A time to appreciate gugak

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Apr 30, 2012 - 18:51
  • Updated : Apr 30, 2012 - 19:39
Different types of Korean traditional music to be staged for families, tourists

A variety of gugak performances will be staged this month, offering families and tourists a chance to appreciate different types of Korean traditional music, mostly in Seoul.

To celebrate the 615th anniversary of King Sejong’s birth year, the National Gugak Center presents three large-scale performances from May 5-15 in Seoul and Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province.

The state-run gugak center will stage its new signature piece “Sejong the Great for the Illiterates,” a mix of gugak and theater, from May 5-10 at the center. The theater work, produced by renowned director Chung Ho-boong and starring actor Jang Deok-joo, tells an imaginary story of King Sejong discovering the logic of Hangeul, the Korean writing system, by listening to his people singing minyo, or folk songs in 15th century Joseon. The performance is innovative and modern in terms of stage setting and costumes, offering the audience an easier way to understand the world of Korean traditional music. Tickets range from 10,000 won to 30,000 won.
A scene from “Sejong the Great for the illiterates” (National Gugak Center)

A re-enactment of Sejongjo Hoeryeyeon, or King Sejong’s court banquet in 1433, will take place at Geunjeongjeon of Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul on May 12-13. Titled “The Sound of Heaven, Music of King Sejong,” and featuring more than 400 musicians and dancers based on a thorough research of Uigwe, a historic document of the Joseon Dynasty.

The performance portrays the cultural life of early Joseon by presenting court attire, dance, music and musical instruments at Gyeongbokgung, a palace for Joseon Kings. Tickets are 3,000 won. For more information, call (02) 580-3300 or visit www.gugak.go.kr.

Another re-enactment of Joseon court culture is to take place in Yeongneung, tomb of King Sejong, in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province on May 15. The outdoor performance titled “Waiting for a Phoenix,” is a part of Yongbieocheonga or Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven, in English, the first work written in Hangeul. The show features Joseon’s magnificent court music and costume, describes the gladness for the coming of a phoenix, an ancient mythical creature, according to the gugak center. The one-day performance is free.
A scene from “World Beat Vinari” (Sejong Center for the Performing Arts)

The Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, another major theater in Seoul, introduces non-verbal performance “World Beat Vinari” at Seoul Namsan Traditional Center from May 1 to 13. Vinari, meaning “to wish” in Korean, was originally a performance featuring Korean traditional percussions and gugak but now digital music and visual contents have been added. The show has been performed in more than 50 countries around the world and gained recognition from international critics, the Sejong Center said. Tickets are all 30,000 won. Call (02) 2261-0515 for more information.

A small concert for gugak or traditional Korean music are being held every Monday and Tuesday evening at Seoul Namsan Traditional Theater near Mount Nam, central Seoul, from April 9 to July 31. Featuring the country’s famous gugak musicians, Salon Concert Namsan will take place in a hanok room, part of the theater that can accommodate only 20 audience members. The concert is a reenactment of Joseon’s pungnyu culture or the cultural events appreciated by Joseon’s high society. The audience will get a chance to talk to gugak musicians while drinking tea after the concert. The program is accompanied by English and Japanese interpreters upon request. Tickets are 50,000 won. For more information, call (02) 2261-0511~2 or visit sngad.sejongpac.or.kr.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com)