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An interview with soprano Hera Hyesang Park and pianist Bretton Brown

Hera Hyesang Park smiling against a white background
27 Feb 2024

You’ve heard K-pop,  now discover K-classical...

Explore the parallels and contrasts between Korean and Western music, as soprano Hera Hyesang Park and pianist Bretton Brown share the common threads that unite different cultures.

This diverse programme sees a Korean boat song and Caplet’s boat bob alongside Rossini and Hahn’s gondolas. There are floral tributes from Alma Mahler and Samuel Barber, as well as spiritual reflections from Errollyn Wallen and Thomas Frederick Dunhill. 

‘Brett and I wanted to mix Western and Korean music, and find a collaborative bridge,’ Park says. ‘We wanted to explore music in a thematic way rather than by historic period.’ 

The recital is also an opportunity for Park to share her roots, a prospect she says is particularly exciting. ‘Recognition of Korean culture is growing around the world and many more people are interested in it now,’ she says. ‘I like to share Korean music – the rhythm and the melodies are quite exotic to Western ears and I enjoy introducing my roots to audiences who are not familiar with this music – I’m sure they’ll love it.’ 

Park says the rise of K-pop and the popularity of Korean dramas such as Squid Game has helped boost interest in the country’s folk music. ‘In the past, I think Asian musicians in the West were focused on proving themselves as performers. So when there was an opportunity to sing a recital, we were focused on the Western classical repertoire so that we could be hired. But nowadays, times are changing and there are more opportunities for audiences to hear Korean music. So now is the time for Korean performers to show who we really are and audiences are loving it. I feel like we’re living in a more liberal society, so people have the courage to show their true selves. It doesn’t matter your race or gender. And that’s wonderful. I think some people don’t know or expect that we have songs or lieder of our own, but when I sing them they love it.'

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