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Gum Nanse hopes to be remembered as public conductor

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Published : 2014-02-28 16:12
Updated : 2014-02-28 16:12

Classical musicians often yearn to conduct a big-name orchestra to become a maestro. But that was not goal of renowned Korean conductor Gum Nanse.

“My philosophy is to become a conductor for the public rather than one who conducted a great orchestra or conducted it in a great concert hall,” Gum said in a recent interview with The Herald Business, the sister paper of The Korea Herald.

Conductor Gum Nanse (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)


Gum, 67, is currently the CEO and artistic director of Euro-Asian Corp., which owns the Eurasian Philharmonic Orchestra. But more than that, he has established a reputation for conducting usual performances, as part of efforts to easily introduce Western classical music to the Korean public.

“A concert hall can be bad but its audiences can be good. Audiences can be bad but the hall can be great. Wouldn’t it be more valuable to have great audiences even if the hall is poor?”

Speaking in the interview at Chungmu Art Hall, the home of the Eurasian Philharmonic Orchestra, Gum recalled past performances at a movable tent theater operated by Seoul Culture Foundation.

In the tent theater, Gum conducted “brunch concerts,“ where he entertained audiences with the stories behind the music. Impressed by the unique concert, audiences pressed the Seoul Culture Foundation to offer more of Gum’s concerts. As a result, the Eurasian Philharmonic Orchestra was able to hold six additional concerts in the tent.

At that time, Gum was very touched and told audiences, “Even though this is a tent theater, I want to perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony ‘Choral’ here.” His dream came true. A choir and the Eurasian Phil performed the classic together in the theater.

In his belief that music should be part of people’s everyday life, the conductor has started to expand the base of classical music audience.

He has attempted various classic music activities for that purpose including performances at the lobbies of  large companies and public libraries.

At the lobby of POSCO’s head office in Gangnam, Seoul, on the morning of Dec. 30, 1999, he performed Beethoven’s “Choral” and received a standing ovation from 1,000 company employees.

Since then, he has continued to perform the symphony as well as Tchaikovsky’s symphony through the annual lobby concert.

The Eurasian Phil, founded in 1999, did not have a practice room in its early days, so they used the auditorium of the National Library of Korea. They would perform 10 times there instead of paying rent.

Thanks to its efforts to meet the public, Eurasian Phil grew to perform 136 concerts in 40 areas nationwide in 2005. All the performances were conducted at the request of the public.

“I even tell my family and relatives to buy tickets for the concert and I don’t individually invite musicians. What’s different from other musicians is that I’m doing music for the people who like music, not for the people who I know.”

Gum is also striving to export Korean classic to New York as part of his efforts to spread public-friendly classical music overseas.

He has led the Manhattan Chamber Music Festival in New York since 2012. He said he teamed up with Incheon Mayor Song Young-gil, Samik Instrument chairman Kim Jong-sup, Pungsan chairman Ryu Jin, Goryeo Steel chairman Hong Young-chul, to set out the exports of Korean classic. Lee Soo-man of SM Entertainment, a leading K-pop company, also attended the festival to give a taste of the Korean Wave, or hallyu.

(Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)


Last year, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the Manhattan Chamber Music Festival at Steinway Hall with 40 U.N. ambassador couples.

The conductor plans to hold a concert at New York Bohemian National Hall in May.

“Originally when we say New York, it was the place to go to study at the Julliard School, but now our purpose is to export our culture to New York. It’s a global cultural program combining Korea’s entrepreneurs, artists and diplomats.“

On Jan. 20 and 23, he held the Gum Nanse Festival at Chungmu Art Hall Theater. It was the third of its kind this year. 


By Shin Soo-jung (ssj@heraldcorp.com)

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