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New Year’s Eve comes with music, fireworks : It’s a German tradition embraced by three concert halls in Seoul

Dec 19,2017
Three concert halls in Seoul have organized New Year’s Eve concerts and countdowns to midnight followed by fireworks. At left are fireworks at the Seoul Arts Center, southern Seoul. Center shows Lotte Concert Hall’s pipe organ, which will be used during the New Year’s Eve concert. Right is the National Orchestra of Korea, which will perform at the National Theater of Korea. [SEOUL ARTS CENTER, LOTTE CONCERT HALL, NATIONAL THEATER OF KOREA]
New Year’s Eve is celebrated in many ways around the world. Many Europeans have adopted the ritual of going to classical music concerts on New Year’s Eve and then counting down to midnight with the musicians and fellow audience members. The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, for example, has made its annual Sylvester concert on Dec. 31 a German year-end tradition. (Dec. 31 is the feast of Saint Sylvester.) The concert and countdown to midnight is aired live on public television. Here in Seoul, three concert halls are presenting their own version of the Sylvester concert so that Koreans can also have a classy way to celebrate the arrival of the new year.

Seoul Arts Center, southern Seoul

For the past 20 years, Seoul Arts Center has been hosting a New Year’s Eve concert that is followed by magnificent fireworks at midnight. This year’s program, which starts at 9:30 p.m. at the Concert Hall of the arts center, invites big names from the classical music world such as pianist Sunwoo Yekwon, who won the Gold Medal at this year’s Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, as well as soprano Hong Ju-young, mezzo soprano Kim Sun-jeong, tenor Kim Seok-cheol and baritone Kim Jong-pyo. Maestro Lim Hun-jeong and the Prime Philharmonic Orchestra will perform familiar classical tunes.

The program includes Rachmaninov’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43,” Wagner’s “Wedding March” from the opera “Lohengrin,” and Verdi’s “Triumphal March” from the opera “Aida.” Before the countdown to midnight, the Grande Opera Choir will join the other performers to sing the famous “Choral” from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. The arts center will be giving out “wish balloons” to the audience. They will write their wishes for 2018 on the balloons and let them float away right before the fireworks commence. Tickets range from 30,000 won to 100,000 won ($27.60 to $92).

Lotte Concert Hall, southern Seoul

Since the new Lotte Concert Hall is the first classical music hall in Korea with a grand pipe organ, the hall has included in its New Year’s Eve concert the famous Saint-Saens’ “Finale” from Symphony No. 3, which has a main role for an organ. It will be played by Shin Dong-il. The final piece before Lotte’s fireworks is also Beethoven’s “Choral.” However, according to the hall, the fireworks show is tentative and depends on the weather on the night of Dec. 31. To make the concert more fun, emcee Oh Sang-jin will introduce the music and interact with the audience.

Lotte Concert Hall will hold two concerts on Dec. 31 at 5 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. There will also be a 5 p.m. concert on Dec. 30 with the same program but without a countdown. Tickets cost 30,000 won.

National Theater of Korea, central Seoul

If classical music is not your thing, the National Theater of Korea’s New Year’s program is recommended. Since 2012, the National Theater of Korea has been holding New Year’s Eve programs with fireworks at midnight. Since the theater is slated to undergo a major renovation from early next year for 21 months, there won’t be a year-end event next year.

The theater has organized three shows on New Year’s eve. The first starts at 3 p.m. at the Haneul Theater, presenting the familiar tale of Shimcheong in the form of a madang nori, a traditional Korean play combining various forms of folk entertainment. At 8 p.m., there’s a New Year’s Eve pansori (traditional Korean narrative singing) concert by pansori master Ahn Sook-sun. Finally, at 10 p.m., various artists from different genres including pop, folk and pansori will perform a program before kicking off the countdown and fireworks. It will be held in the outdoor plaza. Performers include folk singer Yang Hee-eun, musical actor and opera singer Kai, and young pansori singer Kim Jun-su, who has a large fan base of young Koreans. Tickets for the final concert range from 50,000 won to 100,000 won.

BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [sharon@joongang.co.kr]