In an hour program, Dr. Matthew Thompson, Assistant Professor of Voice at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance wove a narrative among eleven performances, sometimes providing historic information about the works, and at other times personal, describing his connection to this repertoire.  A pianist, Thompson was joined by current students Hayoung Jung, Minji Kim, and Jack Morin, as well as alumni, Yongmin Kim and celebrated opera star Vince Yi in the evening’s performance.  Thompson explained that after decades of teaching song in German, French, Italian, English, and other languages, he began to question what the barrier for Korean song was.

“People often ask how I got interested in studying Korean song, and the answer I usually give is short and simple: I’m married to a Korean.  Our home has been filled with the food, tv shows, movies, and music from Korea for years; with my scholarly interests, it was only a matter of time until Korean song came on my radar.  But the reality is more complex than that.  My paternal grandfather served in the Korean War, falling behind enemy lines, where he was wounded and left for dead.  Eventually he made his way back to the army forces and eventually the US, where he received the Purple Heart for his service.  So, my family actually has a generations-long connection with Korea.”

Dr. Thompson has spent the last two years collecting musical scores and studying Korean lyric diction.  Over the summer, he traveled to Korea to meet with composers, performers, and administrators who specialize in this repertoire.  All of this work led him to create a database, the only of its kind about Korean art song.  The database currently contains information about the name, key, poet, composer, and other details about the songs.  As he continues to build the website, Thompson plans to have phonetic guides for singers in IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and spoken recordings of song texts by native speakers.

The event had incredible attendance and received great attention.  “One of my colleagues said he’d never seen such turnout for a Voice recital,” Thompson laughed.  “There’s no question that was in part because this project touches so many different parts of the University and community.  I was ecstatic with the audience and continue to delight at the online reception afterward.”  Dr. Thompson was interviewed by Yonhap News and several online news agencies made videos about the event, at least one of which went viral.

“I’m so grateful for the support of the Nam Center, Youngju Ryu, and Yunah Sung.  I couldn’t have done this without them.  Thank you!  I look forward to more collaboration in the future.”  

If you missed it, or want to see it again, you can watch the recital here.