On the Couch with Sumi Jo

Sumi Jo AAR On the CouchWho is Sumi Jo?
Shines on stage, who lives her life like a nun in order to always give the best performances. Who loves dogs more than anything else. Who enjoys being alone. Who is generous. sometimes too much. Who loves ice cream and chocolates but can eat them only a few times a year. Who loves football games (I’ve had a great time watching the World Cup !!). Who loves going to supermarkets. Who chooses to help others.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
For many years, I think I did not have much time to spend for myself. Touring all the time always makes you tired and when I finally get back home, I then think about next one. With this living condition, you can never settle yourself for relaxation even you are at home for a week. It has always made me think that I need more time for myself to read, to study and enjoy with friends and my dogs, and having some massages. I have lived a meaningful life so far, maybe more than the people around me, and what I have done so far has been a blessing for myself and others. Extra time can be my small wish for my next step.

Who inspires you and why?
One of the greatest female singer of all time to me is Dame Joan Sutherland. I have known her husband, a conductor and a great pianist Richard Bonynge AC CBE, with whom I recorded French Coloratura Arias, Carnaval! in 1994 – which was my very first solo album by DECCA.

I visited his house couple of times and got to know Dame Joan Sutherland. I admired her so much as my mentor and really liked her musicianship and musicality. I would like to call it a friendship which lasted until the last day of her life. I had the honor of making an homage concert to her in Australia a few years after her death.

Just as a human-being, I cannot forget Pope Francisco, who visited Korea a few years back and I had an opportunity to sing for him. I admire his humble and loving personality as a person. His thoughts and behavior made me think about the greater love and of giving, and it made me think about people around me more than ever.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Currently the world is suffering from hatred caused by different beliefs and an unbalanced level of wealth, bad pollution and lack of water and food. To be honest with you, I do not know the answer to relieve all those issues we are facing. But what I can do is deliver a message to people to know and understand each other by means of music.

When I was assigned a task for Artist for Peace from UNESCO in 2004, I wondered what would be my work for people and the world, but as I observed the world, it became clear that people need room to breathe, room to think about what they are doing, and how to get out of the difficulties they are going through. My music can be a help for them. Even though what I deliver is small, it can assist people to rest and get fresh air for good.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Obviously my home. As I have traveled the world more than 30 years, I definitely can say home is the best place you can be. Every precious thing is at home – your family, your pets and friends who you share your life with. Even in the holidays, I prefer to stay home even though many people around me get away from the city and look for a place for refreshment. However, my favorite city of all time is Paris.

When friends come to visit, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Usually, I take them to usual place like restaurants that I enjoy and parks that I walk everyday. I know those are not the fancy attractions you are asking about, but most of my friends who visit me already know I am a traveler and want to stay home most of the time.

What are you currently reading?
There’s a Korean monk who I got to know many years ago whose name is “Hye-Min”. He writes a great essay as a master of philosophy. His recent book, which instantly became one of the best sellers in Korea (he seems to be famous in Europe as well), Things that you can see if you pause (my own translation of his book title… excuse me, but I think it shows enough meaning of the book title) is what I have in my hand these days.

His thoughts cure the people who have been hurt and suffered from the life of everyday labor and need a chance to refresh their minds with good thoughts. He does not force anyone that he or she has to live a good life, but recommends a meaningful and helping life for themselves and others around them. Apparently, he seems quite famous to have more than million followers in his blog etc.

What are you currently listening to?
I do not have any specific rules or methods to choose music from. It all depends on the mood of the morning. Sometimes, I do not even go close to music at all, but sometimes, I turn on my stereo and let the music play as long as it wants… Letting it flow.

Maybe someone out there who listens to my music does the same as me with my music, but I cannot blame them. That’s how music works, I think. I do not have any specific genre of music that I like most, but the mood leads. I do not mind listening to rock, jazz and even Latin rhythms…

Happiness is?
Finding something interesting to think about. Usually new melodies from the radio and/or other media devices around me. I do not play radio stations intentionally, therefore, this sound of new melody happens to be delivered to me from no specific place, it flies into me from anywhere. Then I start to dig to find out what that is.

Going to the gallery is another pleasure of mine if I have a few days in the same city. I think many art forms share emotional aspects one way or another. If I really enjoyed the gallery of the day, I can easily link the feeling of it to music that I am good at finding the way to deliver to my audience.

My 3 dogs (Cindy 18 years old – Yorkie, Roy 2 years old – Mountain Pyrenees, Chanel 2 years old – Golden) are my happiness too.

What does the future hold for you?
Even though life is a continuation of mysteries with a coexistence of various emotions (delights and sadness), I get excited by every single day and try to put some meaning to it. I believe that as the law of universe teaches us, the more you devote/give, the more you get. That’s the direction I have adopted and will continue to push in that direction. With that in mind, I have no doubt that my future will be brighter and more meaningful than ever.

Sumi Jo will be joined in recital with baritone José Carbó and acclaimed pianist Guy Noble in Mad For Love at the Melbourne Recital Centre (17 July); City Recital Hall, Sydney (19 July); and Concert Hall – QPAC, Brisbane (21 July). For more information, visit: www.amckinnon.com.au for details.

Image: Sumi Jo