October 20th, 2010
Usually Wednesday’s are pretty boring, they’re my only day off. Today, however, 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli had two morning performances. I rolled out of bed and got across town as fast as I could, arriving only a couple minutes before we left for the first site. At a park close to Seoul Noli Madang a large group of local elderly residents had gathered for an event in their honor. Although the event was supposed to begin at 10:30, it kept being pushed back. I had only brought Karjam’s little digital camera, which almost immediately ran out of batteries as the crew were putting their costume on over their white 민복 minbok (cotton peasant garb). The two 피리 piri players walked around with their 서 (the seo is the vibrating double reed of the piri, so just picture high school band and the clarinet or sax players except close to the size of a fat partially smoked cigarette), 탄종원 Tan Jongwon flirted from behind his mask, 전철규 Jeon Cheolgyu who was playing 해산어멈 Haesan Eomeom, the midwife who exposes a naked extended belly and dances with exaggerated butt-wags, looked a little less happy to be standing around for awhile in his costume. 이영식 Yi Yeongshik who has been teaching some of the more active elderly in a special evening Songpa dance class kept seeing people he’d taught and he’d want to say hi, except he kept forgetting they couldn’t see who he was. Everyone seemed to have a different story on how they’d played hooky to come dance that morning. Yi Yeongshik had actually walked out of a meeting at school (he’s a principal), Tan Jongwon had gone to work and left his regular shoes there, then run out in his 미투리 mituri. Yi Byeongok had called and said he couldn’t come teach class (please reschedule it) and he’d miss a departmental meeting. Jeon Cheolgyu is a publisher (I think he’s the boss or close to it) for several magazines and he could be absent in the morning without a large problem. 김학석 Kim Hakseok, one of our two National Human Treasures, is retired. 이영순 Yi Yeongsun, one of the only female members of the group is a private 장구 janggu teacher (although she dances for Songpa). Notably 함완식 Ham Wanshik, our other Human Treasure and the group’s director, was absent (as was his son, 함승헌 Ham Seungheon who is doing a graduate degree in public health). Both our 해금 haegeum and 대금 daegeum players are college students, so it wasn’t surprising they were available, I am not sure about most of the rest, but it was pretty amazing how many people were there and ready to dance even on a Wednesday morning!
The elderly locals sat around at long folding tables and were served appetizers, fruits and 떡 ddeok (a cake from pressed cooked rice) until finally things got rolling with Professor 이병옥 Yi Byeong-ok leading some initial pressure-point pressing and introducing the acts. First a woman (who is an 이수자 isuja) sang경기민요 Gyeonggi (province) folk songs, then Songpa performed the 취발이마당 Chuibali Scene, then four young men played 사물놀이 samulnoli (a modernized form of 풍물 pungmul played while seated with more complex rhythms on only the four percussive instruments without 소고 sogo, 태평소 taepyeoso or 나발 nabal). We rushed out to the other performance site, but what with the issues with parking, we were quite late (and the people parking the cars, all essential people, were even later). Oddly I ended up being the person hearing the organizers freak and having to apologize and explain that the other site had started much too late. The minyo singer had to start without the 장구 janggu player, which made it really hard for her, then although we intended to do two scenes, they even shortened the Chuibali Scene (drastically), even the samulnori players played for only 5-6 minutes or so.
Cell phone photos:
After the performance, which was also for a group of elderly, but this time on the fourth floor of a community center in a large room that probably is normally used as a church, they served us lunch. Lunch was 갈비탕 galbitang (rib stew) so I had rice and side dishes, but despite the current price of kimchi, they weren’t stingy at all. Afterwards I talked to the office manager (and 이수자 isuja) 김영숙 Kim Yeongsuk for a little bit about politics inside the group and then came home via the grocery store.