LEONIA – They range in age from 13 to 29 and play the flute, clarinet, percussion, cello, violin and viola. Although they only have been performing together for the past year, the Young Chamber Orchestra of Grace-Bethel United Methodist Church of Leonia have demonstrated musical talent well beyond their years.
Founded in July 2017 with the assistance of the church’s Senior Pastor Hark Bum Chang, the orchestra provides an opportunity for young people to connect with the church and the church to move out into the community in new and innovative ways.
“I have been the pastor of Grace Korean UMC in Westwood since 2005. In 2017, our church moved and merged with Bethel UMC and since then the Young Chamber Orchestra started to activate the younger generation of our church,” he said. “Our church hired Music Director Jinsil Lee, a composer and a conductor. Currently, we have ten players in the orchestra – two flutists, two clarinetists, two percussionists, and four string players.”
He added that all of the members are from the church’s youth and young adults groups. Currently the college students and post-college young adults help the youth play in the orchestra.
“The older members encourage the younger members to practice and prepare for the rehearsals. Our youngest member is a 13-year-old boy who plays the percussion. Our oldest member is a 29-year-old woman who plays the flute. The older members always encourage the younger members. I believe the orchestra will end up consisting of youth only in the future when we get more youth players,” he said.
According to Chang, the church has about 120 worshippers every Sunday. Almost every church member is rooted in Korean tradition and genealogy. The orchestra plays at the church but are also arranging various activities outside the church.
“Right now our orchestra plays with the adult choir the first Sunday of each month when the church has joint worship with all generations and they partake in Holy Communion. Our orchestra has been asked to play at town events and to perform at Carnegie Hall on September 23 with a choir of clergy and their spouses at the Global Choir Concert hosted by CBSN Broadcasting Companies.” Chang said.
The Global Choir Concert will be a fundraiser for the disabled, the homeless, and those in need residing in New York and New Jersey. Last year this concert raised and donated $30,000.
As he has helped to initiate the orchestra a little more than a year ago, Chang reflected on its growing membership.
“Many of our young fellows have great musical talent and have received private lessons for years. The quality of their performance has been great enough to play in the church services. This is why I encouraged them to play as a chamber group. We are blessed to have a great music director who provides the lessons and practice every Sunday.”
He continued, “We are designing our first anniversary concert, the first project of the Seed Mission, with famous songs from different films. The Seed Mission is a project where the orchestra will invite the people of the community to their concert. We will include short video clips and messages about the Gospel into our concert program so that non-Christians can learn while enjoying the performance. We believe that it is a great chance to spread the Gospel.”
Chang said that the purpose of the orchestra is first and foremost to “play for the Glory of God” and secondly “for others who need the touch of God through music.”
“I hope that the orchestra will use their musical talents to praise God as well as to bring the young fellowship to come to church and have faith in God,” he said.
Change believes the orchestra can assist in bringing more youth back to the church.
“There is not enough cultural contents in the church for young people. We need to know what the younger generation needs and provide them with the Gospel. Music can be a strong method to get them interested in coming back to the church,” he added.
Although the orchestra is ten members strong, the church is still looking for new members to join.
“Even though we started in the church, we would like to expand by inviting more and more musically gifted youth,” said Chang. “We hope the community recognizes our youth and the youth will grow. Through learning and playing in the church, they experience the joy of praising God and the spreading of the Gospel.”
To learn more about the Young Chamber Youth Orchestra email Jinsil Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit gbkumc.org. Grace-Bethel UMC is located at 396 Broad Ave, Leonia, NJ.