By Anne Roth
China, with a population of 1.3 billion is rarely silent. Yet, in May, when State University of New York at Fredonia's Wind Ensemble arrived in Beijing for a scheduled concert tour, they were met with The Silence.
Three Marcellus High School graduates were with the ensemble: Lindsey Ackles and Cindy Gokey who play bassoon, and Josh Nightingale, whose instrument is trumpet.
A massive earthquake had struck in Sichuan Province, leaving 70,000 dead and 10,000 children without parents. The entire nation was grieving. The government decreed three days of silence.
Lindsey describes the experience:
"We left for China May 18. We flew to Beijing from Newark via Continental, a 12-hour direct flight. There were 40 of us including the conductor, Dr. Paul Holcomb, and our trumpet professor who brought his seven-year-old son, William. As soon as we got off the plane our director was met by a friend who is the leader of the Chinese Army Military Police Band. He met us there in his uniform and told us about the earthquake. Apparently while we were flying, the Chinese government decided to honor the victims with three days of silence. It was always referred to as The Silence. That meant we weren't allowed to play instruments -- there were no concerts, no theaters, the clubs were closed. After we had been in China for a few days we were able to play side-by-side in a concert with the Beijing Youth Ensemble. They played for half of the concert, we played for half and finally we played together 'Dona Nobis Pacem.' The Chinese conductor asked us to translate -- he thought it was Italian -- we told him it was Latin and what it meant: 'God Grant Us Peace.'
"We could only play for one day. Then we flew to Guangzhou and we did three side-by side-concerts with three universities there and we got to talk with the students who were interested in practicing their English. We were eight days in china -- four in Beijing, four in Guangzhou.