The Live Show: December 17, 2011 (Part 1) - February 24, 2012
Well, it's been a lo-o-o-o-ong while, hasn't it? So sorry that my blogging has been so depressingly infrequent, but it's something I'm now aiming to do weekly, so don't abandon me just yet! Let me do my best to bring everything up-to-date by bringing you this multi-part blog.
The biggest bit of news is that I did my *first live show* on December 17, 2011 at a small cafe in the city of Wonju, S. Korea where I've been living since early February 2011. It was a fun & informative experience, to be sure! I'll explain the details of the show itself in part 2, but first, here's a little background about the venue. It's called Cafe Namu ("tree" in Korean), and it's at the entrance of a mountain hiking trail for Baek-eun-san, or Mt. Baek-eun. The charming Korean couple who own the cafe are very interested in old-growth trees, so they regularly host weekend expeditions to seek out & photograph choice specimens in the area. The resulting shots are then posted on a wall inside the cafe. As anyone with a knowledge of mid-to-late 20th-century events would know, old growth trees are a rarity in this part of Korea in which nearly all foliage was completely obliterated during the terrible 1950-53 war. To their well-deserved credit, subsequent generations of Koreans have worked tirelessly to reforest the affected areas, and the results are nothing short of stunning. Still, a few lucky trees managed to escape the ceaseless onslaught of mortars, grenade explosions, gun blasts, aerial bombardments, direct hits from heavy artillery, or deliberate clearing by the armed forces, and those are indeed a sight to behold when they are encountered. Needless to say, the display on the cafe wall represents a sincere & passionate love & respect for these ancient survivors.
Interestingly, the cafe itself was constructed of straw bales covered with adobe by a Korea couple and a team of friends back in 2006. They maintain a photo scrapbook of the whole process that visitors can thumb through to get a sense of what was involved. No doubt this project was highly labor-intensive; the owners both emphasize that they would be most happy NOT to repeat it!
The wife, Seo-yeon Son, is the manager of the cafe's day-to-day affairs, and the husband, Sung-hwan Kim, makes documentary films for a living. Both are supporters of Free Trade goods and live music, so to bolster the latter they have endeavored to host regular concerts there. Usually they book acoustic guitarists / singer-songwriter-type musicians, but a capella groups and rap artists have recently performed there as well, and all to very enthusiastic public response. It's a small place that holds 35 people at most, but regardless of musical styles, the atmosphere is always very warm, friendly, & receptive.
I started venturing out to Cafe Namu in the late spring of 2011 via bicycle after hearing about it from one of my colleagues at Yonsei University. After a couple of visits, I began bringing a backpack full of Native American flutes with me to show the manager and any interested parties who happened to be in the cafe at the time. Yes, I'm forever proselytizing the NAF! She received copies of both of my CD's, too, which she greatly appreciated. Incidentally, the cover of my 2nd CD, Elegant Simplicity, is in fact from a photo taken in front of this cafe in summer 2011. You can make out the adobe tree image there.
It was Seo-yeon who suggested I hold a concert there. We later settled on my doing an hour-long show, with mid-December emerging as the best time slot. I readily agreed to this offer even though I had absolutely no idea how to proceed! Frankly, this was quite a scary & daunting prospect to one who previously had only played solo at any length to audiences of trees, tunnels, insects, birds, and the occasional source of running water but seldom directly to groups of homo sapiens larger than, say, 10 individuals. I wasn't at all sure just how I would go about doing this: what songs to perform, how to perform them (solo or with accompaniment), what I would say to an audience sure to be comprised almost entirely of Korean-only speakers, how many flutes I'd bring, what kind of visual media I'd use, etc. I nearly backed out of it, to tell the truth, but then I thought to myself, "I need to take up this challenge because people need to know about the Native American flute & what it can do for their spirit". With that thought driving me, the preparations began...