The Words the Hose Family
The New Hope Singers International on stage performing the "American Set".
A retrospective on the Korean sojourn undertaken by a large number of members of the Department of Performing Arts across the Pacific to Seoul, where they contributed what they could to the magnificent celebration of Father's Seventieth Birthday.
This is written with gratitude to our conductor and my dear friend, Brian, who gave me an opportunity to share this experience in Korea.
As our True Parents' seventieth Birthday Celebration was approaching, much excitement was felt in the air. My desire to participate in this occasion grew so strong that I asked Dr. Brian Saunders to consider me as one of the additional choir members. When that acceptance came, I felt so grateful, honored and privileged that I determined to do my utmost and give my best. I'm sure this was the feeling of many brothers and sisters who attended this event.
Our choir numbered about 60. One- third represented the original New Hope Singers who had been contacted everywhere in America and overseas. Dr. Seuk offered 10 CARP members, while the rest of us had just a little experience singing here and there. Thus our choir, which was an incredible mixture of race, culture, and level of music comprehension, was asked to make one offering of heart. "This is America," I thought. I imagined the formation of the very first choir in the early 70s must have been like this, with not enough qualified singers and an enormous task ahead to unite them as one body. But now they came with a sense of maturity and victory, having gone through many phases in their personal growth and the growth of the Performing Arts Department.
As we were about to begin our first rehearsal at the Little Angels' Performing Arts Center, Brian while looking across the room and acknowledging each choir member, suddenly burst into tears. No one had to ask for an explanation of why he wept. The choir panorama was so warm and overwhelming that even a brand new member who had shared no history with the New Hope Singers International was moved. All the choir leaders were present: Randolph L. Remmel, Brian Saunders and Jeffrey Benson.
I also saw the wives of Performing Arts leaders: David Eaton's wife, Mary; Kevin Pickard's wife, Anne; and Brian's wife, Young-Soon. These three brothers reminded me of the three kings who came to worship Jesus. Unlike those who left after giving Jesus their gifts, these brothers stayed to attend the True King and Queen through many challenges and difficulties. I was proud of them and grew to respect them during our experiences together.
Rehearsals began only four days before the first performance, which was to be followed by three more performances, one on each of the subsequent days. So we were urged to lay aside everything and become simple and focused. We got up, prayed, ate, boarded a bus, practiced all day at the school, came back, ate and went to sleep right away.
Reverend Joong Hyun Pak recently received the direction from True Father to become the leader of the Performing Arts Department once again. He was with us every step of the way: nurturing, serving, loving, and lifting us up to True Parents. Being experienced parents ourselves, it was so natural to feel True Parents as our father and mother. How could we not give our very best when we felt so loved and attended? The celebration staff wanted to convey our True Parents' heart so completely and to make our visit to Korea most meaningful. We all experienced the genuineness of their hearts and leadership.
I was also deeply moved by Brian's conducting. His extreme sensitivity, knowledge, and experience in music was quickly apparent to all of us. Then I felt sympathy with him for having to conduct such an amateur person as me, who had to hold onto the words to be memorized until the last minute, who couldn't smile on stage, and who took a long time to pick up the right rhythm and the right note. He must have noticed all of what I was doing; but, day after day, he was tolerant, accommodating and embracing. As if all of us were already good, he was respectful and totally committed to bringing out the best we could offer. So my feeling of being inadequate went away and the joy of singing out for True Parents took its place.
Even on the plane going over, I felt God was waiting for us to come and offer everything. He made Seoul completely white with snow in the three days around True Parents' Birthday. Unable to see many other events during the Celebration period, we felt as if God Himself must have felt that He couldn't give enough for this precious son of His. As I prayed, I felt an instant closeness to True Parents; tears came every time. All the members in Korea were conveying God's parental heart and True Parents' love through their services and support in the many preparations. We all felt so indebted when we heard how much the blessed families in Korea gave of themselves for this Celebration. How could we possibly respond to such heart? We had gone there to give something, but we received so much more.
In 1970 when I went to Korea for our Blessing, I felt born anew through our True Parents' love. I learned again that Father is in no way ready to rest on the laurels of his incredible life-long accomplishments and retire. No, he used this occasion to let the world know his devotion would continue until he saw the Kingdom of God on Earth with his own eyes. If you had this same experience, I'm sure you would have been reborn by True Parents' love.
On the plane, I sat with a Korean Christian man and a Chinese atheist who were so misinformed about our True Parents; after I had answered their rather skeptical questions, the Chinese man said quietly, "I realize I don't have the power to change your conviction of faith. I respect what you believe. Maybe, someday, I'll knock on your door."
Brazilian members dance the "Samba" during "International Night."
