The Philharmonia at Sorokdo
On 5th May 2010, 'Children's Day' in Korea, The Lady R Foundation held its inaugural event - a concert - in South Korea at Sorokdo National Park. The status of Sorokdo (meaning ‘little deer island’) as a quarantined site for people suffering from Hansen’s Disease (leprosy), dates back to 1910. It was only in 2009 that a bridge was built linking the island to the mainland.
In a moving and symbolic event of unity, the patients and inhabitants of this beautiful island joined with Korean VIPs - including the then Prime Minister, H.E. Dr Chung Un-Chan - and visitors from all over the world, to listen to the exquisite sound of the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by the renowned pianist and conductor, Maestro Vladimir Ashkenazy. Maestro Ashkenazy was named the Philharmonia’s Conductor Laureate in 2000, in recognition of his long-standing relationship with the orchestra.
The proceedings opened with a video message of support from His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, Patron of the Philharmonia Orchestra, who also addressed the audience in Korean!
The musical programme followed with Ludwig van Beethoven’s best-known Fifth Symphony in C minor op.67; a composition that, as Maestro Ashkenazy eloquently pointed out, portrays Beethoven's own lifelong struggle to overcome his afflictions.
A modern twist was provided by the Korean megastar, Cho Yong-Pil, who sang his hugely popular song ‘My Dear Friend', which explores loneliness. Cho Yong-Pil is revered by audiences across Korea, both young and old, and his joyous and uplifting performance got the audience singing and on their feet!
After the concert, everyone joined together for a delicious Korean meal prepared by top local chefs.
The Lady R Foundation has since heard that the patients in Sorokdo are now enjoying many more visitors. As the event attracted substantial media attention, it is hoped that the concert helped to play a significant part in unlocking the fear and stigma attached to Hansen’s Disease, which is now completely curable.