Act 8: Lively 12
In Future Performing Arts High School, they always invited a marker from outside the school. A person from outside who would evaluate the students was needed because if it was only done with teachers inside the school, things like connections could result in a subjective evaluation.
The head of SJ Opera Company, Han Seungjoo was one of those examiners that had been invited to mark.
“That sixth student… his name was Kim Wuju right?”
“Yes. Student Kim Wuju from the first grade.”
When the test for the sixth student was over, Han Seungjoo stared at the closing door and broke into a dumbfounded laugh.
“Hah… a first grade? Him? Pretty sure he was singing La Danza just then?”
“He’s the pride of our school.”
Seeing the teacher full of smiles, Han Seungjoo shook his head with an empty laughter.
The song which that student had sung was none other than La Danza by Rossini which was one of the most difficult Italian art songs.
Baffled, he once again thought back on Kim Wuju’s song; the seemingly crazy tempo and fabulous techniques within resurfaced in his mind.
The never-ending continuation of triplets seemed to knock his eardrums out.
As if he was rapping, the fast pace of lyrics ‘danced’ beautifully and fiercely fell down. That difficult song was digested by Kim Wuju who made it look easy with a smile.
Actually, if it stopped with him digesting it, his evaluation would’ve also stopped with just the mere thought of ‘great’, but Kim Wuju had sung a completely perfected song.
La Danza which seemed to have been sung by a professional opera singer, or perhaps a bigshot above average professionals.
It was near the level of Pavarotti…
In the middle of such thoughts, Han Seungjoo clicked his fingers.
“Right, now that I think of it, it was extremely similar to La Danza sung by Pavarotti.”
Han Seungjoo watched the teacher next to him tilting his head before giving a nod. The more he thought back on it, the more it seemed correct – Kim Wuju’s song was definitely similar to Pavarotti’s.
The far-reaching vocalisation, the pronunciation ending in little bounces and the beat unique to Pavarotti’s style.
If he were to play a video and compare the two, they would be like a pair of same cogs, without any difference. Realising that, a light of admiration appeared in his eyes.
Kim Wuju, was it.
The practice methods he undertook was evident. He probably heard Pavarotti’s La Danza dozens and hundreds of times, as that level of perfection would otherwise be impossible.
Besides, that smile he always had while singing was impressive.
He had an expression that seemed to be truly enjoying singing as well as a perfected song that could never be any closer to perfection. That child would most likely be living his life without thinking about anything unrelated to songs.
It felt like it had been a truly long time since Han Seungjoo had seen a person so immersed in music.
A faint smile appeared on his lips.
That’s why it was fun.
Just by listening to the song of that student called Kim Wuju, it felt like his reason for coming here was 99% fulfilled. It was always joyous to see the passion of youths.
Like that, he was smiling in satisfaction as his eyes caught sight of the door being shoved open.
“The seventh student is…”
The teacher that had been slurring the end of his sentence stiffened his expression after seeing the face of the entering student. With curiosity, Han Seungjoo looked sideways and heard the teacher whisper with a sigh.
“Jo Yunjae… unlucky that he’s straight after Kim Wuju…”
“I, it’s nothing.”
Staring at the teacher’s expression that seemed to find it regrettable, Han Seungjoo shrugged his shoulders before returning his gaze back to the front.
Jo Yunjae, was it.
He could see a boy with a build small for an opera singer. With his hair tidied up, he wore an ironed school uniform. Although he seemed somewhat similar to that child called Kim Wuju, he seemed different at the same time.
Unlike Kim Wuju who, for some reason, always had a smile, his expression was stiff and serious.
Was he nervous?
Thinking that, he looked into the eyes but the deep, sunken gaze he gave off was rather impressive and did not seem like a high schooler of his age.
But then again, the passionate steps he took were the same as Kim Wuju’s.
What kind of song would he present?
Smiling, Han Seungjoo met his eyes with Jo Yunjae.
Following the guide down the corridor, I slowly looked forward at the long corridor that had a line of lamps on the walls. The bulbs shedding light onto me were like gazes falling onto me and I felt slightly burdened.
