London Korean Links

Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

Concert Notes: National Gugak Centre at the Lilian Baylis Theatre

Performers from the National Gugak Centre playing Cheonnyeonmanse

You can’t really have a Korean music festival without some traditional music as once enjoyed by the court and literati. And who better to perform it that members of Korea’s National Gugak Centre, the body established to preserve and perform such music. The musicians have been touring Europe, most recently in Paris to launch Année France Corée where they performed the magnificent music for the Jongmyo rituals. Such a staging requires two orchestras, sixty four dancers and a range of exotic percussion instruments. For the finale of their tour, which was also the final concert of K-Music 2015, the forces required were much more modest, and the intimate space of the Lillian Bayliss Theatre at Sadler’s Wells was a good venue.

Sanjo dance with ajaeng, Hwang Mubong Style
Sanjo dance with ajaeng, Hwang Mubong Style

The programme started with the austere Cheonnyeonmanse (literally meaning “Live Long, for a Thousand Years”) a piece of court music – the genre which the National Gugak Centre was originally established to perform. The rich reds of the players’ uniforms complemented the stately music well.

Daegeum sanjo
Daegeum sanjo

There followed three pieces of folk music – sanjo – of which two were accompanied by traditional dancers, sandwiching a solo daegeum sanjo in between.

Geummu - a geomungo sanjo with dancer
Geummu – a geomungo sanjo with dancer

We returned briefly to court music with Suryongeum, which literally means “a dragon in the water reciting a poem” This was scored for saenghwang and piri, and was slightly melancholy in its tone and Spartan in texture.

Suryongeum, for saengwhang and danso
Suryongeum, for saengwhang and danso

It was good to finish with the more unrestrained, shamanist-inspired genre of sinawi, where instrumentalists are given the opportunity to improvise, the tempi are faster and there is a sense of enjoyment which is shared between players and audience. The audience duly responded.


We look forward to K-Music 2016.

Daegeum: KIM Younghun, WON Wanchul | Danso: KIM Younghun | Gayageum: WEI Heekyung | Piri, Saengwhang: LEE Jongmoo | Haegeum: CHUN Eunhye | Geomungo: LEE Sunhwa | Janggu: CHO Sungwook, JEONG Junho | Ajaeng: KIM Youngkil | Dance: LEE Juri, KIM Chungwoo

Photos courtesy KCCUK

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