One of the benefits of working in the entertainment industry is that sometimes you get entertained. Last week, my coworkers and I were offered free tickets to see the Ennio Morricone concert at the Great Hall of the People (人民大会堂 Renmin Dahuitang). Morricone is of course best known for the music he has written for movies, notably the famous score to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, plus about 500 others. He was in Beijing to conduct an orchestra performing his music. The Great Hall stands just on the west side of Tian'anmen Square, and I’ve seen it from the outside many times, but never been inside.
That’s a picture I took in January of 2007. The nearer building in the background is the Great Hall. It could be described as China’s Parliament Building.
After passing through security, we entered a large lobby.
Which was somewhat dimly lit.
The Great Auditorium is where the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Consultative Committee meet.
It seats about 10,000 in all, though for this event the second balcony was not used.
And of course there’s a big red star in the center of the ceiling.
The Maestro took the stage...
...and the orchestra played a bunch of music. I’d love to be more descriptive than that, but aside from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, I didn’t recognize anything. A lot of it sounded familiar, of course, since I have no doubt seen many of the films, but couldn’t tell you names.
Don’t get me wrong: I did enjoy it. It’s just that without a program (they had souvenir books, but ran out before intermission when I went to get one), I didn’t know what I was hearing. The full orchestra was augmented by a large and varied percussion section that included a drum kit, plus electric bass and electric and acoustic guitars.
The pianist also had a Roland RD-700SX electronic keyboard and a laptop. The synthesizer did mostly organ tones and sound effects; the laptop was used for some programmed rhythm parts on one piece. And, as you can see, there was a large chorus for the last part of the program. The orchestra was foreign, the chorus Chinese.
The featured soloist of the evening was a solo soprano vocalist who did the wordless singing so prominent in Morricone’s work. Musically, there was quite a variety, from delicate, romantic melodies to dissonant impressionistic clashing, from intricate counterpoint to jazzy flairs and rock rhythms.
All in all, it was quite a cool evening, with excellent music and a chance to see the inside of a building that not many see. Who knows, maybe I was sitting in the seat normally assigned to the representative from Kashgar.