The Camarata Music Company (CMC) hasn’t even been around for a decade, yet its influence is felt throughout Seoul and South Korea. Led by Dr Ryan Goessl, Executive Artistic Director and Conductor of the Choirs and Orchestra, the CMC’s numerous performances throughout the year are a regular fixture on the Seoul art scene.
The company’s two main events – the spring concert (Mozart Requiem, which takes place on May 7) and the annual Christmas performance of Handel’s Messiah – regularly sell-out. They have performed at the Blue House for former President Lee Myung-bak, and several ambassadors to South Korea regularly attend their shows. On top of all this, they also perform at various hospitals and local NGOs several times a year.
In the Camarata’s seven short years, the music company has grown beyond Dr Goessl’s expectations. With a small studio space near Noksapyeong Station, the Camarata Music Company has had over 5,000 active participants from 70 countries since its inception.
Despite its rapid growth, starting a music company was not an original goal. “I realized there weren’t many opportunities for expats to perform here in Korea. At first, I was trying to find three or four people to get together to sing Christmas carols,” Dr Goessl explains. “I put a post on Dave’s ESL Café and on Facebook hoping to find some people and we had about 50 people email us.” Overwhelmed by the response, Dr Goessl decided to sing more than just a few festive songs and put together a full performance instead. Consequently, the show’s success marked the beginning of the Camarata Music Company.
“I think we filled a niche; something that was missing in the community,” he says.
The Camarata Music Company has three choirs – the amateur Camarata Chorale, which puts on three major performances each year, two with an orchestra and a Pops concert in September; the semi-professional Chamber Singers, which performs regularly throughout the year; and a Children’s Choir – in addition to a professional orchestra. There is also another branch to the organization, the Camarata Musical Theater, which puts on musical performances every summer. While the Chamber Singers is audition only, the Chorale is open to anyone, regardless of their singing experience.
“I accept everyone,” Dr Goessl says. “We are trying to expose everybody to the joys and wonders of classical music and that is why we accept everyone.” Dr Goessl, who is also a voice instructor, says he has never had a student who has not improved. For him, helping people to understand and experience music in a new way is an exciting challenge.
“One of the things I pride myself on is how about one fourth of our choir music can’t even read music, and I pride myself on that because there’s very few choirs that will accept choir members that can’t read music. I love that. I love to introduce new people to an art from that they’ve never experienced before,” he says.
While making music is what the CMC does, creating a community through music has become its mission.
“A lot of people say, ‘Welcome to the family’ when they join the choir because in many ways it is family-like. We watch out for each other and we help each other and it’s a real close connection that you don’t get to experience very often,” Dr Goessl says. So intense is this connection that the company now boasts no less than 15 marriages — a number that is sure to impress any dating agency.
As with many organizations set up in an expat hotspot, people come and go. Rather than see this as a disadvantage, the CMC views it as an opportunity to expand the company’s reach.
“If we look at how the world has globalized and how people are flying apart, we need organizations like Camarata. Obviously, the art and music is central but I think the mission and message go beyond that,” Dr Ogan Gurel, President of the Board of the Camarata Music Company explains. And that message is simple: creating global communities together through the universal language of music.
Building on the diversity of its members, the CMC plans to do just that: globalize.
“We want to bring everybody together in one common mission to make great music and to let anybody do that,” Dr Goessl says. “We want to work on these goals in the next few years, to globalize the Camarata Music Company. Even though our home is in Korea, we want to make it a kind of globalized organization.”
Mozart Requiem takes place on May 7 at Chungdong First Methodist Church. Tickets are KRW 20,000 in advance or KRW 30,000 at the door.
Camarata Musical Theater will perform Oklahoma! on May 28 – 29 and June 4 – 5 at Seoul Jazz Academy. Tickets are KRW 20,000 in advance or KRW 30,000 at the door. For more information visit tickets.camaratamusic.com