The first general director and conductor of the New Hope Singers International
What a privilege it was to be there in Seoul and celebrate Father turning seventy. It would be difficult to arrive in Korea at a moment more truly worth celebrating than was this. The trip was a particularly joyous sojourn for a good many of us. If one may be allowed a few moments' personal reflection to set down the brightest memories on record, this was the kind of memory that kisses your life.
The New Hope Singers International began in the Artist Cottage at Belvedere on September 15, 1973. The choir always kept an intense schedule, so it was a rare and distinct pleasure to see how many of the original choir members still loved one another after 15 years and were able to enjoy one another's company.
Such deep human and spiritual attachments as evidenced in Seoul are what comes from years of freely sharing a common bond. The New Hope Singers International shared the willing and hardworking participancy in the promotion of Father's efforts for humanity. We did that willingly, gladly, and remain proud to have done so.
The journey from New York was a joy in the simplest, external sense aboard the flight, in as much as we might view the radiant faces of friends and loved ones that many of us had longed to see again for years, to the common internal awareness we were to observe the celebration of an event beatifically happy in its own right and yet, for its singularity, unspeakably deep. You thought of it and all you could do was to breathe deeply, close your eyes, and smile. When you opened your eyes again, there were all those smiling faces. What a resplendent journey!
Personally, I had been apprehensive about what we would find after landing and being bussed to Su-Teng-ni. The time the New Hope Singers International had spent in Korea during Father's speeches there years ago had been very difficult. There were only cold baths to be taken when you could get a bath at all. And as a result of our having to get a hasty lunch at roadside restaurants of unpredictable hygiene, there were always a great many stomachs at virtual war with their owners. The Singers had won the war in the end, but their stomachs took a lot of the battles.
Korea has changed, just as we had -- finding ourselves able to relate to both the work in which we were engaged (and there was a lot of it) and to each other. One set of changes facilitated the other, creating complementary realities that were gratifyingly principled.
Father has ample reason to take pride in the facility that houses the professors and ministers he hosts in the village of Su-Teng-ni. We stayed in this handsome, well-constructed, three-story building. It is a very comfortable facility with a vast dining hall in the basement and plenty of hot running water. Personally, I always arose earlier than most, showered, and descended a few flights of stairs to the dining hall. There I could settle down to prayer, ginseng tea and my scriptures, to which I have been deeply attached since Catholic school and six years of seminary I attended before joining the Church nearly 20 years ago.
A lovely serenity seemed to always breathe comfort upon the few of us that were fulfilling similar practices in the very early mornings. There settled upon many of us a deepening awareness of where the notion of "The Land of the Morning Calm" comes from as, after coffee and before sunrise, a few of us -- Mark Rubin, Robert Rattley and I -- occasionally took an early morning walk as daylight arose to bless the mountainsides vaguely visible in the awakening gray day. There is, as the day brightens, a reassuring, even shimmering, calm
So it was great to find Su-Teng-ni and the facilities so comfortable. The kitchen staff was superb, as was everything they so generously provided; no one could thank them enough. On the morning of our departure, we gathered to provide them a round of applause. The entire company broke into a spontaneous sing- through of Brian Saunders' delightfully clever arrangement of the Korean folk- song "Ri-ri-ri-ya!" The kitchen staff, with whom most of us had scarcely exchanged a single word of language, broke into laughter and applauded us as we applauded them. We departed knowing we had been, in that respect as in all others, blessed.
Rehearsals began only a few hours after we had arrived at the training center. It had been great to see Brian Saunders when we had arrived the night before, but as Brian conducted our opening rehearsal I had never been more proud of him. There were about ten hours of rehearsal for each of the four rehearsal days; every moment of them was a joy. Besides being hilariously clever and keeping the singers in stitches, Dr. Brian also quickly sewed together one of the most glorious musical fabrics in which I have ever had the pleasure of participating. He was always there when you needed him.
Brian always praised us, even when we felt we didn't deserve it. He was so gracious about everything, even when one of the chorus members would flare up. He spoke to his chorus with kindness and understanding.
There was one point on the third day, when Brian rehearsed the opening two syllables "Oh, beau" for about 20 minutes. This was part of his tireless effort toward perfection of both verbal and musical phrasing. As a conductor, you work hard on small items to make your people aware of the standards to which you will ask them to perform. Once they are aware of those, and are praised when they do it right, because they want to win the conductor's heart an ensemble will automatically do in unexplored areas of the musical landscape the same things that they learned to do where you did spend a lot of time.
This is the Principle: one begins on the tiniest levels (individual words and notes in this case) and expands to the larger level, always refining. Dr. Saunders is an excellent conductor because he is an individual excellently and operationally aware of the Principle. What a joy to see and feel the Principle in action.
