The weekend’s 80-degree temperatures had everyone out and about, including a very hectic Sunday morning in the city center.
When I left for church on the 201 bus at 8:45, it was crowded. Our college students crammed on board, eager to go shopping.
“Where are you going?” they asked me.
“I have church this morning,” I announced. “Want to come?”
Looking rather embarrassed, they replied, “Oh. We have something else to do.”
That is the usual response I get but I always ask anyway.
The Modernization of Luzhou: Still a Shock
I’ve been back in Luzhou for half a year now since leaving 3 years ago and I still am astounded at the changes that have taken place. Getting off the 201 bus lands me in along a narrow, ancient back road that runs parallel to the 6-lane main street that buzzes through the business district.
Remnants of old China still remain but are disappearing at a rapid speed. I pass by 100-year-old structures, standing oddly off by themselves, while the rest of the world rises high about them.
Crossing the overpass to get to the Protestant church, yet another view of tall apartment buildings greets me. Once, the church steeple was easily seen from this vantage point but not anymore.
Even approaching our 1900’s building, the alleyway that once barely allowed cars to pass through now boasts not only better made market stalls and wide tiled walkways but traditional Chinese craft shops. Wood carving and bamboo umbrellas are the drawing point for tourists and those who are interested in purchasing gifts for friends. These were not here 3 years ago. The umbrellas are especially festive, lining the outside sidewalk while waiting to be strung and papered by their artisans.
It was a full house on such a lovely day so I was forced into the balcony for worship. I’ve missed singing in the choir because rehearsal nights are scheduled during our school’s English Corner (EC). That is about to change, however. Many of our students this semester have classes on Thursday night so Ashley, John and I are discussing moving EC to Wednesday night.
After church, I caught John Lu (our director) to apologize for not making it to practice this term. I had really hoped to join everyone for Easter celebrations.
“You can!” John excited told me, thrusting a 1-sheet copied music score into my hand. “We are practicing now for Easter, with all 3 choirs. Adult choir, children’s choir and the retired people’s choir. Do you have time?”
No need to tell you my exuberant response.
Easter Worship Approaching, with Some Disharmony
Once again, I took my place with the sopranos for our practice time together. The hymn chosen for our 3-choir anthem was “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” in Chinese but the familiar Western tune so many of us know.
What was very unfamiliar to me were the parts. The 4-part arrangement was quite interesting because it was written by a Chinese musician. Aside from the sopranos and children, who had the melody, everyone else was singing odd, strange, bizarre little ditties that to this Western ear honestly did not blend, harmonize, compliment or remotely sound pleasant once combined together.
It was a jumbled mess.
I tried to make sense of it all but after our 30 minutes of practice, I decided best to give it to God and don’t worry so much.
What concerned me the most were the children.
We had 13 eager, bright young boys and girls. All attentively watched John, opened their mouths wide, followed his encouraging words to sing heartily but with 33 adults behind them, whose various musical parts overshadowed the entire piece, none could be heard.
I kept silent about the jumbled mess of parts but I really wanted to hear the kids sing. After our first rehearsal together, I suggested to John that the kids sing the first verse by themselves. They were singing so joyfully to the Lord, it would be nice if everyone in the congregation could hear it.
John immediately made an announcement to the choir about the suggestion and it was decided: Next week after church, we’ll hold another 3-choir practice for Easter and let the children open with the 1st verse. After that, we can join in.
So while we might be making a lot of awkward noise for the rest of the verses, at least for one verse, the children can rescue us.
Joining the Shopping Crowds
After church, I joined the thousands of shoppers cruising the shops around town. I picked up lilies at one of the florist shops for my Easter lessons taking place this week (lilies are one of my “must” visual aids) and cruised by my favorite bakery for some bread buns. While not the infamous hot-cross buns my mother made from scratch every year for Easter, they still are fairly tasty.
And that is part of my weekend news from along the Yangtze River, where I wish you Ping An (Peace) for your week.