Sunday, April 25, 2010

Their Own Best Fans and Critics

Korean culture, influenced by Confucian thought, considers music among the great benefits given to humankind. But parents were not always happy when their children showed an interest and ability in music. Although musical ability comes easy for a Korean; the emphasis has always been on academic studies. Lately, this is beginning to change.

Recently, in both Catholic newspapers, there was an interview with a couple who have been studying liturgical music in Rome for the last 10 years. They both graduated from colleges in Korea and worked for a few years before going to Rome and meeting there in 2002. The husband, Mr. Lee, studied music in college and went on to graduate school to study liturgical music. He was the conductor of a parish choir, taught music in college, and was a program director for Church Music on the Pyeongwha TV, but he wanted more and felt a lack that only more study would satisfy. Rome seemed to be the answer, and while there he studied choir and orchestral directing and singing.

Miss Park majored in Korean Literature in college and accompanied choirs from the time she was a child. She also had a desire for more studies in liturgical music, Gregorian chant and composition. She is the first woman to have graduated after taking a 9-year course in composition. Her desire is to work on a hymn book that would combine the words and music in such a way that it would foster the piety of those singing.

Now with a daughter, Stella, the couple found it difficult, at first, to continue their work and studies, so they came up with a plan to work and study as a family. They are now each others greatest fans and critics.

By going to the United States, the couple expect to be exposed to a greater variety of liturgical music, will continue with their studies and begin a new life. Even after 10 years in Rome, they are uneasy about this new beginning in the States. It does help, however, that Mr. Lee was selected to be the conductor of a large Cathedral Parish where he can put his knowledge and expertise in liturgical music to good use.

The Korean Catholic Church does not budget much money in preparing a good choir. Those who are interested in working for the Church in the music ministry--if they are paid at all--would receive only a token amount. It is usually a work of love for those that have other jobs. We are a young church and for a parish to add music to the budget as another expense would be difficult, which makes finding a well paying job in the music field in which the couple have specialized very difficult in Korea. Few would be as qualified as this couple in liturgical music, either in Korea or in the States. May they have a rewarding stay in the States.

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