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Celebrate year-end and welcome New Year with traditional concerts

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Dec. 27, 2023 - 12:41

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As the year draws to a close, the cultural tapestry of traditional performances comes alive across national venues, offering a rich and diverse celebration through the year-end and New Year concerts to usher in the upcoming year.

"Narye" (National Gugak Center)

National Gugak Center revives traditional ‘Narye’

To ward off evil spirits on the eve of the year's end and welcome a peaceful new year, the traditional palace ritual known as "narye" has been reimagined as a grand-scale performance.

Wrapping up this year, the National Gugak Center will perform "Narye" from Wednesday to Friday at the NGC's Yeakdang.

Dating back from the Goryeo era (918–1392) to the Joseon era (1392-1910), the narye rite unfolded within the palace walls for over 700 years, bringing together court officials and the finest entertainers in the country.

The nightlong ceremony served as a festive occasion, featuring various performances beloved by the common folk, transcending class barriers and celebrating the year-end and New Year traditions in the royal court.

The NGC’s year-end production, "Narye," builds upon the 2022 repertoire of NGC’s Dance Theater titled "The New Royal Narye." It introduces a storyteller and gods to reconstruct the narye ceremony in a contemporary style.

The stage will feature a cast of 120 members of NGC’s Court Music Orchestra, Folk Music Group and Dance Theater.

Pansori master Ahn Sook-sun (National Theater of Korea) Pansori master Ahn Sook-sun (National Theater of Korea)

Ahn Sook-sun’s ‘Simcheongga’ and year-end concert with NCCK

Celebrated pansori master Ahn Sook-sun returns to the stage with the year-end edition of the National Theater of Korea’s “Complete Performance of Pansori” series this Saturday.

Ahn and five other pansori singers, who are her disciples, will perform the entire "Simcheongga," at a running time of around 210 minutes. It tells the story of Sim Cheong, a young girl who makes a sacrifice to the king of the underwater world in a desperate attempt to restore her blind father's sight.

Ahn has been performing at the NTOK’s year-end pansori performances since 2010.

Since joining the NCCK in 1979, Ahn performed in hundreds of changgeuk performances and has actively engaged in creating pansori compositions. From 1998, she served as the NCCK's artistic director for seven years.

Following the pansori performance, Ahn will be joined by 30 members of the National Changgeuk Company of Korea.

The second part of the show will include "sinawi," a genre in Korean traditional music which involves improvisational performances by a musical ensemble. It will also feature folk songs and a mini changgeuk act.

Crezl (National Theater of Korea) Crezl (National Theater of Korea)

New Year’s concert with National Orchestra of Korea, Crezl

The National Orchestra of Korea, a traditional Korean music orchestra under the NTOK, is gearing up to kick off the new year with a special concert on Jan. 12.

Under the baton of conductor Jung Chi-yong, the performance will feature a selection of repertoires from the Korean traditional music orchestra and a collaborative stage in the second part with harpist Hwang Se-hee and the male crossover vocal quartet Crezl.

The first segment is curated to welcome the year of the blue dragon, capturing the lively energy of nature. The repertoire includes the traditional music orchestra piece "Blue" composed by Cho Won-hang, expressing clarity; the gayageum solo piece "Spring Snow" rearranged for harp; and the commissioned percussion concerto "Waves: Dance of the Blue Haze" composed by Hong Min-woong, portraying the free-spirited dance of waves.

In the second part, the members of Crezl -- consisting of vocalist Lee Seung-min; musical actor Lim Kyu-hyung; K-pop idol singer Jo Jin-ho of Pentagon; and NCCK member Kim Su-in, who rose to popularity after starring in JTBC's audition program "Phantom Singer 4" -- will take the stage to perform their hit songs.

Members of the National Jeongdong Theater (National Jeongdong Theater) Members of the National Jeongdong Theater (National Jeongdong Theater)

Jeongdong Theater's New Year concert

The National Jeongdong Theater, a public performance hall in Jung-gu, Seoul, is set to host a New Year concert titled “Dragon Leaping Up" on Jan. 12.

The event promises a dynamic performance, bringing together vibrant songs and dances from various genres that have graced the Jeongdong Theater throughout the year. The setlist spans various genres -- including musicals, classical, popular and traditional -- integrated with media art to elevate the overall experience.

The concert will be led by musical actor Yang Joon-mo and jeongga singer Ha Yoon-joo. Fortena vocalist Austin Kim, a vocal crossover quartet that secured second place in the popular local TV program "Phantom Singer 4," will also take the stage.

Brandon Lee, the musical director behind the 2023 production of "Secret Garden," will present his popular musical compositions. Yoon Hyung-joo, a renowned figure in the Korean folk scene, will perform a medley of his timeless classics. Adding to the vibrant mix, minyo singer Yun Se-yeon will perform lively traditional Korean folk tunes.