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Encore!: Homecoming Recitals in Christian South Korea

From: Journal of Korean Studies
Volume 17, Number 2, Fall 2012
pp. 351-381 | 10.1353/jks.2012.0026



"Homecoming Recitals" (kwiguk tokch'anghoe) in South Korea are events in which singers of European-style classical music, after having studied and worked professionally abroad, return home and are integrated into the social and musical life of Seoul. This article explores what appear to be blatant contradictions in the key elements of the recital. Although the recitals are presented as public events and the singers as professionals, the audience consists almost entirely of persons related to the singer through kinship, school, or church. And although the recitals consist of secular art and operatic music, they almost always end with an encore featuring a Christian hymn or song. Drawing on extensive ethnographic research in the churches and colleges of music in Seoul, I explain how these seemingly contradictory elements, in fact, work together in the ritual function of the recital, which I argue is to manage the transition from "abroad" to "home" by producing transformative effects for both performer and audience.

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