There was the "American Set" in which we did a rendition of "America"; a choral version of "Tonight" from "West Side Story"; "Amazing Grace", sung in real down-home style by June Maxim; "Fame" from the movie of the same name was attractively danced to by Concha Egea of Spain and Hugh Harper of Guyana, stage directed by Linda Chapman Eisenberg (who founded the New World Players) and choreographed by Mark Rubin. Mark, himself a professional dancer who traveled to both Israel and the Caribbean with the world famous Alvin Ailey Dance Company, coached the dancers. And what would the "American Set" have been without Jeffrey Benson's now famous, (for the excellence of it) dependably delightful performance of "New York, New York"?
The set finale was the Korean number "Ri-ri-ri-ya!" You may ask, "Why a Korean song as a finale to an 'American Set'?" I don't know either, except the Koreans loved it and knew that we loved them. And when it comes to performing anything anywhere for anyone, I guess that's all that ever counts.
Then there was the Korean set that we called "The Classic Set"; in it were Brian Saunders' breathtaking arrangement of the Korean folk classic, "Boribat" ("Song from the Barley Field"); a march, "Cham Sarang" ("True Love") written over lovely lyrics of Reverend Joong Hyun Pak's creation; the set concluded with a fire-powered rendition of the "Hosanna" that Miklos Rosza had written for the film classic "King of Kings". So we closed an American set with a Korean song and a Korean set with an American song. It isn't done, but it was done and it was magnificent.
We would also like to recognize the excellent solo work offered to their beloved Father by Sheila Baer Vaughn, Steven Honey, Patricia Johnson Casino, Craig Maxim (June's 20-year-old son), and the Japanese soprano Yoshimi Toyama. They are all perfectly excellent performers; it is hoped that we are to see and hear much more of each.
The moment at which I was most deeply touched was when, during her first rehearsal of "We'll All Be There," (an in-house selection written a few years back by a few of us), Sheila turned during the second return of the theme, looked from one face to another of all the "original cast" and broke into tears. How deeply human; how beautiful. Her having had an experience of that kind has everything to do with all of our having pursued common religious goals and remaining of common religious understanding all these years. For that experience, the membership was grateful for the work that Father has done and the way in which that work has changed the life of each and every one of the friends we love so much. We wouldn't have all these friends were it not for him.
But the best was yet to come -- Father himself. The best did not materialize until the closing of the final set-on the second night: up lights on the house; there, as the orchestral exit music was being mounted and after the 600 people on stage with the several thousand in the house had concluded a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" for Father, there he stood, beaming like the sun itself. A tiny Western child ran up to him. Leaning down like the human giant that he is, he swung her into his arms and danced with her to the music of the orchestra. How happy he was! And how happy he made the entire assembly as, just before setting the little girl down again, he kissed her. Sheila said the whole audience felt kissed. Sheila was right.
Wow. Talk about memories that kiss your life. What do you say, but "Wow" No, nothing else, for nothing else will do. Wow.
Reading Father's address given on the morning of his 70th birthday, I am reminded again that Father's ways are so much beyond our ways. In his speech Father thanked the gathering of dignitaries and membership from around the world which had come to honor him on his birthday, but said "the content of our celebration must be determined by the degree to which my past deeds give reason for us to have hope in the future...and the degree to which my work is related to the Providence of God." He continues, "It is true, frankly, that the foundation that I have laid around the world is an astonishing accomplishment. I take pride, however, less in the external and visible aspects of this foundation as much as the fact that no part of this foundation has been established centering on myself and the fact that each part is geared more to the future than the present."
The regathering of our choir on Father's 70th birthday is just one of the many testimonies and representations of such a foundation, a foundation which looked to the future of mankind and the fulfillment of God's Providence far beyond the imaginings of the young and inexperienced group which Father first Bath. Ted in September of 1973 to become the New Hope Singers International. By our understanding, Father made a choir to accompany him on the 21-City Tour and then on the 32-City Tour. It was certainly an untrained, if not motley, crew. Even when I joined the choir, just after the 32-City Tour in May of 1974, I was one of the few who could read music. And yet this little crew, in less than 9 months, had by then already performed over 120 times in 53 cities, and built a performing troupe which, together with the Korean Folk Ballet, had just begun the Celebration of Life Tour.
This was merely the beginning of many developments which eventually sent this same performing group to Japan and Korea in 1975 on the First Global
Team, and which returned to Korea, 15 years later, to sing for True Parents on the occasion of Father's 70th birthday. Only God and Father knew that the little dancing group of children which rehearsed in a shed in the 1950s would become the world-renowned Little Angels, and the scrubbed and almost baby- voiced youth who gathered at Belvedere to audition for a choir in 1973 would become one of the foundations for a worldwide culture which came together on one stage to honor God and True Parents on February 1. Certainly we had had no idea ourselves.
