Calvin Gospel Choir Celebrates South Korea Trip

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

Calvin U gospel choir partuicipate in Korean church worshipThe Calvin U. gospel choir participates in worship in a South Korean church "Our motto in this group is that it's not just a choir but a worship experience," said Nate Glasper Jr, director of the Calvin University Gospel Choir.

And Glasper and his singers have taken that motto to new heights after completing a 15-day performing trip to South Korea. They returned Jan. 20.

"In all the places we sang it was ministry and it was worship," said Glasper, 36. "We sang at 11 worship services; and to sing and engage in congregational worship was probably the major highlight of the entire trip."

More than 30 singers from the choir participated in the tour, held during the University's academic interim. Although their itinerary was well-planned, there were several impromptu moments.

"The Korean hospitality was amazing and really top-notch," Glasper said. "They make sure you eat, and we ate much good, authentic Korean food."

Former directors Dr. Charsie Sawyer and Deborah Perry came to join the choir on part of its concert tour.

FAITH AND CULTURE

Calvin U gosp choir at Camp Casey in s. Korea-2The choir visited Camp Casey, a U.S. military base in South Korea.Glasper notes that Presbyterian and Methodist are the more prominent Protestant denominations in Korea. But their worship styles are generally charismatic, similar to gospel Pentecostal churches in the U.S.

"It was a focus of our students to write about building bridges in multi-cultural worship, and to point out the similarities and differences between African-American and Korean worship," said Glasper, a Calvin adjunct faculty who teaches the Gospel Choir class.

Their first Sunday in the Korean republic, the choir performed at one of the nation's noted mega-churches: Soo Yong Ro.

"We sang at three services in the same church building," said Glasper of the 50 thousand member church. "They have four services each weekend, in an auditorium that seats maybe 10 thousand - we were there from 8 in the morning to 8 at night."  (According to one media report, the capital city of Seoul alone has 17 churches with more than 2,000 members).

During the trip the singers also performed at an international school and at Camp Casey, a U.S. military base.
 
Nate G. left and others in Korean clothesDirector Nate Glasper Jr. (left) and several Calvin Gospel Choir members during their tour of South Korea Their set list included contemporary gospel songs such as Kirk Franklin's "Hosanna," and several original pieces. They often closed their concerts with the rousing "More Abundantly" written by gospel singer Ricky Dillard. (For a video clip of part of a choir song from Korea link to https://www.facebook.com/nate.glasper/videos/10106881236359195/)

Tragedy touched the singers during the trip when they learned of the death of fellow choir member Andrew Prezioso back in the States.

The student was on a Calvin Interim study course in Massachusetts when he took his own life.

"It hit us all pretty hard – he was such a vital member of the group," noted Glasper. "It really set us back, and we took time to reflect on his life and share our hearts about him."

He said the choir will likely be participating in an on-campus memorial service for Prezioso on Feb. 10.

BEYOND BARRIERS

Choir members had undertaken the challenge of learning a song in the Korean language – the well-known hymn "How Great Thou Art." "A lot of the elderly pastors thanked us for singing that hymn," the director recalled. And for Korean-only speakers in the audience, the choir tried to teach a bit of English as well.

During a sight-seeing visit to one of the nation's historic palaces, numerous choir members chose to wear the traditional "hanbok" Korean dress – a vibrant and flowing style that dates to the Joseon dynasty period of the 16th Century.

     
 

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"You rent the clothes and put them on right over your own clothing," said Glasper. "It was really fun, and then when you walk through the palace you really get the experience."

WRAPPING UP THE EXPERIENCE

The Calvin ensemble has a welcome-home concert of sorts: an event where its hopeful to complete its fundraising efforts. The "praize night" at 6:30pm Feb. 15 in the Covenant Fine Arts Center will feature highlight video material from the tour. (Its annual spring concert is set for April 19).

"One of the things I tell my students is there is a message behind gospel music; and that is hope. And hope is for everyone," Glasper said.

"So I think we fulfilled a great assignment of spreading hope to the people of South Korea. We've shown them we can share this same gospel and help bring unity. 'Hallelujah' is the same in any language."
     
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Author Information
Terry DeBoer
About:
Terry is journalist who writes for newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites. His most frequented “beat” is arts and entertainment. He is married with two children and lives in Grand Rapids.

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