Warm music to go with Win­ter Games

The Korea Times - - NATIONAL - By Charles D. Sher­man The writer is the ed­i­tor in chief of the in­ter­na­tional edi­tion of the Mi­ami Herald.

PYEONCHANG, Gang­won Prov­ince — Korea’s prepa­ra­tions for the 2018 Win­ter Olympics in this moun­tain­ous prov­ince three hours west of Seoul seem to have gone on for longer that just about any­one can re­mem­ber.

By starts and stops, the games, now less than a year away, are the re­sult of ded­i­cated ef­forts by re­gional of­fi­cials, the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and the coun­try’s largest cor­po­ra­tions, bent on rais­ing Korea’s in­ter­na­tional pro­file.

Any Olympics any­where takes some do­ing, but what is also sig­nif­i­cant is PyeongChang’s de­sire be­yond the ski jumpers, speed skaters and curlers of the world to show­case Korean cul­tural pride. More than 15 years ago, largely in tan­dem with plans for the Olympics, PyeongChang en­cour­aged and sup­ported the cre­ation of a music fes­ti­val that has few ri­vals.

With its head­quar­ters in the lux­ury ski re­sort of Alpen­sia, the PyeongChang Music Fes­ti­val now both in win­ter and sum­mer is hosted and di­rected by two of Korea’s lead­ing in­ter­na­tional mu­si­cians, cel­list Chung Myung-wha and her sis­ter, the cel­e­brated vi­o­lin­ist Chung Kyung-wha. For years it has drawn ma­jor acts for per­for­mances in a cozy con­cert hall ad­ja­cent to the five-star In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Ho­tel, Hol­i­day Inn and ski slopes.

The 2017 PyeongChang Win­ter Music Fes­ti­val, tak­ing place this week, is a warm-up for cul­tural events dur­ing the Olympics and fea­tures a dou­ble-bar­reled mix of clas­si­cal music and jazz with per­form­ers from around the world.

The fes­ti­val opened Wed­nes­day night with a panoply of Korean and in­ter­na­tional music, both clas­si­cal and jazz. Dig­ni­taries from Gang­won Prov­ince and Seoul filled the au­di­to­rium to hear Chung Myung-wha ac­com­pany pan­sori leg­end Ahn Sook-sun, wear­ing a bil­low­ing green han­bok, pi­anist Son Yeol-eun and drum­mer Kye Youl-jun. To an ear ac­cus­tomed to Western sounds, the three songs per­formed of­fered an eerie, avant-garde and stac­cato im­pres­sion for which the au­di­ence gave a rous­ing ova­tion.

John Beasley, a renowned Amer­i­can jazz pi­anist, fol­lowed with a wide-rang­ing solo that cap­tured the heart of mod­ern jazz with com­plex riffs rem­i­nis­cent of Bill Evans. Bob Shep­pard on sax then joined Beasley for a win­some duet. Both men have long worked to­gether, start­ing early in their ca­reers with a band led by Fred­die Hubbard, to whom Beasley gave gra­cious thanks.

What fol­lowed the in­ter­mis­sion was a young, vol­canic pi­ano duo — Greg An­der­son and El­iz­a­beth Joy Roe, vir­tu­osi who met at Jul­liard and who now tour the world pre­sent­ing a tor­rent of gen­res. A rap­tur­ous “Ave Maria” by Shu­bert, a near honky-tonk ren­di­tion of “Let It Be” by the Bea­tles and a driv­ing tango were among the works as the au­di­ence kept de­mand­ing they play on.

The per­for­mance (they al­most sat in each other’s laps) was mus­cu­lar with Ms. Roe’s long dark pony­tail and sin­u­ous arms fly­ing around the du­el­ing Stein­ways.

The con­cert se­ries con­tin­ues un­til Sun­day with an ar­ray of music from Korea and the world. As re­mote and ru­ral as PyeonChang can feel, the fes­ti­val has had the power to draw a su­perb col­lec­tion of mu­si­cians to a stun­ning recre­ational re­sort.

Com­ing up are eclec­tic per­for­mances of the music of Beethoven, Ravel, Schu­bert and the songs of Ge­orge Gersh­win and Leonard Bernstein.

In an­other year comes the big pay­off for PyeongChang when tens of thou­sands of win­ter sports fans and music lovers will be treated to Korean hos­pi­tal­ity.

Ticket prices for the win­ter music fes­ti­val range from 30,000 won to 60,000 and up to 250,000 for pres­tige seat­ing.

Cour­tesy of PRM

From left, cel­list Chung Myung-wha, pi­anist Son Yeol-eum, Korean tra­di­tional vo­cal­ist Ahn Sook-sun and per­cus­sion­ist Jun Kye-youl per­form “Three Sarang-gas for Pan­sori, Cello, Pi­ano and Buk,” com­posed by Lim Jun-hee, dur­ing the open­ing con­cert of the 2017 PyeongChang Win­ter Music Fes­ti­val at the Alpen­sia Con­cert Hall in PyeongChang, Gang­won Prov­ince, Wed­nes­day.

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