A group of musicians clad in “hanbok” (Korean traditional costume) gather in front of Heungnyemun Gate of Gyeongbok Palace, the largest among Seoul’s five grand palaces from the 1392-1910 Joseon Kingdom. As they start to play “Daechwita,” traditional Korean military music, visitors flock to the energetic tune and stroll through the palace with the musicians.


This is part of “Gyeongbokgung Palace Concert,” a new type of concert that brings an immersive element to the palace under moonlight amidst the skyscrapers of central Seoul. Instead of sitting in a designated seat, audiences follow the musicians and explore the grounds of the royal palace.

The musical procession started at Heungnyemun Gate continues through Yeongjegyo Bridge and Geunjeongjeon Hall toward Sajeongjeon Hall, where the second performance takes place.

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Sajeongjeon was the royal office during Joseon and a solo performance there on daegeum (large bamboo flute) graces the night with improvised interaction with audiences.


The familiar tune of “Bukcheong Arirang” is played at Eojeong, the royal well or water storage near the royal bedchamber.

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Jeongak Sinawi “Harmony” performed at Hamwonjeon Hall, where Buddhist statues were stored for rituals, is the best piece to enjoy the natural sounds of the palace with geomungo (zither), ajaeng (zither), piri (double-reed instrument) and double bass at four different places around the courtyard and a daegeum player walking around the yard.


The concert wraps up at Gyotaejeon Hall, the queen’s living quarters. The hall is also known as the “nine-walled palace” for being at the innermost part of the palace and its seclusion. A dancer joins the musicians to perform “Chunaengmu,” a traditional court dance showcasing the essence of Korean court culture.

Lee A-ram, daegeum player and artistic director of the concert, said the idea was initiated from imagining how Joseon people enjoyed music in the palace.

“At first, we were not confident about the immersive concept. There is no sound or light equipment and we have to play for unspecified individuals with risk of accidents in the dark palace,” Lee said. “However, we liked the idea of traditional music played in the palace and organized the program and moving path to discover lesser-known parts of the palace.”
Lee took inspiration from the Pied Piper and made audiences follow the musicians around the palace.

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“Korean traditional string instruments are difficult to move around and perform at the same time. So I chose easy-to-carry and light woodwind instruments to lead the concert,” Lee said. “Also, traditional vocal music such as minyo (folk song) is popular, so I diversified the programs to center on daegeum and vocal music.”

The concert runs until May 31 except for Tuesday _ the “Follow the Voice” concerts on May 24 and 27 and “Follow the Daegeum” concerts on May 25, 26, 28, 30 and 31 at 7:30 p.m. The concert is free, but night admission to Gyeongbok Palace is required. Visit royalpalace.go.kr for more information.

Source: THE KOREA TIMES

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