'Great Melody in the Forest' inspires, transports audience
"We don't feel it is much of a burden to practice all the time because there is so much joy in performing our music before an audience," said Kim Woo-jin, one of a dectet of clarinetists of the Dream With Ensemble who performed at the concert on Friday.
The ensemble of musicians with developmental disabilities has been practicing regularly for the past seven years. And it showed in how easily they could change the mood of the venue.
Playing the upbeat "Tritsch-Tratsch Polka, Op. 214" by Johann Strauss II, or "Tico Tico no Fuba" by Brazilian artist Zequinha de Abreu, the ensemble transported the audience from the forest south of Seoul.
"The pandemic was not an easy time," said Ryu Jong-won, who plays the viola in the group. "But it's great now that we can have more opportunities to perform in person. I hope to be able to perform somewhere abroad soon. I will be practicing hard for that."
The Great Music Festival is an annual competition of musicians with developmental disabilities. It is organized by SK Innovation and the Heart to Heart Foundation and supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and SM Entertainment.
Around 1,500 musicians with developmental disabilities have participated in the festival since 2017, according to the organizers.
Members of the diplomatic corps in the audience agreed there are no borders when it comes to values such as humanity, compassion or equality.
Around 1 billion people, or 15 percent of the world's population, are estimated to live with disabilities, according to the World Health Organization.
"As someone with a member of my own extended family who lives with developmental disabilities, I have seen first-hand the struggles this special group of people has had to face and how they continue to bravely face daily challenges with the support of caring communities," said Maria Theresa Dizon-De Vega, ambassador of the Philippines to Korea, in addressing the diplomatic corps at the venue earlier in the day.
"The world is ever more connected than before, and I would like to emphasize that there is no national border when it comes to international cooperation," said Xing Haiming, Chinese ambassador to Korea, speaking via video message at the event. "I will give my best to work together with members of the diplomatic communities to overcome the common challenges we face. Such cooperation only makes sense for a better future together."
Prior to the concert, SK forest, a subsidiary of the SK Inc. that cultivated some 4,500 hectares of forests throughout the country, including the forest in which the concert was held, introduced the guests to its carbon reduction visions.
"We are aiming to gather around 200,000 tons of carbon credits made by the forests," said Chung In-bo, CEO of SK forest. "And in this work, we are cooperating with other countries, such as Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia."
The history of SK forest goes back to 1972, when the late SK Group Chairman Chey Jong-hyon established the company. It was named Seohae Development at the time. He bought a total of 4,000 hectares of wasteland in Chungju, Cheonan, South Chungcheong, and Yeongdong, North Chungcheong, in 1970s and reforested the areas.
The exhibition that SK forest presented at the World Forestry Congress earlier this month, the Green Forest Pavilion, a digitalized exhibition that allows people to feel like they are walking in a forest, was open to concert visitors on Friday.
"Being here today in Mount Indeung reminds me of the good memories I have from forests in Finland, as both of our countries are covered with forests," said Pekka Metso, ambassador of Finland to Korea, in addressing the diplomatic corps at the start of the concert. "The two countries also share a passion in innovation, and have been working closely on that front."
"The Philippines, a place where over a quarter of the country is covered by forests and where integration programs for those with disabilities continue to be undertaken, joins the rest of the international community in lauding all these efforts," said Dizon-De Vega.
Korea JoongAng Daily CEO Cheong Chul-gun, who was hosting the concert a second time since the inaugural event with SK Innovation and the foundation last December, said there is something about the concerts that shifts perspective.
"We knew it was only right to continue these concerts, and I am happy to be joined by colleagues and friends all around the world who care for the same things: humanity, kindness and responsibility to make a positive change," he said, in addressing the audience at Mount Indeung. "I have no doubt that the conversations we have today with each other, with nature, and with music ... as we hear from some of the most amazing musicians in Korea, will bring about a positive change, even if it means the smallest change of a thought or perspective."
BY ESTHER CHUNG [email@example.com]