LA Master Chorale Presents MUGUNGHWA, 3/6
Renowned violinist Jennifer Koh joins Gershon and the Los Angeles Master Chorale to perform the world premiere of Mugunghwa: Rose of Sharon by Mark Grey - named one of the Los Angeles Times "2008 Faces to Watch" - Sunday, March 6, 2011, 7 p.m., at Disney Hall. With text based on the extraordinary verses of Korean poet and engineer Namsoo Kim, who fled from a North Korean prison at the outbreak of the Korean War, the piece was commissioned by the Chorale and is the fourth piece to be premiered by the choir as part of its notable "LA Is the World" initiative, which was launched in 2007. This installment begins phase two of the initiative, conceived by Gershon as a collaboration among composers, master musicians and the choir to expand the choral literature with works that mirror LA's vibrant multi-cultural fabric.
Also on the all-Korean program, entitled "Stories from Korea," is a stunning piece for three choirs entitled Me-Na-Ri by Hyowon Woo, who is the composer-in-residence of the world-renowned Incheon City Chorale and is recognized as one of the most brilliant young Korean composers on the scene today. The Chorale also performs a variety of Korean folksongs, including a wonderful choral arrangement by Hojun Lee of the classic Korean song Arirang Fantasie, Hyunchul Lee's Dona Nobis Pacem, an arrangement by Ben Jisoo Kim of Hangangsu Taryeong (Han River Song), Jungsun Park's Dal-A Dal-a Ba-Geun Dal-A (children's song).
Adding special flavor to the evening, the famed Kogi Korean BBQ truck rolls up to Disney Hall prior to the concert from 4-7 PM, selling its delectable blend of Korean American street fare. Los Angeles Times food writer Jessica Galt gushes, "magic resides in a Kogi taco."
Mugunghwa: Rose of Sharon, written for Koh and the Chorale, is a story of courage and passion and based on writings by Korean engineer and writer Namsoo Kim. The work relates one man's spiritual path to reunification with his family, homeland and deceased father and blends hints of Korea's cherished musical and cultural traditions with Western art music to create a vibrant soundscape.
"Mark Grey is a composer for whom I have tremendous admiration," says Gershon. "His piece, Mugunghwa, is a major new choral work - poetic, intense, and sonorous. It sparkles with fantastically colorful harmonies that respond beautifully to the poetry and the personal letters Mark has chosen to set to music. Audiences will love Mark's storytelling, his fascinating and accessible music, as well as the interplay of virtuosic chorus and violin solo. This is an extraordinary new work that I am exceedingly proud to premiere with the Master Chorale. This concert is a brilliant showcase for the Chorale and exemplifies what we mean when we say 'LA is the World.'"
Grey, whose compositions have been performed in Carnegie Hall, the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall and London's Barbican Centre, among other leading venues, eloquently describes the genesis of the piece: "When Grant approached me to conceptualize a work for solo violin, chorus and chamber ensemble I welcomed the challenge, partly due to there being very little repertoire written in this unique setting. Jennifer, a Korean-American, and I both decided that a story that celebrates the Korean people should be the subject of the work. In Mugunghwa, meaning Rose of Sharon, the symbolic role of the solo violin represents a Korean shaman - traditionally a woman who links the spirit world with human beings. Here, the violin is performing a non-traditional rite connecting one man's spiritual path with the reunification of his family, people, homeland, and deceased father. The chorus paints a wondrous landscape with Namsoo Kim's beautiful and turbulent poetry. Soaring and vibrant choral passages mix with deeply sonorous and dense textures to weave the touching story of loss and hope. When the solo violin and ensemble perform together they channel the voice of Kim's father. Kim, who fled a North Korean prison at the outbreak of the Korean War, never saw his father again. Though not directly quoting traditional Korean music, Mugunghwa does amalgamate hints of the country's cherished traditional music and song with western art music to help create a colorful and distinctive sonic world.
"Mugunghwa is a celebration of the Korean people. Through the poetry and letters of one North Korean man's story, we experience a lifelong journey to reconnect with his family and the yearning for a unified country. Escaping prison in the North during the outbreak of the Korean War, and relocating a world away, Kim Namsoo finds himself lost without the family he left behind, as experienced by so many millions of Koreans still living today with a divided country. Here, we unite the beauty of words and music to color a Utopian world where boundaries vanish and war is forgotten."