Peace culture: Japanese conductor in Pyongyang

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japan timesOn March 10th in Pyongyang, the Japan Times reported that North Korea’s State Symphony Orchestra performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at the People’s Theater, led by celebrated Japanese conductor Michiyoshi Inoue, music director of the Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture, who also visited Pyongyang in 2011 as part of bilateral musical exchanges.

NK People's Theatre

“It is little known in Japan that (North Korea) has such a great orchestra, choir and theater,” Inoue told the audience from the stage.

The well-attended concert was given by a 120-strong North Korean choir and four vocal soloists from the North and Japan. The traditional Korean folk song “Arirang” was followed by  Beethoven’s 9th symphony, chosen by Inoue because it expresses “a desire for peace.”

conductor inoueThe symphony’s famous choral finale, “Ode to Joy”, “espousing universal brotherhood, drew a thunderous standing ovation that lasted more than 10 minutes”.

“I was able to enjoy it very much,” said the award-winning Inoue after the performance. He added that since outstanding issues “cannot be solved politically” between the two countries –  which have no diplomatic ties – cultural and sports exchanges must be expanded.

The concert took place on a public holiday to mark International Women’s Day. Pyongyang was filled with a festive atmosphere, with children playing outside and residents eating out at restaurants with their families and friends.

It was held amid North Korea’s threat to abandon the 1953 armistice that ended hostilities in the Korean War, and a day after the U.N. Security Council imposed its harshest sanctions yet on the communist country over its third nuclear test.

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