Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wedding Anniversary with a Korean Twist - Part II

After our anniversary dinner at the Korean restaurant, we went to the 3rd annual Korean-American cultural arts festival held at George Mason University (Fairfax, VA). The theme of the event this year was the celebration of the 630th birthday of Nangye Park Yeon, one of the most famous musicians in Korean history.

As we pulled up to the cultural arts center, the first thing we noticed was that there was a very high percentage (probably at least 90%) of Asian people in attendance. We thought there would be many Korean Americans, but thought that there would be a broader mix of different racial and ethnic backgrounds that were interested in experiencing a piece of Korean culture. We could tell that the cultural festival was an important way for the Korean Americans to keep in touch with their cultural history. When we entered the main lobby, we noticed that there were several art exhibits setup. All of the artists are from the local area. There was a paper artist, calligrapher, florist, and painter. All of the art was very nice with the floral arrangements and paper art particularly beautiful.

The performances for the festival were all musical. The first half was all traditional Korean music. The first performance was music that was performed during royal ceremonies. There was a mix of wind instruments (bamboo flutes and oboes), fiddles, and drums. All of the instruments were Korean...they are nothing like the western instruments that we're used to seeing. In addition, the sounds are very unique. At first they sounded very strange to us, but as the music continued we started to get a feel for it and began to enjoy it more. During the first performance, there was also a royal court fashion show. Men and women walked slowly onto the stage wearing outfits that you would have seen in Korean royal courts throughout the years.

The second performance was a dance called Salpuri which means to exorcise evil energies. The woman danced slowly while holding a silken scarf. The music was slow and the scarf movements were in coordination with minute foot movements. The first half of the concert ended with 3 more performances. Most of the music was played with a slower, almost reverent pace. The melodies seemed to repeat quite a bit (probably because I have an untrained ear and didn't notice the differences).

After a 20 minute intermission, the second half kicked off with a speech by the master of ceremonies. He started in English than spoke for several minutes in Korean (we're not sure what he said). When he started speaking in English again, he began talking about the history of Korea and how it changed with the occupation by Japan in the early 1900s. As he talked more and more about the last 100 years, he started lecturing the audience on taking accountability and influencing our children. The audience began to get a little restless, I'm assuming that they didn't enjoyed being lectured to.

The whole second half was performed by a Korean traditional orchestra. The setup was like a traditional orchestra that you would experience in western civilization, but consisted of Korean or other eastern instruments. Most of the music was more upbeat than the first half of music. Once piece of music featured solos of almost every instrument, so we got to hear what each one sounded like by itself. The last performance was our favorite. The piece was called Chukjae which is a recreational festival. The orchestra was joined by a saxophonist. The upbeat music featured many saxophone solos that were countered with percussion solos. It was as if the percussion instruments were dueling with the saxophone. The audience thoroughly enjoyed it...enough for an encore performance.

We really enjoyed our day experiencing a little bit of the Korean culture. We know that our child will be raised as an American, but we want to make sure that he understands his proud Korean heritage. We can't wait to share these experiences with him as he grows and explores both his American heritage and his Korean heritage.

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