Two American friends, architect Ben Wood and international attorney Barry McComic included me in a planning committee hoping to renovate the former Shanghai Jewish Club, now used by the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Their idea was to preserve the historic building as a useful performance space.
SHANGHAI JEWISH CLUB
Founded by Russian Jews in 1932, the Jewish Club produced ballet, chorus, drama, and concert performances. It moved several times before settling at its present location in 1947.
The club and its grounds are today used by the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, founded in 1927, the first music institution of higher education in China.
JEWS SOUGHT SAFETY FROM PERSECUTION IN SHANGHAI
Shanghai has a long history of providing refuge for persecuted Jews. The first arrivals, in the early 19th century, were Sephardic Jews from Baghdad and Bombay. Some became prominent and wealthy entrepreneurs who left their mark on the city—among them, the Sassoons, who built the Cathay Hotel and Grosvenor House, and the Kadoories, who founded the Peninsula Hotel Group.
MEETING WITH OFFICIALS
Ben Wood, Barry McComic and I, along with American landscape architect Dwight Law, met with Conservatory officials to discuss the Jewish Club’s potential renovation.
Wood was responsible for one of China’s most commercially successful urban development projects (he converted dilapidated Shanghai-style homes in the Xintiandi area, now a vibrant pedestrian center of dining, bars, and boutiques). He and McComic saw the Club renovation as an opportunity to preserve part of old Shanghai.
TOUR OF THE CAMPUS
As our group toured various buildings, classrooms, and auditoriums in the complex, we encountered a group of graduating students in their traditional robes. (The conservatory offers bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and post-doctoral programs as well as a three-year elementary and six-year secondary school.)
The renovation project is currently on hold due to the complexity of planning, but the group will continue to give the Conservatory ongoing support.
CHAMBER MUSIC AT M ON THE BUND
The Shanghai Conservatory and its students have outreach programs into the community, and enjoy adoring support from music lovers such as Michelle Garnaut. She is the Australian proprietor of the famed M on the Bund restaurant and its Glamour Bar. Opened in 1999, M was the first restaurant on the Bund, later followed by many more.
In 2009, Garnaut began her partnership with the Shanghai Conservatory of Music’s Atelier of Chamber Music, whose musicians now perform monthly at her restaurant. Her goal is to support chamber music in China and provide opportunities to young local musicians.
M ON THE BUND CHAMBER MUSIC BENEFIT
M ON THE BUND TERRACE VIEWS
SAN FRANCISCO & SHANGHAI – SISTER CITIES SINCE 1980
In 1980, San Francisco’s then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein signed an agreement formally establishing a sister city relationship between San Francisco and Shanghai.
Since then, the cities have shared many cultural exchange programs. One of them is the San Francisco-Shanghai International Chamber Music Festival that the music conservatories of both cities have held since 2011. They alternate as hosts, and in 2014 it was San Francisco’s turn.
SAN FRANCISCO-SHANGHAI INTERNATIONAL CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL
The San Francisco Conservatory developed the first chamber music degree program in the U.S., and the Shanghai Conservatory did the same in China.
The International Chamber Music Festival evolved after twenty years of a “sister school” relationship between the San Francisco and Shanghai Conservatories.
Photos by Jeanne Lawrence, Victor Xie, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, M on the Bund, and Wikimedia Commons.
*Urbanite Jeanne Lawrence reports on lifestyle and travel from her homes in San Francisco, Shanghai, and New York, and wherever else she finds a good story.