Behind the scenes with the KAA

With photos by Seong Hee Jo

When you turn up to a cultural event, it’s not always clear how much effort (and stress) has gone into organising it. But even with the most informal of events, there’s a great deal of work that has gone on in the preceding weeks.

With the KAA event at the KCC on Friday, it’s difficult for me to say how polished the evening was because I was presenting, so I can’t say how it came across to the audience. From my own perspective it all miraculously came together, despite last minute hitches.

Some of the problems had surfaced the day before: namely, precisely what software was available for projecting artwork images onto the walls of the KCC. Poor communication at the start of the process, between non-technologically minded people, led to wasted time at the end of the process. In the end, though, the powerpoint slideshows all seemed to work fine.

Even earlier in the process the lack of keyboard (and player) to accompany the classical musicians had been addressed and resolved satisfactorily.

On the day, performers had been asked to be there from 3:30, to check out the sound system and the running order. It was perhaps predictable that the first performer there was the non-Korean, and the run-throughs didn’t really get started till about 5pm. This was a shame because it meant that the two violinists didn’t really have enough time to iron out their stylistic differences in the Bach Double concerto: the Korean more detached and analytical, the South African pulsating with Latin fire.

“What’s the running order?”, asked one of the impromptu stage managers. We made an executive decision and stuck with it: the order that the performers were listed on the invitation. Seemed like as good a decision as any. And that’s how it all got sorted. Arbitrary but reasonably supportable decisions by people whose one aim was to ensure the event was a success. Democratic, a little bit chaotic… Maybe, a little bit Korean?

The most unexpected last minute glitch was, to be perfectly honest, entirely of one particular performer’s making. How can you possibly plan a 15 minute performance critically dependent on two CD players and a mixing desk, without checking first that the venue has such equipment? It was thanks to the cool head (and contact list) of one of the helpful hangers-on that the necessary equipment (together with an engineer to operate it) materialised in time for a quick run-through before the gig started.

Never having been involved in such a production before, I never realised the extent of preparation needed. While clearly such events can’t happen without the performers themselves, they also can’t happen without practical-minded people such as Demetri and Nam-hee who turned up with the performers and planned out who needed to move what bits of stage furniture and equipment at every point in the proceedings. Young-shin had decorated the stage backdrop with some of her own-design wallpaper and was busily co-ordinating the very professional displays of artist profiles. Mr Noh from the KCC was a lynchpin in terms of helping with the electricals.

A last-minute suggestion that maybe we should produce some programmes for the audience was considered momentarily and rejected; the native English speakers recruited to act as greeters, demoted temporarily to supervising the powerpoint slideshows on the mistaken basis that they wouldn’t understand the Korean names on the invitee list, were hastily reinstated. The buffet, expected to arrive sometime during the performance itself, turned up two hours early. Someone suggested that we delay the start by 10 minutes because people were still arriving, but not everyone agreed. Meanwhile, behind the scenes there were some hushed but heated talks aimed at avoiding a diplomatic incident, resulting in the early departure of one visitor whose name was not on the guest list.

The presenter knocked back a large glass of wine to steady the nerves, and we were away…

Links:

  • Read Jennifer Barclay’s account of the evening here

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