Archives For 15th Seoul International Music Competition 2019


Yurie Takano
and Me

As my stay here in Seoul draws to an end, I must thank everyone involved with the Seoul International Music Competition for making me feel so welcome. This has been an amazing experience which has allowed me to briefly sample the culture, both historic and current, of this wonderful Country.

On one of my trips out around the Gangnam district I set out to visit the historic site of Seonjeongneung with Yurie Takano, a Japanese Soprano and fellow competitor.  The site houses the Royal Tombs Seolleung ( The Royal Tomb of King Seongjong – 1495 and Queen Jeonnhyeon 1530 ) and Jeongneung ( The Royal Tomb of King Jungjong – moved to this site in 1562 ).  The site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009, enhancing its status and preserving the location for future generations.

The cost to enter the site is only ₩ 1,000.00 which is very reasonable when you consider a cup of tea or coffee can cost ₩ 4,500.00. Walking around the site I found the place very serene and tranquil which was quite unexpected in such a large bustling city.  To me the Tombs were quite phantasmagorical, an beautiful and picturesque resting place guarded by huge statues resembling humble servants and protectors in the shape of man and beast.

This mystical place made me think of the way the homes of the Hobbits were described in the Lord Of The Rings, a story that my Dad read to me as a child, and in my imagination I was immediately transported to another place in time.

I was fascinated that the grounds in the park leading to the tombs at the top of the hill were split into two different paths. One for visitors and the second a spirit road leading to decorative steps of the spiritual shrine.

The Tomb Guardians were on hand to make sure that visitors respected these special stone paved pathways as they weren’t for the living and that we used the right path to explore this peaceful location.

I hope that you will enjoy sharing a little more of my trip to Seoul over the next couple of weeks.

To close tonight I wanted to let you know that I will be performing in Waterperry Opera Festival’s Fundraising Gala on the 11th April.  The event will aim to raise funds for its charitable activities and to celebrate the launch of their 2019 programme. I believe that it will be a fun evening with some fabulous performances and if you can make it I am sure you will enjoy the evening.

Singing In Seoul

March 27, 2019 — 48 Comments

It has been such an honour to be selected for this year’s Seoul International Music competition and I’m having a magical time here in Seoul, such a beautiful place and the people are so friendly and welcoming.  I have met so many fabulous singers and had the opportunity to spend time with them and build new friendships; Yurie Takano from Japan, Yemonja Stanley from the USA, Maarri Ernits from Estonia, and the super Menna Cazel from the UK. 

This year the standard has been exceptionally high, and I have not envied the job of the judges who have to try and mark our performances and pick the finalists.  I have learned so much from the experience and though I did not progress through to the final round the feedback from the judges has been very constructive and it was a privilege to meet them to seek their advice.

Exploring the city of Seoul has been a real treat as the public transport system is easy to use and very comprehensive once you get to grips with the map 😊 So far I have visited the Olympic village which was about an hour on the train, it was quite inspiring to walk around and try and imagine what it must have been like full of competitors and cheering crowds. 

We have walked all over the Gangnam area which is where we have been staying and sampled the Korean cuisine in several of the local restaurants.

The staff at tourist centre have been so helpful and suggested several places to visit whilst we are here. It was fun to walk along the K-Star road and check out the iconic Gangnam Dolls.

I also visited the Starfield Library in Gangnam which had some amazing larger than life illustrations constructed with books, quite an achievement 😊

The Arts centre where we performed was amazing, it houses the Opera House, Music Hall, the Hangaram Art Museum, the Hangaram Design Museum and the Seoul Calligraphy Museum.  The campus was huge and reminded me of Lincoln Centre in New York and so convenient to have such fabulous performance spaces all in the one place. My brother Matt and his husband Alex flew out yesterday to come and support me and to take a short holiday.  It will be a treat to spend some time here with them and share some quality time exploring the culture and heritage of this amazing City and the surrounding areas

Gopunguisang

March 17, 2019 — 72 Comments

I have some exciting news that I would like to share with you, I will be flying out to Seoul, South Korea this week to take part in the 15th Seoul International Music Competition 2019.  The competition is held annually and alternatively covers three musical disciplines, piano, violin, and voice; meaning that the competition for voice only comes around every third year. There were 235 applicants, from 17 countries considered during the preliminary video submission round and from the applicants 69 singers were selected to progress to the live rounds.  I am so honoured and thrilled to be one of the competitors chosen which also includes singers from Iran, Canada, Chile, Estonia, Germany, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Serbia, USA, and the United Kingdom.  This is a wonderful opportunity for me to visit a new country, experience their culture, meet new friends, and sample South Korean cuisine. I hope to make the most of my time there and if I am chosen to progress through the competition, I will be given the opportunity to sing a Korean Art song.

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Danbi Heo and MinJee Kim

I have really enjoyed preparing the piece called Gopunguisang and have been helped here in London by two of my Korean friends Danbi Heo, who is a concert pianist, and MinJee Kim who is a soprano.  They have helped me with the pronunciation of the lyrics and also talked about Seoul and invited me to join them for some Korean food so that I would know what to order during my stay.  The food was really enjoyable, a little like the Chinese food I have eaten here in the UK but with far more vegetables😊

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The song I chose to learn was Gopunguisang by Isang Yun:

한국어 노랫말 / Korean Lyrics

하늘로 날을 듯이 길게 뽑은 부연 끝 풍경이 운다
처마 끝 곱게 느리운 주렴에 반월이 숨어
아른아른 봄밤이 두견이 소리처럼 깊어 가는 밤
곱아라 고와라 진정 아름다운지고
호장 저고리 하얀 동정이 화안히 밝도소이다
열두 폭 긴 치마가 사르르르 물결을 친다
그대는 어느 나라의 고전을 말하는 한 마리 호접
호접인 양 사뿌시 춤추라 아미를 숙이고
나는 이 밤에 옛날에 살아
눈 감고 거문곳줄 골라 보리니
가는 버들인 양 가락에 맞춰
흰 손을 흔들어지다

영문의역/ English Translation

The wind-bell chimes from the tip of a skyward eave.
The half moon hides itself behind a bead screen hung elegantly from the eave-tip.
Glimmering Spring evening, evening deepening like the cuckoo’s call
Fine, elegant, true beauty supreme,
The white collar of a colorfully striped jeogori shines bright.
A twelve pok long skirt glides in waves.
You dance lightly as if a butterfly, a butterfly reciting an ancient tale of some country.
You lower your arched eyebrows
I close my eyes to live as we did long ago.
I’ll pluck the geomungo so
You may wave your white hand to tune,
As if a slender willow.

A jeorgori is a traditional Korean dress.  The geomungo is a traditional stringed musical instrument of the zither family with both bridges and frets. I researched the composer whose life story was most interesting and will tell you more about him soon.