Music and more in China and Japan.

Some in the know say the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is the world’s best.

     Who are we to argue?

     So when the CSO traveled to Asia, R. Crusoe was delighted to create a tour for the orchestra patrons.

     “We at the CSO love working with the team at R. Crusoe,” explains CSO Association President Deborah Rutter.  “They have consistently provided our patrons with extraordinary travel experiences, with the perfect blend of group travel and interaction with our musicians. The relationships that have developed between our patrons and musicians are special—and something that wouldn’t have happened without these shared travel experiences.”

     CSO patrons are sophisticated travelers. They love classical music, but their interests are myriad. The Asia journey would need to be more than simple concert-hopping. They wanted to get inside Japan and China and maximize the time between performances.

     Here at R. Crusoe, we understood completely. Which is why we immediately lined up our favorite Asia culture expert, Alex Kerr, to accompany the patrons. Throughout the tour, he presented discussions on pertinent topics and answered the questions that followed.

     Asia today is a kaleidoscopic mix of ancient and modern. Our tour focus was Asia’s development, our lens the architecture of yesterday and today.   

     In Tokyo, a new generation of architects has risen to the fore. Among them is Kengo Kuma, designer of the Suntory Museum. Mr. Kuma gave us a private tour of the museum itself.

     Azby Brown, author and professor of architecture in Kanazawa, kept the discussion going with a visit through intriguing Tokyo neighborhoods and a private home.

     There was a specially arranged visit to a significant Shinto shrine. Local delicacies to taste. And a party with the musicians.

     On to China. In Hong Kong, the patrons partied with the musicians in view of the city’s grand harbor.

     The next day, as the CSO tuned up, the patrons had lunch at the China Club.

     Between the Hong Kong concert and the next CSO performance (in Shanghai), R. Crusoe planned a wonderful foray for the patrons into Yunnan province, China’s most culturally diverse region. In lovely, 800-year-old Lijiang, Alex showed us one of the largest collections of traditional Chinese architecture still standing.

     “The highlight for me was Lijiang,” says CSO patron Celine Bendy. “Staying at the Banyan Tree Hotel under a full moon, soaking in the Jacuzzi in my villa, visiting the Old Town, seeing the Naxi master’s calligraphy demonstration...”

     Fellow patron Shelley Ochab agrees: “When we arrived in the beautiful city of Lijiang, we understood at once why it was not to be missed.”

     Before leaving town, we heard a brief concert of authentic music from the Song Dynasty. And we attended a phenomenal culture show, “Impressions Lijiang”. 

     Then to Shanghai, whose modern architecture has set new standards. One example? The Shanghai World Financial Center, among the tallest buildings on Earth, and designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox. Over lunch, we met with Paul Katz, a KPF principal, to hear the inside story on the building’s evolution.

   At lunch in the hip neighborhood of Xintiandi, Pierre Cohade, president of Goodyear Tire in Asia, gave us the inside scoop on doing business in China.

    In Beijing, the CSO performed in the “Silver Egg.” (Remember it from the Olympics?) The concert was sensational.

     We entered a closed-to-the-public prince’s residence in the Forbidden City.

     Finally, to Xian for a very up-close look at the terracotta army. The patrons (like all R. Crusoe visitors to this archaeological site) are allowed to enter the excavation pits—closed to the general public—to see the warriors face to face.

     “Everything along the way was star-studded,” patron Jan Jentes said, “but best of all was the walk among the terracotta warriors. Wow!” 

     “No one does a better trip,” Jan’s husband, Bill, added.

     Patron Phyllis Bleck concurred. “A trip of a lifetime. A spectacular tour.”

     Honestly, we thought so, too.

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