Pyongyang Orchestra to Perform in Seoul

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Pyongyang Orchestra to Perform in Seoul

The first-ever Seoul concert of Pyongyang's National Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to take place soon. The Pyongyang Symphony Orchestra, consisting of 130 musicians, is North Korea's finest musical troupe.

The Orchestra is scheduled to arrive in the South on August 18, then perform at KBS Hall and the Seoul Arts Center (SAC) August 20-22 before returning to the North August 24. The performances were originally slated for August 14-15, but North Korea requested a postponement.

Led by co-head conductor Kim Il-jin(44), the Orchestra also plans to hold a joint performance with South Korea's KBS Symphony Orchestra. The KBS Orchestra is conducted by Kwak Seung and consists of 98 members.

Soprano Jo Su-mi and a soloist from North Korea will sing together during the Seoul performances. They will sing one symphony number, one concerto, and a new version of the traditional Korean song 'Arirang.' The selections have yet to be confirmed, however.

The government has been trying to realize the goal of a Seoul concert by Pyongyang's Orchestra since 1994. On previous tries, SAC officials secured approval from the Unification Ministry, but other factors, such as nuclear inspection conflicts, thwarted their efforts. They also tried to realize a joint performance at Pyongyang's Mansudae Theater with the Euro-Asian Philharmonic Orchestra led by renowned Korean conductor Gum Nanse. That endeavor ended unsuccessfully as well.

Pyongyang's Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1946. Each Orchestra musician is a graduate of the Pyongyang University of Music and Dance. The Orchestra's home is Pyongyang's 800-seat Moranbong Theater. Three master conductors (Han Young-sang, Kim Jung-yoon,and Kim Ho-yoon) assist Orchestra co-head conductor Kim Byung-hwa(67).

Kim Il-jin, who earned the official title 'meritorious artist,' is the permanent conductor of the Mansudae Art Troupe as well as co-conductor of the Pyongyang Symphony Orchestra. A cellist, Kim graduated from a top music education institution in Moscow and is renowned for his talent.

Heavily influenced by the dazzling colors and solemn music that distinguishes Russian orchestra, the Pyongyang Orchestra is said to play in a continental style.

by Lee Jang-jik

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