Forcing those feelings away, I closed my mouth and reminded myself within.
Confidently. Let’s sing confidently.
When I did so, I could feel the dark shadows encroaching my heart slowly dissipating.
Thinking back, maybe this was my first time…
After letting a breath out, I thought back. It most likely was around the time when the song presentation had ended.
The gazes looking at me – the feeling that I was the target of that strange expectation was something I had never felt before in my life.
And that expectation was a lot heavier than I thought.
The eyes of the teachers were different. Their gazes seemed to be saying something; they had good will for no reason and said they were looking forward to the prac test.
It was something to be grateful for, but at the same time, it suffocated me.
“I heard he’s good.”
“Who, Jo Yunjae?”
“Yeah. I heard he beat Kim Wuju during the song presentation as well.”
I was scared.
Scared of the future when the thin paper of falsehood placed over me would eventually disappear.
I was in fact no-one special. I was just a disgusting old man putting on airs at a high school with only age to back it off. I was just a pathetic person who would be revealed after some time.
Now, I was somehow deceiving others with my abilities from the future but when it was revealed – when teacher Kwak Jungsoo, teacher Ku Mingi, Lee Suh-ah, Kim Wuju, Han Dasom and everyone that knew me discovered my true self,
What was I supposed to do then?
I was unconsciously trembling from those thoughts, until just then.
However, I realised when I saw Han Dasom.
The dark, introverted Han Dasom who hadn’t even been in my memory.
And yet in this life, she peeled away the hair covering her face and started brightly showing off her talent.
She wasn’t the only one.
I was now close enough to bicker with Lee Suh-ah, who I had never talked to before and Kim Wuju also enjoyed listening to my song.
Chloe, Song Mirae and everyone that knew me became different from the past.
In that case, maybe I could change myself.
No, I will change.
Although I was slyly using an underhanded tactic… I will practise harder to cover for that, so that the efforts of others would never be denounced because of me.
Strongly I held onto the knob and pushed it wide open.
“Hello. I’m Jo Yunjae, the seventh in number!”
When I brightly greeted, a person who appeared like one of the examiners nodded his head with a faint smile.
“Nice to meet you, student Jo Yunjae.”
Glancing at his face, I realised he was a male around 50s. Half of his hair turned white and he had a round chin.
It was my first time seeing him… ah, was he from outside the school?
Realising that, I observed him with slight tension.
In fact, I already knew what kind of songs were preferred by the school teachers whom I knew the faces of. Teacher Ku Mingi liked Donizetti and Rossini – more Bel canto while teacher Kwak Jungsoo liked newer songs around the 20th century.
Since I already roughly knew their music preferences and the expressions they liked, it was easy to satisfy them but there was no information on examiners from outside so it was quite rough.
To be honest, my mark could be low just because they didn’t like the song I picked.
I was in the midst of contemplation when the song began. I could hear the accompaniment of the piano roaring from the side like it was in a rush.
Elf King by Schubert.
Elf King was in fact not that difficult technique-wise and it didn’t require crazy speed or insane high notes like La Danza.
However, it was difficult.
A child trembling in fear seeing the illusion of an elf king.
The father hurrying the carriage forward while seeing that child.
The Elf King viciously bewitching the child.
And the narrator explaining all that.
I had to quickly change between these four roles so it was difficult to express explicitly and in fact, if I tried to sing this when I was a student, I would’ve completely failed it.
However, now it was possible.
Quickly, I stabilised my expression and gently opened my mouth.
“Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?”
[Who’s riding so late where winds blow wild?]
He was a person telling the story. Because of that, I had to express it in a calm voice that could still sometimes try to surprise the listeners.
Here, I sang heavily with teacher Kwak Jungsoo’s vocalisation method. The body which had been trained through long days of practice could now digest teacher Kwak Jungsoo’s vocalisation without difficulty.
“Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht?”
[My son, why cover your face in such fear?]
How would I express a father that had felt something strange from his son? He had to be slightly strict but within, there had to be a worried heart.