The finale of the birthday performance brought 650 performers on stage to sing "Happy Birthday" to our True Parents. Among them were the Little Angels, who now represent an entire school and performing arts center, the Universal Ballet, whose prima ballerina is part of the True Family and who had just returned from the Soviet Union from a performance with the Kirov Ballet, and the now more polished ensemble of the New Hope Singers International. In performances at the birthday banquet and the following evenings, Renata Scotto, one of the world's most famous opera stars, performed to standing room only crowds. Soloists from the Kirov Ballet of Leningrad, the oldest ballet company in the world, joined the Universal Ballet Company with Hoon Sook Nim as prima ballerina in two glorious evenings of ballet. Each of these has a testimony in themselves, far too much to be covered in one article, but mentioned because all of these things are the fruits of Father's vision. These are just a few of the externals, which, as Father said, are, frankly, impressive in themselves; but the spiritual testimonies, known only to God, and the personal testimonies, known only to a few individuals, are also deep and far reaching.
I realize, as I write, that I really can't begin to understand what sort of impact the experience has on others, and I can only begin to sort out and explain some of my own impressions. From among the choir members who sang this time, we came from several layers of NHSI history: those who had been together before and in Korea in 1975; those who had been together through Washington Monument; those who had been together in its "task force" days, when Father sent the singers to pioneer several projects after the Washington Monument Rally; those who participated in its more "settled" days when all the Performing Arts groups worked together in New York in Home Church areas and when many of the seeds of the established performing institutions were planted; to the New Hope Singers International's "mission" when the Perform- in!: Arts members were sent out as IOWC teams in 1983. After that time the period of a professional outreach of the Performing Arts Department began.
In addition, for Father's 70th birthday, many fresh new faces were gathered from CARP, the Korea mobilization and other missions, uniting many of the significant spearhead providences of the 1990s. The longest one member hadn't seen some of the others was 16 years. For many it had been 5 or 10 years.
One couldn't ignore the fact that there had been a significant weight gain and hair loss across the board. But in spite of diverse missions, parenthood, leadership responsibilities, PhDs, and extreme differences of national and climatical locations over the past 15 years, the choir came together and in four days put together old and new repertoire for two full-fledged programs which were performed twice at King Sejong Hall and twice at the Little Angels' Performing Arts Center, totaling an audience of close to 15,000. Supremely significant to such a phenomenon was also the return of Rev. Joong Hyun Pak who, after seven years' absence as a regional director in America, was again at the helm of the Performing Arts Department. One also can't ignore the phenomenal accomplishments of the various other directors. Nevertheless, all of us, without exception, know that the real cause of the miracle was the foundation established by Father's life and the course through which he raised Performing Arts, creating such eternal bonds among us on the personal level, and such an eternal foundation on which the world culture of God's Kingdom could stand against all time.
Some things are very different from 15 years ago. The training center where we lived then in Korea, surrounded by rice fields and dirt roads, where we rehearsed standing for often 10 to 12 hours a day, battling dysentery and new foods, is now tucked in among Il Hwa factories and training centers with tables, chairs, Western toilets, trucks advertising McCol and beds with sheets and blankets. The rice fields are more distant, the near ones replaced by apartments and stores and paved roads. We rehearsed this time in the plush carpeted Little Angels' Performing Arts Center (which had barely begun construction 15 years ago), still for 10 to 12 hours, but on comfortable chairs and with a virtually limitless supply of McCol and Ginseng to keep our voices well-lubricated. Fifteen years ago I was 23 years old and that also is sometimes amazing to think about.
Some things are the same. Same is the feeling of coming home, whether across the mud roads to a sleeping bag or across the pavement to a hot shower and a firm mattress. Same is the overwhelming generosity which the country of True Parents extends to us whether by new socks and killing a cow to celebrate the arrival of the First Global Team, or in the gifts of Hanbas (Korean dresses), leather briefcases and boxes of Ginseng tea. Same is the feeling of great blessing whether given $20 to spend for 3 months or $300 for 10 days. Same is the Heart of Korea, because not only the New Hope Singers International, but a whole country stands on the eternal foundation of God and True Parents' victory.
We have a lot to do in our respective countries to enter the third millenium on the level with our True Parents, but like St. John the Divine, I saw again the vision of a new heaven and a new earth, not just as a hope, but in the process of fulfillment. And I am persuaded that the eternal foundation is there to spread the Kingdom from the nation of Korea to the one nation of the world. As always, I am continually amazed and grateful to God and our True Parents for all that they have done.