Jeonju Hills to Be Alive With Sound of PansoriJeonju city in North Cholla province is well known as the origin of pansori, or the Korean solo opera style which assumed its present-day form in the 18th century. The term pansori is a compound of pan, which means place, and sori, which means sound. It can be thus be defined as sounds played at a place where many people assemble. These days, such performances are also called simply sori.
Jeonju will host a festival between Saturday and Oct. 21 to celebrate its proud pansori tradition. The first Jeonju Sori Festival will bring together a wide array of performers － including gospel, Indian brass band, Japanese anti-war songs, and Korean percussion － as well as pansori masters.
The music extravaganza will be the largest performing arts event held in the nation this year. North Cholla province has already spent about 4.4 billion won ($3.4 million) to organize the festival, which has been selected as one of the top 10 events for Visit Korea Year 2001. More than 200 performances by 170 troupes from 14 countries crowd the schedule. An estimated 65,000 people, including performers, organizing staff and volunteers, will participate in the festival. The mecca of pansori culture has always been Jeonju, which has housed numerous pansori masters. The city is also full of youngsters who come to study the art. Considering the local popularity of pansori, it is natural that most of the festival's fully booked performances so far are shows boasting pansori stars － such as Ahn Sook-sun, Song Seon-seop, Sung Woo-hyang, Kim Il-gu and Lee Il-ju - like "Korean Heartbeats" and "Pungryu of Namdo." Those masters will sing popular operas based on Korean folktales such as "Simcheong-ga," "Sugung-ga," "Chunhyang-ga," "Jeokbyeok-ga" and "Heungbo-ga."
A secondary focus of the festival will be on ritual music from both the East and the West. For instance, Ssitgim-gut, a Korean traditional shamanistic ceremony originating on Jindo island, as well as Catholic hymns and black American gospel songs, will be staged at temples, private shrines and churches. Most of these spiritual performances will be held not at sterile auditoriums but at real religious sites to emphasize the original purpose of the music and the importance of the setting.
The festival will also offer two premiere performances by local composers: "Pan-gut," by Kim Dong-sung, and "Dedication to Liberty" by Yun Yi-sang. "Pan-gut," featuring a martial music band and Hanullim Samulnori, a drum band led by the percussionist Kim Duk-soo, will be introduced Saturday at an outdoor site in front of Sori Arts Center's Moak Hall. Also, a chamber symphony by the North Korean composer Yun Yi-sang will be presented for the first time in the South by the Changwon City Orchestra on Oct. 18.
Other highlights of the festival include productions by Japan's Collegium Musicum Telemann, America's Plantation Singers, Mali's Wakinama Percussion Players, India's Jaipurkawa Brass Band and Romania's Armonia Brass Quintet. A traditional classical Korean concert, onnuri, on Sunday will feature the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jung Chi-young, a samulnori percussion band, and traditional musicians such as Jeong Hoe-gap on the gayageum, or zither, and Lee Young-jo on the piri, or flute.
Also, there will be plenty of free concerts and other performances offered at outdoor locales such as Festival Plaza near Jeonju City Hall, Gaek-sa House, and Jeonbuk University.
For more information, visit the Web site at www.sori-festival.com (English available) or call 063-232-8398.
by Lee Jang-jik