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Change the world


Paris-based Korean opera quartet Ensemble Unus shared the stage with the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) Choir to put on a culturally rich performance to enthral audiences on Sunday.

● Visiting opera quartet and NMU choir perform at concert ahead of summit in Seoul


MUSICAL MAGIC: Korean opera group Ensemble Unus joined forces with the NMU Choir for a performance at the NMU South Campus Auditorium

The Embassy of the Republic of Korea to SA and the Korean Cultural Centre in SA collaborated to produce the unforgettable music precursor in Summerstrand to commemorate the upcoming inaugural KoreaAfrica Summit in Seoul, South Korea, on June 4-5.

Dubbed “Korean Singers and SA Choirs in Harmony”, the showcase started at Wits University in Johannesburg on Friday.

An enthusiastic second staging two days later in Gqeberha was ushered in with a K-Food and K-Pop experience and performance.

The event set the tone for the main show at the NMU south campus auditorium for Ensemble Unus tenors Moon Seong Young and Kim Hyungyum and sopranos Kim Ji Hye and Kim Hyun Min, accompanied by pianist Na Jurang, to rivet the audience.

The quartet served up a group performance of Korean art songs Unable to Forget, and solo renditions of Leaning on Time and Sailor’s Song.

The aria Una Voce Poco Fa from Gioachino Rossini’s Opera Il Barbiere di Siviglia upped the tempo before a crescendo with Quando m’en vo, an aria for soprano from the Italian opera La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini.

Hyun Min and Seong Young duetted Tonight, a song from the 1957 musical West Side Story with music written by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and Ji Hye and Hyungyum, Lippen Schweigen from the operetta Die lustige Witwe by Franz Lehár.

NMU’s 53-member choir, led by conductor and alumnus Robert Gillmer, took to the stage after a brief intermission.

They performed Iza Ngomso (Come Tomorrow), the fourth movement of The Drop that Contained the Sea, by Christopher Tin, and Horizons by Peter Louise van Dijk.

Ensemble Unus combined their operatic force with the vibrant African swagger of the varsity choir for a medley, performing Libiamo ne’lieti calici, Korean Art Song New Airang, Baba Yetu (Our Father) and Plea from Africa, taken from the music of John Knox Bokwe and words by A Glasgow Lady, to conclude the entertaining affair.

An impressed Ji Hye, a Chung-An University department of vocal music graduate, said afterwards the experience showed music was an effective conduit to connect the two countries.

“Through our shared experience of music, we were able to get closer,” the soprano said.

“Music such as opera — though perceived to appeal to an older audience — is not about age or generations, but emotions.”

Seong Young said he was mesmerised by the performance in SA.

“The operatic performances captured relatable stories, especially romance, bound to appeal to people of all ages and different walks of life.”

Gillmer described the event, coinciding with the choir’s 30th anniversary, as enthralling.

“It was lovely to establish a diverse [footprint]. Our music ranges from Western classical to pop and traditional African,” he said.

“We’re making connections and, hopefully, we can join with them [Ensemble Unus] in Korea next.”

Republic of Korea ambassador to SA Dong-han Yang said the celebratory event was an assured way to draw the curtain on the maiden summit meeting.

“Madiba once said, ‘Music is a great blessing. It has the power to elevate and liberate us. It sets people free to dream and can unite us in one voice’.

“[South] Korea wishes to lay the foundation for mutually beneficial and sustainable cooperative ties,” Yang said.

“We are sure the summit will usher in a new era of KoreaAfrica co-operation in the coming years and decades.

“Korean classical music artists sang in harmony with SA choirs to unveil the bright future ahead of us.”

In 2022, Korea and SA celebrated 30 years since establishing diplomatic relations, with Yang saying new bilateral, economic and trade opportunities were available for the two countries.

“SA is one of our key co-operative partners among African countries. We want to share our growth experience and strengthen solidarity.”

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160