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National Chorus of Korea aims to reach global audience with first album

A promotional video for “Voices of Solace,” the first regular album of the National Chorus of Korea, plays at Times Square in New York in July. (National Chorus of Korea)
A promotional video for “Voices of Solace,” the first regular album of the National Chorus of Korea, plays at Times Square in New York in July. (National Chorus of Korea)

The National Chorus of Korea aims to reach global audiences with its first album and special concerts with US soloists. After releasing its first regular album, “Voices of Solace,” alongside high-budget music videos for the album in June, the 49-year-old national choral group is taking Korea’s old and new melodies to the stage with the 24-member American Soloists Ensemble this month.

“I had a chance to conduct an all-Korean music concert in the US in 2019 and realized Korea’s art songs and choir groups have great potential to appeal to a global audience,” Yoon Eui-joong, who has been leading the NCK since 2017 as conductor and artistic director, told local reporters during a press conference Tuesday.

The NCK began preparing an album, two music videos for that album and a series of concerts after the 2019 US concert.

To commemorate the 140th anniversary of the establishment of Korea-US relations, the National Chorus and a special ensemble of 24 singers from the US will perform under the title of “The Night of Korean Art Song With an American Soloists Ensemble.”

Following performances in Gangwon Province and Seoul last weekend, the special concert will continue at Seoul Arts Center on Thursday and at Daejeon Arts Center on Saturday as part of the International Music Festival. The Seoul Arts Center concert is free of charge.

The final concert for foreign envoys in South Korea will take place at the National Theater on Sunday.

The National Chorus of Korea and the American Soloists Ensemble will sing various Korean art and folk songs, including “Never Forget,” “Ummaya, Nunaya (Mother, Sister),” “A Young Lady Who Sells Flowers” and “The Hymn of Death.”

Enrico Lagasca, bass-baritone of the American Soloists Ensemble, said that learning Korean art songs and performing with Korea’s top choral group has been a chance to learn one aspect of Korean culture.

“For any art song in the West, there is no comparison in a way. It’s very unique. We’re just on the journey of learning the history by singing the tunes, words and be immersed with the richness of korean culture through music,” Lagasca said Tuesday.

Yoon said that for as long as the budget allows, he wishes to continue collaborating with singers around the world so that many musicians can have an opportunity to be immersed in Korea’s choral music.

“This time was with American singers, but I hope similar concerts can happen with European singers and Southeast Asian singers and children around the world,” Yoon said.

“Voices of Solace” was released June 21. The album contains 11 tracks, including “Arirang,” “Living in Cheongsan,” “Island Baby,” “Starvation,” “Saeya, Saeya (Birds, Birds)” and “Eo-gi-young-cha.”

The National Chorus of Korea has produced music videos for “Saeya, Saeya,” the lead track of the album composed by Oh Byung-hee, and “Eo-gi-young-cha,” composed by Woo Hyo-won.

(gypark@heraldcorp.com)
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