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Song Festival for Peace to Feature Traditional Singers from Korea and Around the World

Song Festival for Peace to Feature Traditional Singers from Korea and Around the World

Posted June. 22, 2005 06:00,   


On the breezy summer evening of June 18 at Gyeonggi-jeon (the palace and pavilion in Pungnam-dong, Jeonju-si, Jeonbuk Province where the portrait of Joseon’s founding king is enshrined), a specially constructed stage welcomed some “special” guests. The fusion band “Haegeum Plus,” headed by haegeum player Kang Eun-il, finished its rendition of the long and majestic “Chosudaeyeop” and struck the plaintive opening notes of “Hanobaegnyeon” (meaning “some 500 years” in Korean).

At times lilting as if in sad lament, at others vibrant as if in laughter, the sounds of Kang’s haegeum filled the air. Suddenly, the Western instruments in the ensemble, led by the keyboard, began playing Gershwin’s “Summertime,” in a rousing confusion of Eastern and Western music.

In the act that followed, renowned traditional singer Ahn Sook-sun joined in, intoning, “Wild hair, goblin face…” As the melody of “Ssukdaemeori” (Wild Hair) resonated through the grave harmonies produced by the haegeum and the keyboard, as they emulated the sounds of a Western string ensemble, even the blond foreigners scattered here and there among the audience nodded their heads to the beat.

This day’s performance celebrated the upcoming 2005 Jeonju Sori Festival. Before the concert began, Ahn Sook-sun, who is also the chairman of the Jeonju Sori Festival Organizing Committee, appointed local-born singer Lee Ahn to the post of honorary promotional ambassador and asked the packed audience for their unmitigated support and encouragement.

The theme of the 2005 Jeonju Sori Festival, which will be held over a week starting on September 27, is “Confusion, People, Harmony.” It reflects the desire to sound the spirit of peace throughout the war- and disaster-ridden world by way of Korean traditional music.

Especially notable in this year’s program is the “pansori” (traditional Korean song-stories) special project, highlighting the various aspects of this uniquely Korean genre designated as part of the World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. There will be traditional performances by celebrated singers Oh Jung-sook, Seong Chang-sun, Kim Il-goo, Cho Tong-dal, Park Song-hee, and their students, and complete renditions of five pansori pieces featuring winners of the Presidential Prize at Jeonju Daesaseup. There will be an original pansori piece entitled “Chohon,” for which Ahn Sook-sun put poet Ko Eun’s words to music. The festival will even introduce new forms of pansori, like the first animated pansori, “12 Korean Tales,” and the two-man pansori play, “Hojil.”

In accordance with the festival’s emphasis on harmony, several artists from regions of conflict around the world have been invited.

The Living Fire Ensemble, comprising Kurdish musicians from Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria, will take part in the festival and play for the establishment of peace in the Middle East and an independent nation for the Kurds. Famous ensembles from Israel and Palestine will come together in a joint performance, pledging the resolution of their long-lived antagonism through the harmony of music.

The festival’s general director Gwak Byeong-chang said, “It is unprecedented for Israeli and Palestinian ensembles to play together on a single stage. The performance will convey a great message of world peace.”


Yoon-Jong Yoo gustav@donga.com