For those of us who thought “Gangnam Style” was just a name from the most downloaded YouTube video in history (see Psy’s Gangnam Style performance), the Classical Monday concert by Gangnam Symphony Ensemble will change that forever.
Seungja Patricia Kim, Vice President of the Korean Cultural Center of Chicago and one of the organizers of this event said that their group hoped to promote tourism and interest in Korea among Chicagoans. This event had been in the works for half a year when the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs invited the organization to create a concert for the Classical Monday series.
There was no shortage of style or professionalism in this concert by three ensembles drawn from the orchestra: a string quartet; followed by 3 French horns and flute; and a finale by a brass ensemble including two memorable encores.
As if to extend a warm welcome to a heartland audience, the first selection was A. Dvorák’s String Quartet Op. 96 “American”. The nickname of this piece reportedly is due to Dvořák being entertained with native dances and songs by a group of Kickapoo Indians as he composed this piece, with rumors that their melodies are integrated into the music.
As soon as the quartet (1st Violin: Soo-Ah Lee; 2nd Violin: Sun-Shin Park; Viola: Hae-Heong Park; Cello: Dong-Il Lee) began to play it was clear that we were to be delighted by each musician carrying the voice of their instrument both solo and melded with the others as we imagine to be just what the composer had wanted. The first movement (Allegro ma non troppo) stirred the audience with its tempo and bright shades, and was followed by a slow second movement at times feeling like waves of water flowing calmly towards us, with a fourth movement finale (Vivace ma non troppo) providing a triumphant conclusion.
The timing for the second piece, “A.F. Doppler’s “L’oiseau des bois Op. 21” could not have been more perfect. It began with four strong horn players (Jin-Sun So, Kyu-Sung Cho, Ju-Suk Lee and Jung-Hyun Kwon) making one very aware of the magnificent acoustics of the Preston Bradley Hall space, which seemed to have been waiting for these horn players’ arrival since its doors were opened. Soon, like the bird of the title, flautist Sung-Yun Kim entered the hall trilling to the accompaniment of the horns. Did the Gangnam Symphony know that they would be playing this song of spring on JUST the day when long-awaited spring seemed to have finally arrived in Chicago?
The brass ensemble (Trumpets: Chang-Hwan Cho and Dal-Sic Kim; Horn: Jin-Sun So; Trombone: Seung-Hyun Kim; and Tuba: Eun-Guan Lee) then followed with T. Susato’s “Renaissance Dance”, D. Shostakovich’s Waltz No. 2 from the Jazz Suite; the popular tune “It’s Now or Never” by Capua, a very amusing “Instant Concert” by H.L.Waters which seemed to have a musical phrase for nearly every ethnic group in Chicago (Hava Negila, Mexican Hat Dance, the Can Can, snippets of William Tell Overture and more), followed by a thrilling demonstration of clean staccato brass sounds and trilling notes in “Bugler’s Holiday” by L. Anderson.
Thank goodness nobody gave Gangnam Symphony the memo that the Classical Monday performers never really do encores. Not one but two delighted the crowd, which had many of the seeming “Monday regulars” as well as new faces from Chicago’s Korean community among audience members. Again as if with a tip of the hat to our locale the selected encores included jazzy cowboy themes.
Psy step aside, you have a very accomplished orchestra now to share the platform with in defining to Chicagoans what “Gangnam Style” is all about.
Preston Bradley Hall Chicago Cultural Center (also nicknamed “The People’s Palace”)
78 East Washington Street Chicago
12:15 – 1:00 PM Every Monday
This event in fact was initiated by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs more than half a year ago when it contacted the Korean Cultural Center currently headquartered in Wheeling. This concert and the entire symphony’s upcoming performance in Skokie have been anticipated by Chicago’s Korean community and the events will be broadcast by our Korean language station Channel 41.
This and all Classical Monday concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center are free admission.
Photo credits: Gangnam Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Peter Kachergis