Friday, April 25, 2008
Hello! Thank you for finding your way to this blog. My name is Cindy Stewart-Birdwell and while this is all new to me....blogging and such.....I'm going to take a nose dive into the waters anyway and see what happens! This blog has been created to offer you an opportunity to share in the University of Kentucky's pre-Olympic tour of The People's Republic of China. My husband, Dr. John Cody Birdwell, is the Director of Bands at the University of Kentucky where he was contacted by the US/China Cultural and Educational Foundation after they heard his CD titled, "Distilled in Kentucky", performed with the UK Wind Ensemble. The invitation was made for them to perform in China during the pre-Olympic festivities, with performances to be in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Suzhou, Yangzhou and Xuzhou. The University of Kentucky is the only school in the U.S. to have been invited by the Chinese Cultural and Educational Foundation for this special goodwill tour. We have a total of sixty eight people with us, comprised of students, faculty and guest artists. The guest faculty that will be performing are Miles Osland, Professor of Saxophone and Jazz Studies at UK, Lisa Osland, Professor of Saxphone and Director of Saxophone Ensembles, and Mark Clodfelter, Professor of Trumpet. One of many things we are looking forward to is bringing an Irish element to this tour. One of the pieces to be performed is titled, "Minstrels of the Kells", the idea of which was born on our back patio one evening when we lived in Lubbock, Texas. Since we are avid Celtic music fans it seemed only natural to find a way to create a new piece of music written for band, one that would be a tribute to the magical place we love.....Ireland. I said to my husband we needed to approach just the right composer to write this piece, someone who could musically articulate the strength, triumph and joy that is Ireland. It was also absolutely paramount to have traditional Irish instruments within the piece and a place where there could be all out jigs and reels played with joy and abandon. What eventually came of this was a commission to have Texas based composer, Dan Welcher, write the music and have my husband premiere the piece with his Wind Ensemble at Texas Tech University in April of 2002. The pub band that performed at the premiere was local Lubbock Irish music artists, "Johnny Faa", and we are pleased they will be joining us again on this special tour, bringing their brand of joyful Irish music to China. We are very excited to bring Ireland and China together in this celebration of music, merriment and joy, and I am looking forward to watching the faces in the audience as they hear this piece for the first time! Since I have been appointed as the official blogger for this trip, I am setting out to provide a view of China that focuses on the humanity of it's people, it's rich culture and all that is unlike our Western civilization. While there is much controversy surrounding this country at present, this perspective will not contain any political views, but will simply be a place of reflection, sharing, and a means to relate all that is beautiful in the faces and places of China. It is our sincere intention to build bridges, bridges that will extend hospitality and kindness, bridges that will transcend language barriers and provide us a way to "see" beyond perceived differences. This is the farthest away from home many of us have ever been, there is some trepidation to go along with the excitement we all feel, and hopefully we will bust some comfort zones along the way, becoming broader, more open and more loving people in the process. I will be posting pictures, concert clips and a daily dose of the ups and downs of travel (and all the humor that goes along with that) in a foreign country. But first and foremost, this blog is to keep you, our friends, up-to-date on what we are doing day-by-day....so enjoy, check in often and please know....we wish you were here!
Posted by Cindy at 7:47 PM