Under its Korean Culture program, the Korea Foundation Cultural Center regularly organizes a variety of activities and events so that foreigners residing in Korea can learn about various aspects of Korea’s culture and arts. This included the recent summer concert that was presented under the starry skies at the Seoul Museum of History.
“The Garden in Early Summer,” the Korea Foundation’s summer concert for foreign residents in Korea, was presented under overcast, but dry, skies at the courtyard area of the Seoul Museum of History in the evening of June 21 (Saturday). The Foundation has regularly hosted concert events like this since 2003 in an effort to introduce foreigners residing in Korea, including the foreign diplomatic corps, to aspects of Korean music, both traditional and contemporary.
Long before the concert’s 7:00 start time, people made their way into the courtyard area and began taking up seats. Prior to the performance, just a few scattered seats were available. The concert featured Han Chungeun and his band, who are known for a fusion style of music. Han Chungeun, who is also a lead member of the KBS Traditional Orchestra, specializes in the daegeum (large transverse bamboo flute) and sogeum (small transverse bamboo flute). Since the concert was organized for an audience of mainly foreigners, Han created a repertoire that included popular Western works, together with a medley of traditional Korean music pieces.
During the concert, there were brief explanations about the daegeum and sogeum, two fundamental instruments of Korea’s traditional music, to enhance the audience’s understanding and appreciation. In particular, during a presentation of “Cheongseonggok,” the lilting yet melancholy melody of the daegeum is fully revealed, allowing the audience to drift into a world of lyrical tranquility.
Thereafter, the group performed with traditional Korean instruments, like the gayageum and janggu, together with Western musical instruments, including a cello, creating a harmonious form of fusion music, which many in the audience sought to take pictures of. In contrast to the soothing sounds of the daegeum and sogeum, which struck an emotional chord within the listeners, the percussion instruments provided a rousing burst of exhilaration to everyone in earshot.
When the group performed popular Western works, such as “Take Five,” “Mo’ Better Blues,” and “Over the Rainbow,” the audience responded with rhythmic clapping while swaying to the music. To conclude the performance, two selections from Han Chungeun’s album were presented, including “Poppy” and “Morning.”
However, the audience, which was apparently just getting into the swing of things, responded with an enthusiastic ovation, while loudly clamoring for an encore. For a final number, Han told the audience that the group would perform “Ongheya,” during which everyone had to shout “ongheya” upon his cue. In this way, the performers and the audience fed off each other’s energy, providing a satisfying conclusion to a night of delightful entertainment for everyone involved.