Orchestra celebrates UN membership

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Orchestra celebrates UN membership

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The UN Orchestra, composed of 70 employees of UN and Geneva-based international organizations, plays piano concertos at the Grand Peace Palace of Kyung Hee University in eastern Seoul on Monday to promote peace on the Korean Peninsula in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Korea’s membership to the United Nations. [PARK SANG-MOON]

The curtains went up on the UN Orchestra’s classical concert at Kyung Hee University in eastern Seoul on Monday, as thousands gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of South Korea’s membership at the United Nations.

“Classical music is an extraordinary vehicle for peace,” said Bonian Golmohammadi, secretary general of World Federation of United Nations Associations (Wfuna). “It knows no borders and has the ability to transcend all cultural and linguistic boundaries, reaching people’s hearts with a unifying message that is immediate and profound.”

Wfuna hosted the concert with Music for One Foundation and its chamber ensemble, Kyung Hee University and UN Orchestra.

“For this reason,” Golmohammadi said, “we invited the United Nations Orchestra to the Republic of Korea to bring a message of unity and peace, and to raise awareness about the important work of the United Nations.”

The concert on Monday was the second of four scheduled in Korea, following one held in collaboration with a city philharmonic orchestra at the Sejong Center on Sunday. The orchestra will perform today at the Asia Culture Center in Gwangju, and at the Geumjeong Cultural Center in Busan on Thursday.

The concerts in Korea are the first that UN Orchestra have ever performed in Asia.

“This tour is a milestone for the orchestra, which celebrated its fifth anniversary this year,” said Martine Coppens, president and co-founder of UN Orchestra. “Founded in 2011, it is composed of 70 talented and dedicated nonprofessional musicians who work at UN and other Geneva-based international organizations and NGOs.

“In the 30 concerts over the last five years, [the orchestra] raised more than $170,000 for 10 humanitarian organizations active in fields of education, health and assistance to refugees. It would be a rare privilege for all orchestra to perform here in Seoul in the occasion of the UN Day.”

The UN Orchestra on Monday played “Ode to Peace” by Pablo Casals and “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor” by Sergei Rachmaninoff with pianist Im Mi-jung and “Symphony No. 5” by Tchaikovsky and “Arirang,” by North Korean composer Choi Sung-hwan. It comprises employees of the United Nations and international organizations based in Geneva, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, World Health Organization, International Labour Organization, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

“This is my second season playing with the UN Orchestra,” said Joannah Wengler, who has been working at the UN Research Institute for Social Development for four years and plays the violin in the orchestra. “Music is not a replacement for diplomacy, it’s not ever going to solve all the world’s problems, but it is a way to bring people together to get them to talk to each other, not against each other.”

“I used to play flute in an orchestra in college, but I couldn’t anymore after I started working,” said Takuya Ono, who has been working at the International Organization for Migration for 12 years and joined the orchestra last year. “It’s not simple, but somehow music can help take out those divisions and borders.”

The concert on Monday at Kyung Hee University was joined by over 3,000 participants, according to Wfuna, some 60 percent of whom were ordinary citizens, in addition to employees of international organizations and various embassies in Korea.

“I am interested in finding out more about international organizations and their role in promoting peace throughout the world,” said Park Jong-tae, a junior at Dong-A University in Busan, who travelled to Seoul to help organize the concert.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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