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Scent of Culture I
Kumho Asiana Soloists Perform in Geneva and Central Asia

Promoting Relations with Korean Residents in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan
Kang Seon-ae
Kumho Asiana Cultural Foundation
A performance tour of Kumho Asiana Soloists took the group to Geneva, Switzerland; Astana, Kazakhstan; and Tashkent, Uzbekistan; in late September and early October. The “2008 Classical Chamber Music Performance Tour to Geneva and Central Asia” served as a meaningful occasion to introduce the world-class talent of Korea’s classical musicians and promote a better understanding of Korea in Central Asia, especially among the Korean residents of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Performance in Geneva
After Kim Tae-hyung, Kim Hye-jin, and Kim Min-ji departed from Boston, Massachusetts, Munich, Germany, and Valencia, Spain, respectively, the members of the Kumho Asiana Soloists gathered in Geneva. Soon after their arrival, they made their way to a conservatory, which had been arranged by the staff of Korea’s diplomatic mission in Geneva, for an intensive rehearsal session. In particular, the group concentrated on the ensemble works, including Brahms Trio No. 2, in order to optimize the instrumental interaction and overall harmony. When informed that the audience would include a number of serious fans of classical music, they seemed pleased and also burdened with a responsibility for presenting a high-quality performance.
After a rehearsal, the Kumho Asiana Soloists group was prepared for its performance at the Hall of Palais des Nations, the European headquarters of the U.N. in Geneva, Switzerland. The hall alongside the entrance of the U.N. Conference Room was not designed for a music performance, which was apparent from the sub-standard piano and audio conditions. However, energized by the audience’s keen interest in the performance and the capable staff of the Korean diplomatic mission who rendered assistance for the performance, the group’s musical talent was clearly evident in their professional presentation. Moreover, the performers were noticeably gratified by the audience’s enthusiastic response to the concert, which included a number of people who asked for autographs and to take pictures with the members.

Hearty Reception in Kazakhstan
After the presentation in Geneva, the group departed for Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan, via Istanbul. Although worn out from a ten-hour flight and arrival at 5:30 in the morning, the group headed for the Presidential Centre of Culture, the performance venue in Kazakhstan. With little time to spare, they briefly rehearsed, then inspected the audio system and conferred with a local stage director on the stage setting and lighting. During the performance, the audience which was mainly comprised of ambassadors and embassy staff members from various countries who had been invited by the Korean Embassy there, applauded heartily after each of the musical works, including a standing ovation for the presentation of “Mt. Geumgang, the Mountain We Miss.” Although physically depleted by the travel and performances, the group experienced a greater sense of self-satisfaction from this concert than the previous event in Geneva.
Astana is the new capital of Kazakhstan, which succeeded Almaty ten years ago, as part of the country’s efforts to promote balanced development. In Astana, where large-scale celebrations were staged to commemorate the capital’s 10th anniversary, on the day prior to the arrival of the performers, the city abounds with high-rise buildings, like a large forest of buildings rising up from a vast area of open plains.
In fact, the city was developed far more than expected, while we were all surprised to see so many Goryeoin, or people of Korean ethnicity, who looked identical to us but whose language was foreign. After being forced to relocate to Central Asia by order of Stalin in 1937, they staked their claim to former wasteland, established agricultural operations, and came to be recognized as a highly dedicated and self-sufficient ethnic group of the former Soviet Union. Thanks to an explanation from the Korean Ambassador to Kazakhstan Kim Il-soo, we acquired a better understanding about the Goryeoin, of whom we knew so little, and Kazakhstan, which is now emerging as a Central Asian power, along with Uzbekistan.

Memorable Performance in Uzbekistan
The Kumho Asiana Soloists group then arrived at the tour’sfinal destination, Uzbekistan. Especially memorable was the generous hospitality extended by the staff of the Korean Embassy in Uzbekistan, whose thoughtful assistance made our visit so convenient and comfortable, in regard to immigration processing at the airport, hotel check-in, and the performance itself.
The concert in Uzbekistan was staged at the Grand Hall of the State Conservatory of Uzbekistan. Attended by about 350 people, including Korean residents and students in Uzbekistan, and Goryeoin, together with ambassadors and embassy staff from various countries, the concert atmosphere was noticeably animated. The piano’s quality and the staging area were less than satisfactory; however, the group presented its most outstanding performance of the tour. The performers were again asked to take photos with audience members, and several local media requested interviews. And finally, everyone had a chance to relax at a dinner hosted by the Korean Embassy. Suddenly, the tour was completed, but not without leaving us with wonderful memories.
Along the way, we learned the word “(Spasiba),” which means thank you in Russian. I would like to extend my gratitude to the many people who spared no efforts to help out with the performance tour of Kumho Asiana Soloists, during our three-country journey of 11 days, the performers who always wore a smile despite the demanding schedule, and all the people we met throughout the tour: “Спасибо!”

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