Logo YouTube
Logo Facebook
The Project

Korean Choir Berlin


Arirang, Arirang, Arariyo,
I cross the Arirang Pass
He who has left me
Will not go ten Li *
Before he hurts his feet.

* (Of length 1 Li = 4 km)

Koreanischer Chor Berlin "Arirang"

The above five lines are taken from the well-known love song 'Arirang'.  In this chorus, we learn of a woman from the city of Miryang in Gyeongsang province, South Korea, who has been abandoned by her lover. He travels back to Seoul, leaving her behind, stranded, with the "Arirang (mountain) Pass" symbolizing this crossroads of love. The exact meaning of the word "Arirang" is unclear. What is clear is that Arirang is the most famous Korean folk song, with numerous local variations.

Koreanischer Chor Berlin "Go Hyang Yui Bom"


While it's exact origins are still unknown, the song can be traced back, in various forms, to the late 14th / early 15th centuries.  More recently, Arirang songs have been handed down orally, especially during the period of Japanese occupation (1905-1945). Also during this period European music notation was established in Korea and thus various Arirang were for the first time written down. In Arirang there is no fixed form, but all versions of the song contain variations of the refrain "Arirang, Arirang". Arirang is deeply rooted in Korean history -  and the present. One of the first ever Korean movies (from 1926) was even entitled "Arirang",  a nationalist film promoting resistance against the Japanese occupation. Arirang could be heard at the public appearances of the first South Korean president Rhee Syng-man (In office 1948-1960) since the end of the Second World War.  In 2000, athletes from both North and South Korea entered the Olympic Stadium in Sydney to the sound of Arirang. Today, it is the unofficial national anthem of both countries and their shared identities.  Therefore it can be considered a symbol of bilateral harmony. In 2012 it was added to the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The song reflects not only Korean history but also the private life of Koreans. It is embedded in the national psyche and sung at every available opportunity - whether the occasion is happy or not. 

The Korean Concert Choir Berlin sing a 'Miryang-Arirang' which derives from the city of Miryang in Gyeongsang province, South Korea. It is an upbeat variant in three-quarter time, with the emphasis on the first beat, similar to a waltz.

Go-hyang-Eu - "Spring in the Homeland"

My home
Where so many flowers bloom
Apricot blossoms, cherry blossoms, forsythia...

 The Korean musician Lee Won-Su composed "Go-hyang-Eu" ("Spring in the Homeland") in 1924 during the period of Japanese occupation. The song sounds somewhat 'European' as it was fashionable at the time to imitate European musics.  It is a protest song against the occupiers and is a native song in the literal sense. The text describes the memory of the 'beautiful homeland' in spring and the nostalgia that many Koreans felt at that time - whether they had emigrated or remained in Korea. The seemingly harmless text is subliminally directed against the occupation. In the aftermaths of the occupation, Korean War and the subsequent division of the country, comparable native songs began to be inducted into the canon of South Korean school songs. Most members of Korean Concert Choir Berlin were born in and around this time and know the song from their school days.  The choir is made up of Korean women, mainly in their sixties.  Most came to Germany in the 1960's as economic migrants, escaping the extreme poverty in post-war Korea. Many were nurses, a profession in short supply at that time in Germany. Seven women founded the choir in 2002, partly due to a yearning for home.  Since then the choir has steadily grown in numbers and by 2005 their were twenty members, whom remain in the choir to this day. 

Today, fewer South Koreans flee their country, but many still come to Berlin to study classical music, such as Kim Ki-Kyung, the choir's conductor since 2011, and Jeon Mi-Seon, a vocal student who accompanies the choir on the piano. The repertoire comprises of Korean and European folk and art songs. Most South Koreans are familiar with European music. European classical music temporarily displaced traditional Korean music during the Japanese occupation and after the Second World War. Priests from the United States and Eurasia brought their music to South Korea in the 1950's, resulting in an amalgamation of Korean folk music and European church music.  In the last fifteen years their has been somewhat of a renaissance in traditional Korean music and with it an increasing sense of musical preservation and cultivation.