Archive Page 2

A visit to the Forbidden City

Members of the Philharmonia posed for a group photo at the Forbidden City

Members of the Philharmonia posed for a group photo at the Forbidden City

The morning of the Forbidden City Concert Hall concert on July 22, most of the members of the Philharmonia toured one of Beijing’s most famous tourist attractions: The Forbidden City itself.

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Philharmonia performs at the Seoul Arts Center

    The Philharmonia and Shinik Hahm take a bow in the Seoul Arts Center Concert Hall

The Philharmonia and Shinik Hahm take a bow in the Seoul Arts Center Concert Hall

On Sunday afternoon at 2:30 pm, The Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale performed at the Seoul Arts Center — its first-ever concert in Asia. The concert, under the Philharmonia’s Korean Music Director, Shinik Hahm,  and was a great success. The large and beautiful concert hall of 2,500 seats was sold out, and the audience reception was enthusiastic.

The program began with the Korean National Anthem (arranged by Prof. Thomas C. Duffy) and the American National Anthem. This was followed by Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, and the first half concluded with  Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. The soloist was Sun-Mi Chang, a Seoul native and recipient of the Artist Diploma from the School of Music.

Dress rehearsal of Beethovens Violin Concerto, with soloist Sun-Mi Chang

Dress rehearsal of Beethoven's Violin Concerto, with soloist Sun-Mi Chang

The program concluded with Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony. After several minutes of a standing ovation, the orchestra played an encore: an arrangement of “America the Beautiful” and a Korean folk song woven together by Thomas C. Duffy.

This view of the stage gives you an idea of how much fine wood was used in finishing the concert hall

This view of the stage gives you an idea of how much fine wood was used in finishing the concert hall. Even the chorus seats behind the orchestra were full on Sunday.

The members of the Philharmonia were enjoyed playing at such a beautiful venue. Every surface in the concert hall–except the padding of the seats — was beautiful wood, and the acoustics are warm yet clear. Backstage, there are ample dressing rooms with showers, lockers, and lots of space to relax.

The lobby of the Seoul Arts Center Concert Hall

The lobby of the Seoul Arts Center Concert Hall

After the concert, there was a lavish reception hosted by the Yale Club of Korea.

From Austria to Australia

Today’s concerts brought the Musicathlon from the Australian outback to the streets of Vienna.

The Sydney Conservatorium of Music (picture) presented a concert for a variety of ensembles including strings, double reeds, voice, piano, harpsichord, and didgeridoo. A Mozart aria served as a classical island in an otherwise Australian sea of more recent works by Peter Sculthorpe, Carl Vine, Stephen Yates, Elena Kats-Chernin, and William Barton (the Conservatorium’s own didgeridoo player). There were two works for didgeridoo and string quartet, calling to mind the Shanghai Conservatory’s performance of a work for pipa and string quartet, as well as one for zheng and cello. The final piece, Yates’s rich Jubilate, featured the full ensemble of string quartet, oboe, bassoon, piano, harpsichord, didgeridoo, and voice.

From Austria, Antoinette van Zabner and Waltraud Wulz of the Beethoven Institute performed Stories from Vienna, a piano (four hands) recital at the Forbidden City Concert Hall. Three of Mozart’s sonatas for piano, four hands made up the first half of the concert. After intermission, they turned to Schubert and Ravel. In the lobby after the concert, dozens of people crowded around the performers to get their programs and newly-purchased CDs signed.

Visit to a Korean Folk Village, then a traditional dinner

July 18 was a very full day indeed. After rehearsal and a festive lunch, the entire group visited a recreation of a Korean Folk Village, and the day ended — appropriately — with a traditional Korean dinner.

The folk village encompasses 243 acres, with more than 260 buildings representing the different regions of Korea, keeping alive the culture of the later Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

We enjoyed exhibitions of traditional blacksmithing, farming, paper making, wood carving, building, and many other arts and crafts. We were treated to a marvelous exhibition of equestrian feats and enjoyed a recreation of a traditional wedding ceremony.

Brave young horsemen
Brave young horsemen
Hand-carved masks were available for sale in several sizes

Hand-carved masks were available for sale in several sizes

Recreation of a traditional wedding ceremony
Recreation of a traditional wedding ceremony

An then, to dinner.

