For a change from the usual Christmas concert in the local parish church, student orchestra De Ontzetting went on a tour of China this Christmas holiday. The Wageningen musicians attracted big audiences from Shanghai to Zhangzhou and made music together with Chinese students.
The orchestra chose Zhangzhou because the city has a university twinned with Wageningen. Aalt Dijkhuizen visits regularly and the road to the new centre is called Wageningen Road. The Ontzetting musicians spent an evening with Chinese students, taking it in turn to play a piece. They noticed that the Chinese played completely different kinds of instruments. 'A flat sort of harp and a kind of flute with a calabash on the top of it.'
It was well worth all the effort, because they drew big audiences. 'All the concert halls were bigger than the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and they were pretty full. We never experience anything like that in the Netherlands.' De Ontzetting was in the newspaper too, and on the local TV channel. 'It reaches 50 million viewers, an incredible number for us.'
Everywhere they went, the Dutch attracted a lot of attention - especially the tall men. 'Everyone wanted to have their picture taken with us. After the concerts and also just when we were walking around town.' Besides all that music they also got the chance to enjoy a traditional tea ceremony and visit the silk museum. At a local market, a chicken was slaughtered right under their noses. 'That market was a big contrast with the four star hotels we stayed at. The gap between rich and poor really is huge in China.'
When it came to mealtimes, the students could not believe their eyes. 'The food was very interesting,' says Lucie. 'For breakfast one day we were served salad with bits of donkey in it. Another time it was salad with some kind of sea worm in it. Not really my thing.'