November 20th, 2010
I woke up and made it to the 서울놀이마당 Seoul Noli Madang by 9:00 when the bus was leaving for 남원. The group was somewhat smaller than I had expected, several key members were not available (many people work a half day on Saturday). The key drummer and all-around amazing musician and mask dancer 강차욱 Gang Cha-uk was missing, so was 김명하 Kim Myeongha. Most of the other people I normally talk to were there. Our bus was a “deluxe VIP” bus. At the back of the bus there were six seats facing each other (three on each side) with a table in the middle and the four seats at the (raised) back wall of the bus facing the table as well. There were TVs (flat screens of course) at the front and the back of the bus; the driver played the Guangzhou Asian Games all day long.
On the way to the performance for a good period of time the back of the bus was filled with the people who would be performing the parts of the 8 dark-faced monks. The group appeared to be slightly nervous about two things: that they were performing as special invited guests inside a hall on a stage and that some members had not practiced with them when they had tried to polish the choreography of the act. That needs some explanation. For as long as I’ve known Songpa Sandae Noli they have made very little effort to coordinate their movements, they simply know that they are going to dance using whichever series of Songpa’s movements they choose for a period of 4 장단 rhythmic patterns, or 6 or whatever. Recently there has been some effort amongst the younger (forties and fifties, there are only two active members who are not musicians who are younger than me, both of whom were missing) members who dance the parts of the 8 dark-faced monks amongst other roles to coordinate their motions. This becomes troublesome when you mix up the group, though, and that was just what was going to happen in Namwon. I could very clearly tell which members had worked hard to coordinate, who was apologetic for missing the most recent rehearsal and who didn’t seem to see what the big deal was (and wasn’t making much effort to memorize the new style as born out later in the performance). There were also other mini-rehearsals by seated mask dancers with desultory movements of their arms and various discussions of performance related issues. Many (most) of the older and established members sat in the forward section, mostly sleeping, but some who didn’t need to rehearse, like 이수환 Yi Suhwan, came back to enjoy repartee.
I had come armed with a bunch of polished interview questions (thank you for checking them Hoijung!) and I interviewed 서병무 Seo Byeongmu and then 탄종원 Tahn Jongwon. Both interviews were long and rich. I wanted to do more, but what with the rehearsals I didn’t get an opportunity. On the way back I interviewed 김영숙 Kim Yeongsuk but then the bus driver turned off the interior lights and most people were sleeping.
When we arrived in 남원 Namwon I was surprised to see giant banners and posters for the Songpa Sandae Noli performance. After an awesome lunch everyone changed and did a little stage-blocking and mic-checking rehearsal (I took photos). Then when the audience came in I shot video from the back of the hall. It was gorgeous to see them on the stage, but Songpa Sandae Noli is traditionally not a staged- art and the group is hardly ever invited to perform on stages, so it was a little awkward, too. They obviously wanted to interact with the audience, but it was tough to climb up and down off the stage, and sacrificed many potential laughs by not doing so. The performance video should be very good and I hope to upload it to YouTube but Karjam’s been so excited reading the new Tibetan dictionary he downloaded I haven’t been able to get on his computer since I got back. [Videos have all been uploaded, see the link on the videos page]
After the show we went to dinner with the director of the regional arts center, unfortunately this was only about 4 hours after our excellent lunch. Or maybe fortunately because it just wasn’t the sort of dinner I could enjoy. The bus ride home was uneventful; we pulled up to Seoul Noli Madang just after 9p.m.