‘All Eyes on Korea’ Be-being

'All Eyes on Korea' Be-beingYesterday we were treated to a wonderful show at the Southbank Centre with one of the first events of the KCC’s ‘All Eyes on Korea’ programme being featured at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The Queen Elizabeth Hall’s acoustics were AMAZING and the perfect venue for Be-Being; a Korean Masque Music Project.

This concert of traditional Korean music consists of both original compositions and reinterpretations of various traditional Korean mask plays. The title of the concert, Yi-myun-gong-jak, refers to an activity or action behind the scenes: wire-pulling in the background revealing the symbolic power of the mask and the masquerade

Last night’s performance was made up of 9 short stages which consisted of 5 musicians, 2 performers, a lion and various videos being projected onto large screens. Each stage was different and mesmerising; we can see a lot of effort was put into the staging as the lighting was top notch and matched the performances perfectly. Even when the stage only featured the 5 musicians, the stage’s atmosphere was thick with emotions.

Night’s programme:‘Yi-myun-gong-jak’
Be being1. Aniri of the Bongsan
2. Saja Chum of the Bongsan Talchum
3. Pijori Chum of the Namsadang
4. Pijori 2
5. Jultagi of the Jain Palgwangdae
6. Sooyoungyaryu
7. Beodeureun
8. Geosa Chum of the Bukcheong Saja-nori
9. Surisuri Mahasuri of the Goseong Ohgwandae
The first stage was dramatic and epically mystical and really set the mood for the night. This piece really demonstrated how well the sounds from these instruments worked together and how they complimented each other. The sounds that filled the hall were majestic and this was accompanied by Lee Seung-hee (according to the programme) who sang what we assume is pansori. We really wish they had subtitles so we can understand what the lyrics were, like the traditional music concert held at the KCC a while back, but the lighting as mentioned before was so well done that everyone just understood felt the feelings and emotions of the piece.The second stage featured the much anticipated Saja Chum (Lion dance). Unlike the Chinese Lion dances we’re used to seeing in London, the Korean lion was less elaborate in the face. The face of the lion was painted on with no special features like blinking eyes but more effort was put into the body of the Korean lion. The body of the lion looked so amazingly fluffy! And unlike Chinese lions where you can normally see the two men operating the lion, a lot more effort was put into concealing the human bodies inside and to keep the illusion of a lion. The lion was also a lot more playful and even went into the audiences as well as performing a few acrobatics. It was definitely one of our favourite stages.The third stage that followed was quite a turn in atmosphere. Whilst the lighting during the Saja Chum of the Bongsan Talchum was warm and golden, things suddenly went dark and we were greeted with two dancing ladies on the two large screens on stage. All those who are familiar with Asian horror were probably as terrified as us. The girls danced with the back towards us, never a good feeling, and were wearing traditional hanboks with long hair/black hair piece? We’re not 100% sure, we were too scared to look any closer. The girls danced slowly and in a rather eerie manner and we were forever waiting for them to turn around and frighten the bejesus out of us and give our wimpy Unnie a heart attack. What made it even more eerie was that each screen featured a different girl dancing so the movements never quite matched up. It was unsettling. Thankfully the fourth stage which followed this, Pijori 2, was a lot calmer and allowed us to relax and just enjoy the music.

be being London

Image from London Korean Times

The fifth stage featured the sort of rope play we witness in ‘The King and the Clown’ but less dangerous as the rope was placed flat on the floor. Two performers enter the stage and we were able to see some humourous Korean slapstick comedy. Mr. Tightrope Walker was epically fabulous at working his fan but he was either the most unbalanced person in the world or a really good actor as he wibbled and wobbled along the rope. But saying that, the rope was extremely thick and as he walked along it his feet were completely off the floor so we’ll give him credit, especially as he then proceeded to come out with a giant flower garland thing that was almost as tall as him and proceeded to balance walk across the rope. Kudos to Mr. Tightrope Walker and of course poor rope holder guy who kept getting smacked, all for the name of comedy.

be being uk

Image from London Korean Links

After such a physical set, the next 2 stages were calm and featured only the musicians, we especially loved Beodeureun, which if we had to use just one word to describe it would be Lavender. The stage was beautifully lit with purple shades and the music was so gentle, relaxing and calming. It lifted our spirits and definitely helped us forget the earlier trauma of the scary dancing ladies who never turned around….Yes we’re still not over that.

The last two stages were very lively. Geosa Chum of the Bukcheong Saja-nori saw the return of the two performers but in V for Vendetta masks style masks. And they were holding something that looked like a table tennis paddle along with a mini bat and hopped along to the music. It was quite surreal and we were told by front rowers that it was quite freaky to see these people in masks slowly approach you. The movements were so controlled and really enhanced the rhythmic beat of the music. But afterwards, during the last stage of the evening, we heard chanting which kind of reminded us of Superjunior’s ‘Sorry Sorry’, but they were actually chanting ‘Surisuri Mahasuri’. But then 2 guys in suits appear (further emphasising the Superjuniorness of it all). And these guys had funny spinning hats on their head. After the very controlled and disciplined dance of the 8th stage, they were allowed to let lose, spinning their crazy hats, spinning their bodies and at one point we thought EXO-K was back in London and D.O and Chanyeol had taken to the stage! It was great to have the evening end on such a energetic stage with the musicians in full force, performers in full spin accompanied by many more dancers seen on screen!

The musicians deserve a MASSIVE round of applause as as far as we could tell they did not fault once. On the left table there was Chun Ji-yoon who played the Haegeum, a verticle fiddle type instrument which give the pieces that familiar traditional Asian music sound, Na Won-il on the little piri a bamboo oboe and Park Soon-A on the Gayageum, the very iconic Zither. Then on the right table is Choi Joon-il whom we have named Mr. Awesome, the programme says he was in charge of the Janggu an hourglass shaped drum, but we saw him play everything and his xylophone skills were tremendous, we know how easy it can be to hit the wrong bar. Next to him was Lee Seung-hee as mentioned before, who was in charge of the vocal arts and but she was also playing some instruments like that weird crazy clacker thing which baffled us to no end. And last but not least, a MASSIVE woop for the two brilliant performers: Yun Hyun-ho and Kim Dong-su for a very entertaining night.

be being musicians

Image from KCC UK

This is just the first of many Korean culture events being held at the Southbank during the ‘All Eyes on Korea’ Festival. For more information check out our previous post and make sure you don’t miss out on the seasonal finale which sees Grammy award winning Soprano songstress Sumi Jo and world renowned elegant violinist Sarah Chang graces the stages at the Royal Festival hall. This will be happening on 31 July and you can buy tickets now via the Southbank Box Office.

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