Under the starry night, with the breeze tickling my nose, jazz melodies filled the air. Families, couples, and friends all gathered at the Tapdong music hall on Aug. 10 to enjoy a perfect combination of wind and percussion music drawn from the palette of Jeju.
For the first day of the Jeju International Wind Ensemble Festival (JIWEF) — running now until Aug. 18 — Ulsan University Symphonic Band from Korea and the Phoenix Foundation from Germany were the first two bands to take to the stage at the Jeju Seaside Art Center Concert Hall, Jeju City.
If the Ulsan University Symphonic Band drew classical melodies, Phoenix Foundation painted an electric funky jazz sound with guitars, piano, and drums. Over 500 people watched the performance including 70 members of the Kreisjugend-Orchestra from Ludwigsburg, Germany who were on hand to cheer on their compatriots in the Phoenix Foundation. They stood and swayed to the rhythm.
Mariel Daniel, an 18-year-old professional musician from the Kreisjugend-Orchestra said, “Our orchestra visits Jeju every two years” for this event.
He continued, with great pride for his orchestra, that though they are only a local group “it is very tough to get into our orchestra. We play high-quality classical music.”
He also commented on the happiness he felt being in Asia for the first time. “Koreans are so friendly unlike the Germans who are very curt. I love Korea!”
The opportunity to watch this top-notch, high-quality festival might not have been possible without the efforts of Lee Sang Cheol, the vice chairman of the JIWEF organizing committee, who initiated the first JIWEF in 1995. He was easily noticeable during the concert, busily roaming around the site.
The Weekly asked him how he came up with an idea to host the JIWEF. “Jeju is closely related to wind in every aspect. Firstly, to look back in history, Jeju had its own wind ensemble band in the 1950s during the Korean war to soothe the souls of refugees,” he said, adding “secondly, Jeju has 27 wind ensemble bands out of 400 in Korea. It accounts for 8 percent of all Korean wind instrument bands, which proves that Jeju is walking at the forefront of the Korean wind instrument world.”
He lastly mentioned how Jeju’s windy weather affected its hosting of wind ensemble concerts saying “thirdly, it is better to have wind instruments playing rather than string instruments whose tunes are vulnerable to the windy weather.”
Asked what the festival means to him, Lee said it evokes in his mind the image of a flower “since flowers blossom after long preparation.”
“I go to the office every day to prepare for the festival even for three years in advance. Though it is short, but during the nine-day festival period, my years of effort blossom most beautifully. “
Lee hopes that Korean musicians will start producing creative works for the festival.
“JIWEF asked the German composer to write a song about Jeju, which was named ‘Jeju Symphony’ and the Ulsan symphony orchestra just played the music beautifully. We also asked Jacob De Hann from the Netherlands to compose a song about the Jeju goddess grandmother Sulmundae. I hope we can hear songs composed by world-renowned Korean composers that lively depict Korea's traditional spirit.”
The concert provided the joy of coming together with others through sharing music along Jeju’s blue sea, and created for me another unforgettable melody about Jeju that will forever deeply flow in my mind.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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