Field Trip to Suwon

On the 22nd, Domingos and I accompanied twenty (give or take) 8th Army Band members to Suwon, where they were helping out the ROK Army 51st Infantry Division band with its holiday concert (members of the 51st had helped out on the two 8th Army holiday concerts earlier in December). After trips to Uijeongbu and now Suwon, I just have to take a minute to compliment the band members who drive the buses to gigs. They do a fabulous job navigating the stressful traffic in a large, unwieldy bus – I certainly couldn’t and wouldn’t do it! I’m grateful for their expertise in getting the band where it needs to go.

Once we arrived in Suwon, we watched the rehearsal. The conductor, a young female captain, was enthusiastic and fun to watch. After rehearsal, we all went to a restaurant across the street.

It was a traditional one, which necessitated removing our shoes outside and then sitting on the floor to eat. I am forty-two years old and I have now discovered that I can no longer sit cross-legged comfortably! The dinner was delicious – some sort of soup that I didn’t catch the name of.

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After dinner, Domingos and I had to meet with the commanding general of the 51st for a presentation. We were ushered into a small holding room, where we made small talk with a ROK Lt. Col. via the helpful interpretation skills of SGT Jin, a pianist in the 8th Army Band. Once the general and his wife arrived, we sat around a table and talked and drank coffee. Once again, SGT Jin took care of interpreting for all of us. The general was very friendly and kept the conversation rolling. Then there was a certificate of appreciation  presented to Domingos, gifts for both of us, and we made it into the concert right before it was about to start.

The concert was something else – it started with a traditional drum performance, then the concert band section was nicely balanced with holiday selections, a piece with a traditional Korean string instrument, the haegeum, which was accompanied by a dancer, and a Korean pop medley. Next came a group called “Pocket Girls,” 4 young ladies who were… well… I just hope there weren’t any children in the audience! I was sitting next to the general’s wife, and she seemed to love the performance, so I’m guessing it’s just a cultural thing. However, I was a tad uncomfortable for their 3-4 songs and I am not a prude! If you would like to see one of their music videos, check them out on youtube. The ROK soldiers in the audience were very happy with the performance, certainly!

Next up, a K-pop singer named December did a few selections, also very well received. In looking him up, it appears that “December” is actually a K-pop male duo, so I’m not sure which one was there at the concert. Finally, the band finished up with a choir singing Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival.”

Here’s a view from the wings at the end of the concert:

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It was a fun, interesting, educational, and entertaining evening, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to  witness these kinds of events. A huge, huge thank-you to SGT Jin, who assisted us both through the entire day with translating and explaining where we needed to be when. I also want to say that these 8th Army Band soldiers are something else – unfailingly professional and in good spirits no matter how insanely busy their schedule is. I have nothing but admiration for all of them and the manner in which they accomplish their many jobs.

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