufford Junior High students, or hearing Doc talk about all of our traditions, makes me realize how important Pre-Tour is. It's not just about practice. Sure, everything is practice, and we do need the practice, but we get the amazing opportunity to teach someone something about their instrument, or music, or even college that they didn't know before, and they will teach us as well. 

Now, I have no intentions of being a teacher, let alone a music teacher, (I want to be a graphic designer) so these types of opportunities are few and far between for me. So, I plan on cherishing every second I have with those students. They're amazing, talented people, and are so grateful for the opportunity that we are sharing with them. It's times like these where I think that maybe I can make a difference in the world, or maybe I already have.

Alex Bokemper

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Back in Iowa. Wait, did we not just leave here? - Garrett Heidenreich

Early this morning, the members of the Wind Ensemble returned to Morrison High School in Morrison, Illinois for a joint rehearsal session with the members of the Morrison High School Band. The rehearsal session was to allow both bands to spend time together and learn from each other. The Wind Ensemble played along with Morrison on one of their pieces, and they joined us on one of our pieces. The time spent with the other band was loads of fun, and was very informational.

After we finished up in Morrison, we loaded up the bus and vans to head back into Iowa to Clarence to spend an afternoon at North Cedar Middle School. While we were at North Cedar, we spent time practicing with the 5th Grade band and the 7th & 8th Grade band. After we practiced with these bands, we put on a concert for the entire 5-8 student body. The concert caused many students to sit in awe about what the Wind Ensemble could do. Many students that were not in band were in shock after we finished up playing this afternoon.

Once we finished up with the concert for the Middle School students, we had about an hour to just relax and have fun before we were served a wonderful meal at the middle school. We are so thankful to all that were involved with the preparation of our meals. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts!
The day was wrapped up with a concert at North Cedar Middle School. The concert was great, and I am thankful to all who came out to hear us perform.
As a whole, I really enjoyed spending time with high school and middle school band members. It reminded me of when I was just learning how to play the saxophone, and when I had people with more experience than me help me out whenever I needed it. Spending time with other students helps us all to learn, since we are hearing information and music different from the people that we hear it from all the time. Watching the middle school band members sit in awe as they watched us perform made the whole afternoon one I will never forget. Thank you to all that spent time with us today, you are all amazing people.

I look forward to heading closer to China and Japan by heading up to the Chicago suburbs in the morning.

Happy days,
Garrett Heidenreich