The last time I played Korean instruments was on my first event sponsored by the Korea Tourism Organization years ago. In a theater near Seolleung Station, I was taught, along with about 30 other foreigners living in Seoul, on how to play a kwaeng-gwari, or a small gong, and a chang-gu, a drum that looks like an hour-glass. That day, I even learned the other Korean traditional martial art, taekgyeon.
And this weekend, at the Haeoreum Hall of the National Theater of Korea (NTK) at Nam-san, the National Orchestra of Korea educated me on the other traditional Korean musical instruments.
The National Orchestra of Korea, the resident orchestra of the National Theater of Korea, "brings the traditional instruments into the modern world but still keeps the rich heritage of Korean music alive", according to NTK website.
Conducted by its artistic director, Won Il, the National Orchestra of Korea performed compositions by local composers. These compositions are part of the orchestral series called Part of Nature.
And it indeed sounded like it. From the first composition, the various Korean musical instruments contributed to fill the huge Haeoreum Hall with sounds of nature. Don't ask me to name these Korean instruments because I can't. Ha-ha-ha! But from where I was seated, on the fifth row from the stage, these instruments were either plucked, blown, beaten or banged together, depending I guess on the composition and when the conductor wanted it played.
There was also a piece that needed the interpretation of a gachang, a Korean traditional singer. But the two highlights of the afternoon's performance were the participation of two Korean women playing the gayageum and the geomungo, and four Korean men who played the chang-gu, kwaeng-gwari, and two other percussions. These musicians received the most applause.
As the audience wasn't allowed to take photographs during the performance, I went to the lobby during the 20-minute intermission and asked Ms. Lauren Kim, a producer at the NTK for the official photos from the performance, and during the week, I received the photo below from Mr. Youngsook Kim, the producer of the National Orchestra of Korea.
(Photo credit: National Theater of Korea)
The last time I watched a performance at the National Theater Korea was last August to watch the Korean Midday Dance, which was very impressive as it was a display of precision drumming and dancing.
And today as I returned to the NTK, I did not only hear drums play, I heard the whole range of the Korean traditional instruments. And together with the audience, I was also educated as to how these are played to create an assortment of sounds in order to interpret an original Korean composition. By the way, after each piece was played, the conductor asked the composers, who were seated among the crowd, to stand up and be recognized by the audience. These composers must have been very proud when their compositions were played by the orchestra.
Thanks again to the Korea Tourism Organization for the free ticket to this performance. Next time, I would love to watch that Korean Midday Dance performance again. :-)