SEOUL — Nearly 800 U.S. servicemembers, workers and their families heard a free concert Wednesday night by the Korean Symphony Orchestra at the Seoul Arts Center.

The concert, a yearly tradition, started more than a decade ago, said Lee Byung-Joe, executive director of the Korean-American Association. His group sponsored the event.

Lee, a law professor emeritus from Chung-ang University, said the concerts began to showcase good relations between South Korea and America.

“We wanted to promote our friendship further,” Lee said before the concert began.

Capt. Scott Smitson, 27, of Columbus, Ohio, brought 15 of his soldiers and their friends from Company E of the 2nd Multifunctional Aviation Brigade, stationed at K-16 in Seoul.

Smitson’s father is a classical pianist, so he grew up listening to symphonies in concert halls. He wanted to expose some of his soldiers to the music he loves.

“Being a soldier is more than about tactical moves,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity for them to become more well-rounded.”

Capt. Chris Vogel and Capt. John Manuel, both of the Collection Management unit at Yongsan Garrison, came to the concert with the South Korean military officers with whom they work daily.

“We wanted to share the evening after UFL,” said Vogel, 35, of Daytona Beach, Fla. The U.S. and South Korean militaries recently wrapped up the exercise Ulchi Focus Lens.

Manuel, 35, of Boutte, La., said he saw the night as an opportunity to get to see more of South Korea, “to get exposure to the Korean culture, really, for the first time.”

Wednesday’s concert included Carl Maria Von Weber’s “Overture to Oberon,” Bela Bartok’s Violin Concerto No.2, Richard Strauss’ “Till Eulenspiegels Meery Pranks Op.28” and Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird.”

The Korean-American Association was founded in 1963 and has about 500 members, Lee said. The group spends about 20 million won, or about $20,000, to host the event.

Lee said part of the night is meant to help Americans living in South Korea feel a little closer to home.

“We wanted to soothe those nostalgic sentiments by giving them opportunities to listen to their home melodies, and also music composed by American composers,” Lee said.

In the earlier years, the concerts included works by American composers. Now, it’s harder to get space at the concert hall, and the group has to collaborate with an orchestra that has its own performance repertoire, he said.

The orchestra, however, made adaptations for its foreign guests. After three ovations, the orchestra ended the night with an encore of American show tunes, including “America” from “West Side Story.”

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