Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day Two in South Korea: Leading up to the concert

Day Two in South Korea:
Leading up to the concert

The plan for the day was for Kelley to show me around Seoul a little bit, get some lunch and then get to the dress rehearsal in preparation for the evening’s concert at the very impressive and architecturally attractive Seoul Arts Center, home to an amazing array of performing and visual arts.

Kelley drove me from my hotel on the south side of Seoul (south of the Han River) to the more prominent part of the city north of the river. We passed some very interesting sites, such as Gyeongbokgung Palace, and went up the hills past the South Korean president’s “Blue House” (hey, ours is white, theirs is blue!). Way up at the top there is a sweet lookout point with a restaurant and teahouse or two. We looked out from this hilltop at the amazingly large expanse of Seoul (pop. fifteen million, not even counting the additional millions residing in Incheon City and other immediately surrounding large cities) and had some tea. I opted for the most traditional Korean tea , as my goal on the trip was to steep myself in things Korean- haha, here I was literally steeping in Korean tea-- hey, I made a joke!

From there we drove back down toward the main city business district and had a traditional Korean lunch at a very nice restaurant. Okay, a traditional Korean lunch is about fifteen courses, an amazing assortment of soups, fish, vegetable dishes, noodles, gelled dishes; on and on the food comes! I was tanked by about course eleven , so Kelley had to be the good soldier and finish through to the last dish. For one who hasn’t tried this food it really is hard to describe, there are a few very spicy delicious dishes, yet others which are very refined and not spicy at all. It has similarities to other Oriental cuisines, yet still very much has its own strong identity. I also discovered that every kimchi is different (kimchi is a moderately spicy cabbage dish). And this pickle fan discovered that kimchi and pickles are the ubiquitous appetizer munchies presented at almost every Korean meal.

From there we went to the dress rehearsal. We grabbed an espresso near the concert hall and then headed in. The singers were already intently rehearsing Monteverdi and greeted me warmly. We then launched into the Missa Brevis Incheon and I was in heaven. They really understood the drama of the piece and were singing it with great artistry. The tonal/timbral qualities were exactly what I imagined they might be like (as I worked on my Finale files at North Carolina and at home) when sung now by these real, live, highly talented singers, and I couldn’t have been any happier. Dr. Yoon asked me for comments and/or criticisms, and really it was hard to come with anything. What a luxury! I did point out a few cadences for them tune a little tighter and a few English pronunciations that needed fixing on my African American spiritual arrangements, but that’s about all I could find to talk about. The dress rehearsal was so great, even with the singers cruising a tiny bit and saving their voices for the evening-- I knew the concert would be awesome.

Candid fun photos from rehearsal:

Next post: Day Two, The Concert

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