For the past few days I – along with ten other Phoenix Chorale members – have been in Korea moonlighting as Kansas City Chorale members. It has been a blast, and we’re only half way through!
Charles and the Kansas City Chorale were invited to Incheon, South Korea to take part in the 2009 Incheon International Choral Festival, which is one small part of an even bigger event, the Global Fair & Festival 2009. It has been quite the experience! South Korea is such a lovely place; the people are so pleasant and our surroundings are so amazing and…foreign!
Yesterday, Ryan Garrison, David Topping and I went exploring before our three and a half hour rehearsal. We are staying in an area called Songdo, which is a man-made island, created to be “THE” city of tomorrow, and it is only in the first stages of construction! All around us are skyscrapers, parks, museums, stadiums and shopping centers under construction…all simultaneously resurrecting out of a land that very recently was the sea! It’s quite a site, and quite a feeling to be witness to the birth of a new city. Also, Songdo will be the home to the newest tallest building in the world.
Besides the wonderful sites and people we have met here, the food has been quite the adventure as well. As a vegetarian, I have had some difficulties finding dishes without meat. However, our guides and translators have gone out of their way to provide me with alternative options. They have been so accommodating and perfectly lovely in every way.
Our Korean friends have been absolutely amazing. They continually go out of their way to make sure we have everything with need. Even at lunch when we were all finding our seats at a restaurant, one of our members made an insignificant small comment about the cold air conditioner blowing on the table and our hostess rushed over and turned the A/C off! Their graciousness, overwhelming kindness, and consideration is their way of life, yet an American rarity.
Last night we had our first and primary concert in the Incheon Cultural & Arts Center. Our first set – the “serious half” – included Mantyjarvi’s Calamitatis Maritimae, three Irish Songs, Rheinberger’s Drei geistliche Gesange, Op. 69 (from our Rheinberger: Sacred Choral Works disc) and Jean Belmont Ford’s Electa (from our Spotless Rose disc). Then one of the Korean City Choirs sang, followed by our second half, which included traditional American folk song and spirituals, including (of course) Charles’ favorite, Home On The Range. The spirituals and folk songs were a hit by far and Mack Wilber’s Cindy was an audience favorite (and is a hoot to sing); during the instrumental break (with both Josh Hillmann and Charles Bruffy on piano), David Topping and Kansas City Chorale member Sarah Tannehill broke out into an impromtu square dance, which absolutely thrilled the audience!
After the performance I experienced the strangest moment of my life. We went out the the lobby and were greeted by the audience with cheers and claps. At the audience’s demand, we posed for pictures for what seemed like hundreds of people with cameras. Many many people wanted pictures with us and a few of us were surrounded by little girls wanting autographs and even more pictures! I now know what it feels like to be a rock star. CRAZY!
Today is going to be our first “lazy day.” There will be no rehearsal this afternoon. We are performing this evening, however, it’s a joint-concert with all the choirs of the festival. We will be singing Eric Whitacer’s Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine, Jean Belmont Ford’s Farewell Overture and then a traditional Korean song, Arirang, arranged by Hyowon Woo, which will be sung be all the choirs together.
After tonight we will be finished. All that will be left is a little sight-seeing before our long flight home. What an experience!!!
– Cora Blouch, Phoenix Chorale singer