Unlike the narrator watching from afar, I had to embed lively emotions and describe so that the listeners can tell them apart as two different people.
Singing up to here, I prepared the next part in nervousness.
“Siehst, Vater, du den Erlkönig nicht?”
[Do you not see the elf-king, father?]
To accurately describe the frightened son, I required a new vocalisation – teacher Ku Mingi’s vocalisation that was lighter and freer than its counterpart.
Reading through the music sheet, I quickly calculated inside my head.
The time frame between the father and the son’s dialogue – within that space that didn’t even amount to three seconds, I had to become a totally different person.
From an old father in his 40s, to a youth in his teens.
It was actually not as hard as I thought because in fact, I was at an age nearing 40 and yet at the same time, I was a teenage boy.
With such thoughts, I started changing the vocalisation.
The heavily sunk throat was relaxed and onto that total control over everything, I granted freedom. The rigid sound had an addition of gentleness.
Two polar vocalisation methods.
After successfully changing to teacher Ku Mingi’s vocalisation, I rapidly soared up the notes.
Good. It was a success.
Inwardly, I smiled before quickly continuing with the song.
“Du liebes Kind, komm, geh mit mir!”
[Sweet lad, o come and join me, do!]
After succeeding in three roles, the Elf King wasn’t that difficult. Inside teacher Ku Mingi’s vocalisation, I added slightly more spookiness and with that sneaky, high voice, I sang.
The Elf King, the son and the father.
I faithfully acted out the three roles despite the rapid changes.
Before long, the time frames between dialogues shortened as the song quickened. The son screamed as the Elf King tempted him with greed. The father hurried the horses in fear as the piano rushed forward like crazy.
In the midst of all that, I accurately expressed every single note.
Like I had practised.
“In seinen Armen das Kind war tot.”
[The child he held in his arms was dead]
I intentionally let out the last line solemnly as the piano welcomed me with a loud stop.
It was the end.
Slowly I opened my eyes that had been closed and stared forward to see the examiners at the front sitting in a row.
‘Ah, was it good? Was it okay? I don’t think I made any mistakes though.’
Restlessly I glanced at the faces of the teachers but their expressions were a bit hard to read.
At a glance, they seemed to be frowning with a strange expression and yet at the same time, they appeared to be smiling with a baffled expression. They gave off the feeling that they were smirking but it appeared like they were nodding in appreciation as well.
Seriously, what was going on? Although they wouldn’t clap since it was a prac test, the reactions were weird.
“Thank you for the song.”
When I raised my head up in a flash, I saw the external examiner staring at me from the front with a deeply pondering expression.
Suddenly I felt something heavy suffocating my heart.
The old man, who had fallen into deep contemplation with his head raised, once again met his eyes with mine.
“Since it’s a test, we need to go straight to the next song but… is it okay for me to ask one thing?”
Resting his chin on his hand, he observed me before forming a frown.
“Mhmm… you appear like a first grade student no matter how I see it… you are a freshman student right?”
“Huh? Ah yes…”
“Then why so experienced?”
I was trying to follow the conversation when the old man started conversing with the teacher sitting next to him.
“I mean, I try not to do this in the middle of tests but this is weird. Are you sure he’s not repeating school?”
“Haha, no. He is exactly 17.”
“Haa~ I guess he does look very young but, iya… how do you sing this while changing the vocalisation method like that? He did change it in the middle right?”
“I think so too. It was my first time seeing it as well but he seemed to have been working on it to use it here haha.”
Watching them speak, I could finally start understanding the situation.
So… it was good right? They liked it yeah? Enough to give compliments during the test?
My lips were in the middle of raising themselves up when the old man returned his gaze back to me after a nod.
“Ah, sorry for taking too much of the time. Shall we go over to the next song immediately then?”
I replied vigorously before posturing myself straight again.
Good, the first song seemed to be a success so let’s just do the second one well. If I do…
Flickering my eyes, I felt the flow of a familiar accompaniment that marked the beginning of the next song.