중앙데일리

An ajumma choir sings sweetly toward victory

Nov 12,2007
The Bundang Mothers’ Choir at practice for the Busan Choral Festival and Competition 2007. The group won a gold medal at the competition. By Choi Seung-sik
A group of ajumma rocked the Busan Cultural Center last week.
The middle-aged housewives, who make up the Bundang Mothers’ Choir, won a gold medal at the Busan Choral Festival and Competition 2007, which wrapped up Nov. 3.
The Bundang Mothers’ Choir won the traditional music division of the competition over groups from around the globe.
Bundang is a district in the city of Seongnam in southern Gyeonggi.
Forty-five teams from 15 countries, including seven Korean teams, participated in the competition. The teams competed in four divisions: popular, traditional, mixed-voiced classic and women’s. The mothers’ choir was the only Korean team to win a prize.
The Bundang choir gave perfect renditions of “Karma” and “Cheongsanbyeolgok,” two songs that were composed by Yu Tae-wang, a professor at the Seoul Artspool Conservatory.
Judges at the event agreed that the amateur group of ajumma was almost as good as most municipal choirs, citing their wonderful harmonies and professional delivery.
The Bundang Mothers’ Choir was founded in May 1995 by the Bundang district office. The choir has received a great deal of attention recently after winning a number of contests.
The original choir was relatively small in its early days, but that changed in April 1998 when the group heavily recruited singers from around town to compete in the 30th Nanpa Festival. One choir member even persuaded her friend from high school to relocate to Bundang to join the choir.
The group also invited a music professor to train them. They practiced for four hours every Tuesday and Friday in the conference room of the Bundang district office. They kept strict attendance, and if a member missed more than 10 rehearsals within a six month period, she was automatically cut.
At first, many singers’ families weren’t happy that the matriarchs were spending so much time at choir practice. But later, most families grew more supportive.
Lee Yeong-hui, 49, said, “I even practiced at home, and my husband and the kids would do the housework.” Currently, more than 10 members have been in the choir for at least 10 years.
The choir took top prize at the 2004 Korea Choir Competition in Geoje, South Gyeongsang, a silver medal at the 2004 World Choir Games in Germany, a prize at the Whisen Choir Festival in 2005 and a bronze medal at the 2006 World Choir Games in China.
As the choir’s fame continues to grow, many groups from around the country have invited the housewives to sing for them. The group has performed some 60 times in the past decade
Park Yeong-hui, 47, the choir’s leader, said, “We are fully booked for the winter season.” The choir is set to next appear in a musical taking place at the Seongnam Arts Center.


By Chung Young-jin JoongAng Ilbo [yhwang@joongang.co.kr]


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