Music in PyeongChang festival to offer visitors a stress-free summer

Pianist Son Yeol-eum, who is an artistic director of Music in PyeongChang (MPyC), speaks at a press conference on May 19 for the upcoming summer edition of the festival. [YONHAP]

Pyeongchang County in Gangwon might be best known as one of the host cities of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. But it also plays host to a music festival that first was established in 2004 in an attempt to bring the Games to Korea and is ongoing to this day. According to its artistic director Son Yeol-eum, who is also an acclaimed pianist, Music in PyeongChang (MPyC), formerly known as the PyeongChang Daegwallyeong Music Festival, has not lost its sparkle despite achieving its goal of hosting the Winter Games. In fact, the upcoming summer edition of the biannual festival will run for the longest period in the event’s history.

Previous editions have seen the festival last for between 10 days to a maximum of two weeks. The upcoming 19th edition will run for 22 days from July 2 to 23 at Pyeongchang’s Alpensia Concert Hall, its music tent located outside the hall, as well as different locations throughout Gangwon.

“The summer edition was always held from the end of July to early August for about two weeks,” said Son during a press conference held for the festival last week in central Seoul. “But we decided to change that from this year as one of the headaches for many visitors, as well as the musicians, was booking a room within the resort as it’s during the peak summer holiday season. Many also complained about the heavy traffic to Gangwon from Seoul. We decided to spread out the duration and add more concerts so that visitors can enjoy the festival, stress-free.”

There will be a total of 22 concerts including four special concerts under the theme, “Mask.”

“When I thought about what is closest to us right now, the first thing that came to my mind was a mask,” said Son. “The other day, I happen to read an interview of late Culture Minister Lee O-young, who recently passed away, and I saw a phrase I could sympathize with. He said that masks help us to protect each other and allow us to meet one another even in such times like the pandemic. I thought it’s quite similar to the feeling of preparing for a festival.”

A unique performance will be included during the opening concert on July 2, which is George Crumb’s “Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale),” for Three Masked Players. It will be performed by Cho Sung-hyun on flute, Kim Doo-min on cello and Son on the piano.

In addition to Pyeongchang Festival Orchestra, Son decided to establish Pyeongchang Festival Strings and Pyeongchang Baroque Ensemble. The two newly-established groups will each stage a performance during the festival.

The academy program, which gives young students the opportunity to receive masterclasses from renowned musicians from across the globe, will resume this year. The program was suspended for the past two due to Covid-19. Participating students will have the opportunity to perform during one of the special concerts during the festival at the Alpensia Concert Hall.

“Like the Aspen and Salzburg Music Festivals, we hope to aim for a large-scale music festival and to do so, it’s inevitable to make sure that classical music resonates from Pyeongchang for the whole summer,” said Son.

For more information about this year’s Music in PyeongChang, visit