Mapo's classical music festival takes on environment

Cellist Yang Seong-won and pianist Hong So-yu film "Winter," one part of the "Mapo Four Seasons" project in the Mapo Art Center in western Seoul. [MAPO CULTURAL FOUNDATION]

Mapo District’s annual classical music festival will focus on raising awareness of the world's climate crisis, appropriately holding its main concert in Korea’s first power plant.

The district in western Seoul, which is home to hip neighborhoods like Yeonnam-dong, Hongdae, Sangsu-dong and Mangwon-dong, has been hosting a classical music festival known as The Mapo Performing Arts & Tourism (M-PAT) Classical Music Festival for the past six years in efforts to change the perception that classical music is only for highbrows.

This year, from Oct. 5 to 30, the Mapo Cultural Foundation said it decided to organize the festival along the theme “Green with Classic” as the concept of environmental, social and governance (ESG) management grows in importance worldwide. Some concerts will be held both offline and online, while some will only be held online to help fight Covid-19.

The main concert will be held on Oct. 9 at the Seoul Power Station, home of the Dangin-ri Power Plant. It started operations in 1930 as the country’s first coal-fired electricity generating facility. Following major overhauls in the 1980s, the plant stopped using coal or heavy fuel oil. An underground thermal plant currently uses liquefied natural gas, and the above-ground site was transformed into a park.

Different classical artists will play including crossover quartet Forte di Quattro, Brass Arts Seoul and the Millenium Symphony Orchestra. The host will be classical music critic Jang Il-bum. While the music is being performed, fashion models will take to a catwalk wearing upcycled fashion designed by students at Hongik University’s Textile Art and Fashion Design Department. The concert and the runway show will be streamed live on YouTube.

The foundation said it has filmed music videos for the festival's online programs. “Mapo Four Seasons” is a project honoring the country's four seasons, which are becoming less distinct due to environmental pollution and climate change. Four music videos have been produced for the project.

“Winter,” which will be released Oct. 5, features the Han River’s Bam Island, which has become a home to migratory birds. The clip will show what it looked like in 1960 when the city government leveled the island to develop the Han River. Cellist Yang Sung-won and pianist Hong So-yu perform Schubert’s “Arpeggione Sonata in A Minor D. 821,” Rachmaninoff’s “Cello Sonata in G Minor Op. 19,” and “Vocalise” and Vivaldi’s “Winter” from “The Four Seasons.” The two musicians recorded the pieces in the Mapo Art Hall, which is currently under remodeling.

"Spring" will be released the following week and feature scenes of Sangam-dong’s Haneul Park. "Summer" will be released the week after and "Autumn" on Oct. 26.

“This year’s festival is intended to highlight a message of environmental protection, which is a global problem,” said Song Je-yong, head of the Mapo Cultural Foundation. “Although the topic of the environment may be a bit heavy for a classical music festival, we wanted to show that classical music can also convey such social messages.”

For more information about the festival, visit