Master Song Man-gap송만갑 is one of the most respected singers in the history of Korean traditional music. His career spanned from the late Joseon Dynasty to the Japanese colonial period. His grandfather, Song Heung-rok송흥록, was nicknamed “The King of Singing” and his father, Song Woo-ryong송우룡, was also an acclaimed singer. It must have been a blessing for Song Man-gap to be born into a family of such accomplished singers, but also a burden, for he was saddled with the responsibility of carrying on the family tradition of singing Korean folk songs. Master Song Man-gap boldly broke away from the constraints of family expectations by learning various singing styles and songs that appealed more to the masses. Ashamed by his untraditional attempts, his father supposedly planned to have him poisoned to save the family’s musical heritage. But, Song Man-gap spoke to his father and said that an entertainer, or clown as they were thought of at the time, is like a fabric shop owner, who must be able to sell silk to those customers who want silk and cotton to those who want cotton. He reasoned that since singing exists for people’s enjoyment, a singer must be capable of singing what people want to hear. It’s something every artist must keep in mind. Music 1: Clown Song/ Performed by Jebi Music 2: An aria from Simcheongga/ Sung by Sung Chang-soon Music 3: An aria from Heungboga/ Sung by Park Song-hee
That was “The Clown Song” performed by acoustic ensemble Jebi. We are now in the transitional months between winter and spring, so we must be more careful not to catch a cold or become ill. Sadly, two pansori stars passed away earlier this year - Master Sung Chang-soon성창순, an intangible cultural asset known for her rendition of Simcheongga심청가, died in January and Master Park Song-hee박송희 famous for Heungboga흥보가 in February. Sung was born in Gwangju in 1934. Her father, Sung Won-mok성원목, was also a famed pansori singer and drummer and a highly respected teacher of traditional music. The inherent talent was naturally passed down to Sung Chang-soon, whose professional career as a pansori singer began at age 16 when she quit school and joined a Korean traditional opera company without telling her parents. This type of career was considered less worthy and so determined not to disappear from people’s memory simply as an entertainer, or a clown, she asked to study under famous traditional singers and learned to play musical instruments like gayageum and geomungo. She even became an accomplished calligrapher, an art she learned to understand the meaning of songs even more deeply and exercise more self-discipline. Even after she turned 80, Sung performed on stage and tried new music genres. Let’s listen to her singing an aria from Simcheongga.
Master singer Park Song-hee was like a typical Korean mother, with her petite frame and a gentle smile on her face. Born in 1927, she was exactly 90 when she passed away. Having started singing when she was in her teens, she devoted more than 70 years of her life to Korean traditional music. She practiced pansori and dance since childhood, but worked as a farmer for a while after she got married. However, she missed singing so much that she came to Seoul to perform on stage in secret. It was only after her husband and mother-in-law died that she was able to really kick-start her singing career. Park preserved a version of Heungboga, which she had learned from another female pansori star, Park Rok-ju박록주, and successfully brought back Sugyeongnangjajeon숙영낭자전, or the Story of Maiden Sugyeong, which had been forgotten for a long time. We grieve the passing of these two remarkable pansori singers and remember their legacies in today’s show by playing Park Song-hee’s rendition of an aria from Heungboga.
Music 1: Clown Song/ Performed by Jebi
Music 2: An aria from Simcheongga/ Sung by Sung Chang-soon
Music 3: An aria from Heungboga/ Sung by Park Song-hee