Arirang & Beethoven No. 7

A combination of an epic classical symphony by Beethoven and the Korean folk song “Arirang” – the mixture of both can clearly demonstrate music’s power to transcendent across borders, languages, races, and every other difference on earth, through which we – human beings – reach a harmonic unification. 

I attended a free concert today by The Korean Canadian Symphony Orchestra at the Toronto City Hall. The theme of the concert was “So One” with red and blue colors decorating the Korean Pennisula and two Yin-Yang fishes – a mimic of the country’s national flag. 

The orchestra and conductor were all from the Local Korean community and many of the audience were friends and family. Also, there were some others that were attracted by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, which was included in the program. 

To start with – Arirang 

The concerted program started with the Korean folk song “Arirang” – with youth orchestra members playing the main theme and choir with elder members singing at the back. This song is so famous around the world with a lovely and ear-catching melody and is very easy to remember. 

What makes the song even more beautiful and touching is its story – it was taught in my middle school music class. The story was about a couple living in a village in ancient Korea – the husband wanted to go out and work in the Capital, but the wife disagreed – she doesn’t want him to leave and they stayed apart. One morning, the wife woke up and found her husband already left, sad and thinking of him, she ran out of the house and sang the song – Arirang. It is a song of loving and missing her partner and a sense of nostalgia for hometown, which is thousands of miles away from her husband, who has crossed mountains and rivers. When the orchestra was playing, I could hear many voices singing along from the audience. What a beautiful song that brought everyone into joyful, longing, and melancholy sentiments.

Beethoven Symphony No. 7 Finale

The main course – Beethoven Sym. No. 7

To be honest, this symphony was the main reason I would attend this concert (well also it was free). The famous symphony even was not named but is remembered and cheered by all lovers of classical music. 

The conductor had a very touching pre-speech as she was explaining why they were choosing Beethoven 7 for this concert occasion.

The symphony has four movements:

I. Poco sostenuto – the first movement is pure joy, one can easily get inspired by the jumping and moving theme. The opening has a bright color, echoing the brightening dawn where everything starts to wake from deep dark – refreshing and enlightening.

II. Allegretto – the second movement is heavy and slow. This perhaps is the most played slow movement in classical music history because of its heart-echoing melody and deep pace. The slow and strong rhythm played by the strings echos the heavy footsteps of a marching army – carrying overweighted loads and every step becomes much more difficult and suffering. The second movement reminds us of the history of Korea in the last one hundred years – a history of collective struggle and suffering.

III. Presto – Assai meno presto (trio) – the third movement is about dancing – it is very fast and free as if people were celebrating the victory of the warriors, by the end of the war, dancing and cheering. It is so fast and even frenzy – it is a happy and longing vision that we all try to reach now. 

IV. Allegro con brio – the finale is the last explosion of the whole symphony. It is a heartfelt expression of Beethoven’s love for and the pursuit of beauty in life. The melody cannot be described as merely happy – but a kind of crazy dance of drunken people, using this very passionate dance music to show the infinite joy in his heart. It is a final triumph vision where we all try to reach harmonic unification.

There is no need to actually “explain” the symphony – but to just listen and enjoy. The work was epic and the performance by the orchestra was bravo – the entire audience stood up and clapped by the end. The performance called back to the concert’s theme “So One” – a longing for re-unification and great solidarity of all people – which is a so simple theme but very challenging in reality. 

To finish – the harmonic unification

The concert ended with long-lasting applause – bringing joy and tears to the whole City Hall and the audience. 

The two themes presented in the concert – the Korean folk song Arirang and the Beethoven No.7 classical music – jointly brought forth a transcendental power, across countries, languages, races, and all other differences. It is through the music that people from across the southern and northern border of the 38N in the Korean Peninsula and around the world, could reconcile and resonate within harmonic unification – a truly valuable idea in today’s ever-changing world and unstable epoch. It is through music 

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