Still time to take in world-class musical offerings in Jeju

▲ A member of the Korean Classical Music Committee plays the traditional Korean Gayageum during a performance at the Tapdong Jeju Seaside Arts Center. Performances continue all summer under the starry skies at the open air stage. Photo by Brian Miller

On a low stone wall near Topdong there are four photos of events on Jeju that mark the seasons. Fall is represented by the Persimmon Festival, winter by the Fire Festival, spring by the Cherry Blossom Festival, and summer by the Jeju Wind Ensemble Festival.

This summer festival features woodwind ensembles from all over the world bringing Jeju world-class musical performances, but it is just one of many opportunities to enjoy free music concerts on the island this summer.

Audiences around the island have already been treated to the International Choir Festival, July 15-19. The Midsummer Night Beach Festival began on July 20 and will continue until Aug. 9 and the Fourteenth Jeju International Wind Ensemble Festival takes place Aug. 12 - 20.

Topdong boasts major performing arts venue
Tapdong Seaside Art Center is a beautiful outdoor amphitheatre on the north shore of Jeju City, near the Ramada Inn. As it is outdoor, the seating area, which holds about 300, is always buzzing with people coming and going, children running and playing, and ring tones sounding, while nearby vendors sell snacks and art work. An evening at the symphony it is not.

However, the relaxed atmosphere rarely detracts from the performances as you can tune everything else out and focus on the stage. The acoustics are great, especially considering they must combat the ocean breezes. Despite the common perils of outdoor viewing, including rain and mosquitoes, it's all worth it to listen to live music under the stars. Find it by heading straight down the hill toward the ocean from the underground mall in Gu-Jeju.

▲ A trombone player performs under a danchung giwa (traditional Korean roof).

Performance festival on now

The Topdong Seaside Art Center in Jeju City is currently hosting the Midsummer Night Beach Festival, now through Aug. 9, with all free performances. The festival includes a variety of the performing arts including dance, music, and theatre. Each night of the 21-day festival features a different evening of art.

Last week, the festival included a vocal concert, the Seogwipo Wind Ensemble, a Korean traditional music concert, a dance performance, a Korean folk story play, Halla Wind Ensemble, and Kim Dohyang, “Freedom Concert.

The Korean Traditional Music Concert on July 22 was a celebration of Korean culture, past and present. Approaching the concert, the opening act welcomed guests with drumming that could be heard for miles. An exuberant large group of drummers in brightly colored outfits pounded a jubilant cacophony of percussion while a single horn led with a melody overtop.

The concert followed in an equally energetic fashion with women’s dance groups including a haenyeo inspired piece, women’s singing groups, and solo instrumentalists. Song Hyeh Sang was mesmerizing on the gayaguem and Han Song Hye was masterful on the flute.

▲ An unidentified trombone player performs on the Topdong stage, just one of many performers to heat up the already hot Jeju summer nights with music. Photos courtesy Jeju International Wind Ensemble Festival Organizing Committee

The children who performed a traditional dance were exceptional. Both elegant and confident, they danced so well even the rowdiest children in the audience stopped playing to watch. The evening concluded with all the performers, young and old, singing together with the audience in an affirmation that Korean tradition is alive and well.

The July 23 dance performance was sparsely attended, with less than 5o people braving rain and wind at the outdoor venue, but the weather didn't affect the dancers who displayed excellent technique. The dances were mostly traditional Korean dances with flowers, drums, knives, and fans.

There was also a Michael Jackson tribute pop dance and two amazing belly dances by a large troupe of beautiful women. The concert finished in the pouring rain, but the remaining audience members, huddled under their umbrellas, cheered loudly for the tenacious and passionate performers.

This year the Midsummer Festival includes 38 performance groups from Jeju and 10 groups from off the island. In all, more than 1,100 dancers, drummers, singers and musicians will be involved. Visit the Topdong Seaside Arts Center any night at 8 pm to enjoy the Midsummer Beach Festival events until Aug. 8.

The line up is as follows: Jeju Sinfonietta Concert Choir (7/27), Cantabile Ensemble (7/28), a children’s choir (7/29), performance art (7/30), choral music (7/31), You Angel Voice Choir (8/1), Korean classical music (8/2), and performance art (8/3). This year the festival focused on bringing more pop artists and acts familiar to the public, so pop music will be featured nightly from August 4-9, concluding the festival with style.

▲ Choirs from Korea and beyond gathered for the International Choir Festival in Jeju earlier this summer. Photo courtesy Jeju International Choir Festival Organizing Committee

Choir festival brought harmony to island
The International Choir Festival took place at the Jeju Seaside Arts Center as well as holding events at the Jeju Culture and Art Center and Seogwipo Chyounjeeyoun Falls Outdoor Stage. The festival achieved its goal of “bringing a chorus of harmony, peace and hope to the island” by bringing together local choirs, international guest artist from Germany, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan. Audiences all over Jeju enjoyed the music free of charge as a gift from the Municipal Government.

The final night of performances was held July 18 at the Topdong Seaside Art Center. One of the international guest groups that evening was Vocal Folds 4, an all female a cappella group from Melbourne, Australia.

Haley Claire, the lead singer, said, “We’ve had a fabulous time. The audiences have been really enthusiastic and welcoming.”

Choirs from Jeju competed against each other, singing a combination of Western popular music, classical choral music, and Korean songs. A real stand out was the Seogwipo Choir who came dressed to the nines in cocktail wear and performed a medley of upbeat Broadway tunes. The evening had quite a variety, with music ranging from Strauss to Beyonce, leaving the crowd pleased and joyful. As it is an annual event, don’t miss it next July when it will certainly continue the mission of bringing excellent vocal music to the public.

Woodwinds wrap up season
The Fourteenth Jeju Annual Woodwind Ensemble Festival takes place Aug. 12 - 20 at four different venues around the island: Jeju Seaside Arts Center, Jeju Culture and Art Center, Halla Art Hall, and the Seogwipo Cheonjiyeon Falls Outdoor Stage. There is a performance every night of the fest at each venue at 8 pm, as well as other daytime events and locations. For a complete schedule, visit the website at All the performances are free of charge.

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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