Review – 1st Arirang Nights of Storytelling Concert in Toronto

I had been looking forward to the 1st Arirang Nights of Storytelling Concert in Toronto since I randomly found it on Toronto’s Reel Asian Film Festival’s blog .  And it didn’t disappoint! 

The storyteller, Kim Seung Ah telling one of the Korean traditional stories

The evening started with a huge but short rainstorm that completely soaked me in the short walk from Spadina subway station.  It was raining so hard that it actually rained through my umbrella (no joke). But even though I arrived looking a little like a drowned rat, it couldn’t put a damper on the evening.  I knew it was going to be a great night when a nice ajumma kindly pointed me in the direction of the bathroom after taking one look at me (the paper towels helped).  

I attended the Storytelling Concert with three friends from Say Kimchi (my Korean-English language exchange group) and our timing was perfect.  Just as my last friend arrived, the ticket sales started.  Full disclosure: I was given two tickets to attend and write about the event.

The event started with the organizer, Janiece, introducing the event itself before turning it over to the MC from Toronto Storytelling to introduce the Korean storyteller, Kim Seung Ah.  The MC talked about Seung Ah’s history with storytelling in Toronto, how she has studied here and how she loved 1001 Friday Nights of Storytelling in Toronto so much that she created 1001 Wednesday Nights of Storytelling in Seoul.

The MC and the storyteller, Kim Seung Ah

When Seung Ah entered the stage, the first thing I noticed was her beautiful dress.  I think all hanbok are lovely but her dress was gorgeous!  The next thing that became evident was her lovely voice as she began the show with a song.

Seung Ah told three traditional Korean stories, none of which I had heard before (and I have read a few books on Korean culture and history – I think now that I want to read more).  Each story was insightful – they were meant to teach a cultural or moral lesson as well as entertain – and beautiful in its own way but the story about Chun-Hyang’s Love (a story about love and loyalty) was my favourite.  The other two stories told were Min-Son and His Step-Mother (a story about unconditional love for parents) and King Sejong and His Elder Brother, Prince Yang Nyeong (a story about elders coming first/being revered).

The stories were all told in English and I was quite impressed how well each story translated as well as the quality of the storytelling.  Even more so knowing it was done in a second language.  Seung Ah’s body language, movements and occasional use of Korean for emphasis grabbed my attention and added to the drama of the stories.  And her use of both pitch and volume helped the audience keep track of the different characters in the stories.  Very impressive!

After each story there was a young person with incredible musical talent performing.  My favourite was the duet because of the power of their voices but they were all talented.

One of the best parts of the evening – apart from the traditional stories of course – was the personal stories that Seung Ah told to connect the audience to the show.  It was very effective and helped everyone connect both to the stories and the storyteller.

All in all, Seung Ah’s storytelling is beautiful and a great introduction to both Korean culture and Korean traditional stories.  I’d love to hear her tell the stories in Korean! 

The raffle draw – we were lucky 🙂

After the show ended, they had a raffle draw for some beautiful Korean prizes.  My friends and I were extremely lucky to win three prizes among the four of us.  I won a small Korean flag (which is now flying on the top of my bookcase) and a pouch that’s supposed to bring good luck.  Young Eun won a beautiful Korean jewellery box and Chris won a cool Korean medal. 

Cindy (me) and the storyteller, Kim Seung Ah – isn’t her hanbok pretty!

Korean food – kimbap (Korean rolls), kimchi (fermented spicy cabbage), chopchae (noodles with beef and veggies), sujunggwa (a sweet cinnamon drink) and shikhye (a sweet rice drink) were served in the reception area along with a chance to meet the take a photo with the storyteller.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.  The 1st Arirang Nights of Storytelling Concert in Toronto was a great show and I would definitely highly recommend attending the next one.  It lost a half point because they were a little disorganized at the beginning with the tickets so it started a little late and because the reception area could have used standing tables to make mingling while eating easier.

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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