An estimated 500-plus Korean, Latvian and other international music lovers as well as central and local Korean government and civic figures were enthralled last night (July 28, 2016) at the COEX Conference Hall in Gangnam in Southern Seoul by the classy performances presented by the members of the Latvian Youth Choir KAMER and the Gangnam Arts Troupe.
Hosted by the Gangnam Foundation for Arts & Culture and jointly supported by the Gangnam-gu Ward, the Embassy of Latvia in Seoul, CuroCom, Seoul Metro and Woori Bank, the special performances were presented conducted and supervised by Janis Liepins, Kisun Sung and Hie-Young Hwang.
The opening time was in the middle of extremely busy evening rush hours and not a small number of guests could make it on time due to severe traffic congestion on the way for which the district is notoriously known for the morning and evening rush hours.
All the same, the entire music hall was filled completely to the brim with music-loving guests as well as the host and host personnel.
Speaking to the guests at the pre-opening introduction, Governor Mrs. Yen-Hee Shin said, “Today’s concert put together by the Gangnam Art Group and the Youth Choir KAMER will bring Gangnam-gu and Latvia closer together.” Then she said, “Latvia is often called ‘Tiger of the Baltic’ showing the fast economic growth of the country and I would say that the Gangnam-gu is one of the leading cities in Korea.” “Latvia and Gangnam,” she suggested, “are alike in many ways, especially in their confidence and drive.”
Then came greeting remarks by Ambassador Peteris Vaivars of Latvia in Seoul. He said: “Latvia is a land that sings and Latvians are a singing nation. We also know that Koreans like to sing, so let’s join in singing and promote our friendship through the sounds of music which resonate in our culture.”
Then he said, “We aim to strengthen our relationship in the fields of bilateral cooperation through the culture including by way of our art and music and the visit of KAMER is the first major event planned since the Embassy’s establishment and I am convinced that you will be impressed with their excellence.”
The concert began with the presentation of a number of songs by the members of the Gangnam Choir formed obviously with the music-loving women vocalists in the district. Conducted by Hye-Young Hwang, the shapely women vocalists presented Ubi Caritas (literally “Where There is Sharing”) and Mugunghwa (the Korean National Flower which some Westerners call ‘Rose of Sharon’). The first number was lyrical, beautiful and melodic in harmony, and was sufficient to captivate the audience.
Ubi Caritas is a hymn of the Western Church, long used as one of the antiphons for the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday. The Gregorian melody was composed sometime between the fourth and tenth centuries, though some scholars believe the text dates from early Christian gatherings before the formalization of the Mass. It is usually sung at Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and on Holy Thursday evening at the Mass of the Lord's Supper.
The second number, Mugunghwa, perhaps came more pat to the hearts of the Korean audience. The flower, which translates in English ‘Rose of Sharon’ in fact does not fully convey the emotion of the Korean people related with the National Flower of Korea. The Korean expression based on these Chinese characters means Mu (Never), Gung (Ending) and Hwa (Flower). The name and the flower represent the inherent traits of the Korean people who persevere and endure all sorts of difficulties--but never die. What represents the Korean people better than Mugunghwa for a people who really die hard, nay, never die--despite all odds?
Muguanghwa sung by the classy, sophisticated and mature women vocalists obviously will ‘die hard’ in the hearts of the Korean audience that night.
The Latvian Choir, all members in beautiful Latvian dresses, presented a number of extremely beautiful songs, which included Nunc Dimittis, Lay a Garland, Fair Phylis I Saw, Haya!, Bogoroditse Devo, Ubi Caritas and Latvian folk song, A Blacksmith Forged in the Sky.
After intermission, the performances included Fingal’s cave overture Op. 26 by the Gangnam Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kisun Sung and “Mara gave the life to a girl” and Memory of Geumgang Mountain by Youngseob Choi.