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New York Philharmonic Performs Arirang in Pyongyang
Concert as a normalizing of relations between the two peoples
Ronda Hauben (netizen2)     Print Article 
Published 2008-02-27 15:57 (KST)   
Screenshot of the New York City PBS broadcast
©2008 PBS-WNET
The people of the United States and the people of North Korea want friendly relations with each other. This was the sweet message that the New York Philharmonic's concert in Pyongyang on Tuesday, Feb. 26 made concrete. Not only was an audience present in the wonderful concert hall that the North Koreans had decked with flowers. Significantly the concert could be heard and viewed on radio and television not only in North Korea, but in the U.S. as well.

The program was broadcast on the public television station on Tuesday evening at 8 p.m. in New York. Not only did the broadcast capture the orchestra and its program, but it also gave viewers a glimpse of the audience of North Koreans, and their western guests who had travelled with the orchestra.

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Watching the concert, one could think that this was just another concert by the New York Philharmonic. The conductor with his baton flying, as if across the screen, the cellists, the violins, the flutes, the drums, they were all there. But the surface impression is often different from the reality. The reality in this situation was that this was a remarkable event, an event that is rare, and is to be a memorable experience for those who are able to take part in it.

The concert was in fact a remarkable event, remarkable because it made normal what should be normal. Why shouldn't there be a performance of the New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang, North Korea? And there was indeed a performance, just as there should be.

The choice of the music was also remarkable, though on the surface this, too, was not evident. For example, the music of Antonin Dvorak's "New World Symphony" makes one wonder if this does mark the beginning of a new world, a world where friendly relations will replace the hostile relations the U.S. has maintained since the Korean war in relation to North Korea. The trumpets, the violins, the drums, and then the television cameras focus on the audience for a few brief seconds.

©2008 PBS-WNET
Those watching catch a glimpse of others in what for decades has been only a far away land, listening. Or they are clapping. Or they are standing and cheering. This is also as it should be, that the audience at a concert in North Korea is sharing in the experience of a concert with others around the world.

The musicians, they are intent on their performance. It is only after the concert is over, if one reads certain of the reports of the journalists who could be there in person, that one learns of the waving back and forth between the members of the orchestra and the audience. Or one learns that many of the performers were especially moved by the five minutes of applause that their performance evoked.

For those in the orchestra, it was a thrill we are told. They felt that something special happened with their audience. For those of us who could watch in our homes, it was remarkable. It was a normalizing of relations between two peoples of two different lands.

For its final encore, the Philharmonic played "Arirang" the beautiful folksong of Korea. For a few moments the vision of a Korea united some time in the future comes into view. The lovely strains of the music herald that something new is coming, though how and when is still unknown. And in that future, the people of the United States will have the privilege to have friendly relations with the peoples of Korea, however they choose to relate with each other.

While it is a significant event that the concert was presented and was greeted with such warmth and such a welcoming, it was also a sign that the peoples of the two countries want their governments to find a way to transform the hostility of the relationship into one of reconciliation. It was only disappointing that the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Chief US Negotiator Christopher Hill weren't part of the audience. Had they been, perhaps they would better understand that they have an obligation to the peoples of the two countries to find a means to bring the peace. Sixty years is too long not to have a peace treaty that will finally end the Korean War.
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ronda Hauben

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