Down in Jeonju, hills to resound with many voices

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Down in Jeonju, hills to resound with many voices

Of all musical instruments, the human voice is the most delicate, and the most powerful. Whether used in the solo opera performance pansori to tell a long romantic epic or at the World Cup to chant and cheer, the human voice wields almost limitless power to excite and impress. A music festival beginning later this month on the peninsula will put those powers in the spotlight.

This year's Jeonju Sori Festival runs from Aug. 24 to Sept. 1 in the North Jeolla province city, and has the human voice as its theme. Sori is Korean for "sound." The festival will try to find the most beautiful sounds the human voice can make, importing singers from various countries. More than 150 domestic and foreign teams will participate in the festival, seeking to let the audience feel the strength of the human voice, and using songs to overcome the language barrier.

"I am trying to serve this year's audience with well-balanced meals, avoiding dishes that are too heavy," said Lim Jin-teak, the general director of the festival. Last year's lineup for the festival was criticized by many who said that the theme was vague and the program too diverse.

As a result, this year's program is tighter. It includes the show "Chorus," in which domestic and foreign choruses will participate, "Looking for Unknown Sounds," which introduces the folk music of 11 countries including such far-flung places as Mongolia and Ecuador, and "Intensive Pansori," in which both old masters and new faces take the stage to perform the traditional opera.

With the "Intensive Pansori" program, the audience will have chances to compare the evolution of various pansori schools by hearing the old and young singers from many schools.

Among the many foreign troupes invited to perform is a Chinese theater group, which will perform music and dance from the Tang Dynasty era (618-910), using sensational costumes and an elaborate stage. A Tibetan musician, Nawang Khechog, will perform with Korean players of traditional wind instruments.

Singing styles from other countries but similar to pansori will be presented. Troupes from China, India, Mongolia and Japan will perform songs that tell long, dramatic stories.

Also, contemporary Korean musicals, such as "Honbul," based on the best-selling novel of the same title, will also be staged.

by Lee Jang-jik

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