The entire group of over a hundred fit into two rooms, with the food served family-style to groups of four. The recipes were unaltered to accommodate Western tastes, and so a few dishes were a bit challenging. But there was such a constant flow of food I don’t think anyone went back to the hotel hungry. Dean Blocker made a surprise presentation of a Yale School of Music watch to everyone in the group. For this, and for arranging such a fabulous dinner, he was applauded enthusiastically.

Early on in the meal, the tables were neatly arranging with small plates, earthenware cups for drinking, and servings of cabbage, fish, noodles, and a few other delicacies.

Early on in the meal, the tables were neatly arranging with small plates, earthenware cups for drinking, and servings of cabbage, fish, noodles, and a few other delicacies.

By the end of the meal, you could barely see the table for the accumulation of plates and bowls.

By the end of the meal, you could barely see the table for the accumulation of plates and bowls.

More hospitality by Konkuk University

Konkuk University graciously provided rehearsal space for the Philharmonia during its stay in Seoul. As if that were not enough hospitality, the University offered a beautiful luncheon on July 18, hosted by President Myung Oh.

President Myung Oh, Ph.D., welcomes the Philharmonia to his Konkuk University at a special luncheon

President Myung Oh, Ph.D., welcomes the Philharmonia to his Konkuk University at a special luncheon at the University's Millennium Center.

At the luncheon, President Oh and Dean Blocker exchanged gifts, and the members of the orchestra gave the President a warm round of applause for his generostiy and hospitality.

Along with a plaque of appreciation for his contributions to the Philharmonia tour, President Oh recived a Yale School of Music baseball cap from Dean Blocker.

Along with a plaque of appreciation for his contributions to the Philharmonia tour, President Oh received a Yale School of Music baseball cap from Dean Blocker.

Exploring Seoul

After the first rehearsals of the tour, the orchestra headed out to explore Seoul.  One group went to Jogyesa Temple, the largest active Buddhist temple in central Seoul.  Three large golden Buddha  figures sit under a ceiling hung with yellow and green.  A temple guide welcomed some students and showed them around the temple.  Some students sat on cushions amongst the people reading, meditating, and praying. 

 

After absorbing the quiet of the temple, the group ventured toward Insadong, a nearby artsy area of Seoul.  Galleries, craftspeople, tiny stores, and coffee shops line the narrow stone streets.  Inside a second-floor café, people took refuge from the heat with iced drinks and air conditioning.

 

That evening, in the lobby of the hotel, students met up to discuss where to have dinner and what parts of Seoul to find. They set out in groups, eager to extend their day with  their own explorations.

 

A visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace

On Thursday, July 17, after the Philharmonia’s first rehearsal in Seoul — and lunch — the orchestra members were offered two choices of excursions into the history of Korea. One was a visit to Gyeongbokgung, the main place of the Joseon Dynasty. Thought the weather was very hot and humid, the visit into Korea’s colorful history was worth the effort.

Built in 1395 by King Taejo, Gyeongbokgung was the center of the royal capital of Seoul, then known as Hanyang. It was destroyed by fire by the Japanese invasion of 1592 and reconstructed in 1868 during King Gojong’s reign, by order of the Prince Regent. The palace he created was a magnificent labyrinthine complex of 330 buildings. Most of the buildings were dismantled during the Japanese occupation, but an effort to restore Gyeongbokgung Palace to its former glory has been ongoing since 1990.

Just as you enter the Palace Gates, there is a large open square.

Just as you enter the Palace Gates, there is a large open square.

Geoncheonggung, a palace within a palace for King Gojong and his consort. It was here that Empress Myeongseong was assassinated the Japanses in 1895.

Geoncheonggung, a "palace within a palace" for King Gojong and his consort. Built in the middle of a beautiful pond, it was the tragic scene of Empress Myeongseong's assassination in 1895.

Orchestra members rest on the steps of one of the many buildings in the complex.

Orchestra members rest on the steps of one of the many buildings in the complex.

Magnificent Roofs with spectacular, ornate carvings and painted patterns were everywhere

Magnificent Roofs with spectacular, ornate carvings and painted patterns were everywhere