Founded in 2009 as a company club, HPO is unique as it’s open to employees from across the entire Hyundai Motor Group. It’s a melting pot of diverse backgrounds, from beginners to music majors, from employees in Seoul to those in Gyeonggi. United by their love for classical music, the group boasts remarkable energy and cohesion. HPO is actively involved in spreading the value of culture and arts within the group and engaging in various social contributions.
This year, under the catchphrase “Individual challenges culminate in a collective leap,” HPO has tuned an even more beautiful harmony together. At a recent year‒end concert, they showcased a year of achievements, featuring a special collaboration with pianist Kun‒woo Paik, treating the audience to a truly exceptional experience. Let’s delve into HPO’s activities and the values they pursue, centered around their 12th annual concert.
December 3, 2023, marked the date of HPO’s annual concert at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in Seoul. The lobby bustled with a crowd, including Hyundai Motor Group employees and the general public, eager to support their colleagues or simply enjoy classical music.
As the concert approached, the introduction page in the ‘Program Book’ for the audience spoke volumes about the HPO members’ mindset. Listed under their instrumental sections, without mention of their company positions, were just the names of the musicians ‒ a statement that they speak through music transcending corporate roles. At 5 PM, with the audience settled, the concert commenced.
First, HPO’s leader Seong‒rok Jeong took the stage, expressing his deep affection for music and how it’s been a significant part of his everyday life, offering comfort. “HPO has constantly striven and challenged itself, based on our group’s spirit of challenge. Through this concert, we hope to share our gratitude and love with those who have been part of our everyday lives.”
With Jeong’s conclusion, the orchestra was greeted with a warm round of applause, welcoming each member. Then, pianist Kun‒woo Paik, who had accepted to perform with HPO out of pure passion for music, made his entrance, greeted by another round of applause.
Kun‒woo Paik, a pianist with 67 years of experience, has won numerous awards at prestigious competitions and continues to practice and research piano daily, even in his seventies. Known as the ‘Seeker on the Keyboard,’ he performed Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, one of “the most beautiful pieces a pianist can play.”
In Tchaikovsky’s lifetime, only three piano concertos were composed, with the Piano Concerto No. 1 being the most famous. The concert’s first movement is notably one of the most famous in all concertos. The performance by Paik and HPO was a harmonious blend of considerate ensemble and vigorous piano solos.
The performance was a momentous fusion of the master’s fervor and the members’ passion, with every moment seamlessly connected. When the piano paused, Paik swayed with the melody, the musicians’ movements echoing his, creating a wave‒like, dance‒like ensemble ‒ a comforting early winter gift for the audience. The musicians fully immersed in the performance, focusing on each moment without a hint of anxiety.
The second part of the concert, post‒intermission, was solely HPO’s show. New instruments filled the stage for Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 ‘The Titan.’ The piece is lauded for its bold attempt to break free from traditional symphonic formats and rules. Mahler, often perceived as challenging even among classical aficionados, made ‘The Titan’ accessible even to classical novices.
The musicians exchanged notes as if in a relay race, transforming HPO into a formidable giant with every powerful step and roar. Following the roars were light ensembles, as if enjoying the stage. The performance was filled with fun elements, like trumpet players entering midway through and some musicians standing up during their parts, adding variety to the classical experience.
“Bravo!” The fervent applause that capped off the performance might have banished the winter chill by a degree or two. It took three curtain calls before the majestic encore that beautifully concluded the evening. Even after the concert, the lobby was crowded with people waiting to meet the performers, and the warm atmosphere, filled with congratulatory and encouraging conversations, lingered for a long time.
The Hyundai Philharmonic Orchestra’s (HPO) year is akin to a marathon aimed at their annual concert. Generally, in the first half of the year, they meet every other week, and in the second half, weekly rehearsals are held. This year, to enhance the skills of members who found it challenging to balance work and practice, a special event, dubbed ‘Oh‒Yeon‒Wan,’ was organized. It involved members uploading videos on social media confirming their daily practice, ‘Practice Completed Today,’ to motivate and provide feedback.
For the annual concert, HPO perfected their harmony through 17 group rehearsals and three full rehearsals. Especially in October, they participated in an intensive ‘Music Camp’ over two days, an essential period for harmonizing after ample individual practice.
Conductor Geun‒do Kim, HPO’s non‒resident conductor, brings his formidable support to the ensemble. A graduate of the Vienna City Conservatory and the Vienna National Conservatory of Music, he has conducted various orchestras in Hungary, Austria, France, and Poland, including founding the Vienna Korean Philharmonic Orchestra (WKPO). Conducting HPO for the sixth time, Kim played a pivotal role in centering the concert.
Advice from pianist Paik Kun‒woo during the rehearsal process significantly contributed to HPO members’ growth. “An orchestra doesn’t end with your part. Even when others are playing, you have to continue the music in silence, keeping in tune. Whether it’s a few or a hundred musicians, everyone must come together as one.” This guidance helped HPO achieve the highest harmony where every note resonates together.
HPO’s mission extends beyond just showcasing their achievements. Their overarching goal is to “continuously provide new experiences and joy to members, acquaintances, and neighbors through diverse activities centered around orchestra performance.” They eagerly respond to any requests for musical solace.
Apart from their annual concert, HPO’s activities include community musical volunteer work, contributing to internal cultural and artistic enhancement through group company concerts, and supporting group events upon request. These activities often involve small units, ranging from four to about thirty members.
HPO regularly conducts community musical volunteer work, visiting orphanages, daycares, nursing homes, and hospitals related to Hyundai Motor Group, providing the joy of music to those with limited access to classical tunes. They’ve hosted concerts for vulnerable groups, such as a concert at Rolling Hills Hotel for children from community centers in Hwaseong, and have also increased Hyundai Motor Group’s social contribution by donating necessary items.
The ‘Healing Concerts’ are designed to increase cultural activities and opportunities for group company employees. These mini‒concerts, usually held in group company headquarters, auditoriums, lobbies, or outdoor spaces, have become an appreciated part of cultural welfare. This year, lunchtime concerts themed ‘Music in the Lobby’ were held in the lobby of the Yangjae headquarters, bringing joy to the employees.
Next year, HPO plans to collaborate with the Hyundai Motor Chung Mong‒Koo Foundation’s major social contribution project, the ‘Art Village Project.’ This annual outdoor concert in May, held in Gyechon Village, Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, invites renowned musicians to perform. HPO aims to engage with students from local elementary and middle schools in the Gyechon area, offering music interactions and career counseling based on their job experiences.
Even after their concert, HPO’s journey didn’t stop. They performed at the Hyundai Motor Group Short Film Festival held at the Human Resources Development Institute, enhancing the event’s prestige with movie OSTs and Christmas carols.
HPO, once an icon of integration through the harmony of group company employees, is evolving into a cultural icon of Hyundai Motor Group. The next chapter for HPO is eagerly anticipated. Leader Seong‒rok Jeong says, “We’re ready to go wherever music is needed,” hoping that “more people find comfort and inspiration for new challenges through our music.”
With a passion for music, HPO aims to continue its journey of challenges. They’re committed to demystifying classical music, making it accessible and enjoyable for everyone, not just a select group of aficionados. Annual concerts are just a step in this journey. Violinist Ryu Yeon‒su, responsible for HPO’s promotion, shares her aspirations: “Just imagining all our colleagues across the group and everyone we’ve connected with looking forward to HPO’s year‒end concert fills me with excitement!”
Photography by Yong‒gil Ann
Photo Courtesy of HPO
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