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Connecting with the neighbors


Korean Church of Boston says cultural festival helps congregants, neighbors across boundaries

by the Korean Church of Boston | Special to Presbyterian News Service

The lead-in for a concert during the Seventh Korean Cultural Festival was the re-enactment of the traditional wedding ceremony. (Photo by Korean Church of Boston)

LOUISVILLE — Late in 2018 the Korean Church of Boston, a congregation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), helped to put on the Seventh Korean Cultural Festival, an event the congregation uses as part of what it calls an “ongoing effort to connect with our neighbors.”

In an era when “walls of all kinds are sprouting up among people, we would like to participate in inoculating the community against the worst impulses of the human nature inherent in all of us,” the congregation said. “To find ourselves enjoying music, food or a custom from an unfamiliar culture and to smile at strangers across the aisle — such an act of crossing the boundary reaffirms the commonality of all people and opens our minds further toward generosity and tolerance.”

The event was timely, the church said, because Korea and its culture are attracting increasing interest from the general public “beyond the level of mere curiosity.”

“Thank you so much for inviting me to your festival,” one attendee said in an email. “It was so wonderful to be there among such caring folks. The food was wonderful and the concert was so beautiful — every single part of it! As much as I enjoyed these activities, I must say your congregation’s warmth and kindness were the best part of the event. After all of the sad events we have had lately, especially at The Tree of Life tragedy, it was so wonderful to be in the presence of such love. I will be forever grateful …”

The lead-in to the evening’s concert was the re-enactment of the traditional wedding ceremony after a happy hour complete with Korean food; photo ops for Han-bok, traditional dress; and folk games for children. A pair of geese adorning the wedding ceremony symbolized, for the bride and groom, their life together.

Musical performers DoYeon Kim and Gamin Kang began with court music from old Korea, then moved forward with an exuberant collaboration with jazz musicians from Boston and New York.

The mid-segment featured Korean art songs, the origin of which traces back to the musical idiom Chang-ga from more than a century ago, when Presbyterian missionaries translated hymns into the Korean language. At the time, Chang-ga was, for most Koreans, the sole access channel to Western music. Over the succeeding decades, it has evolved and flowered into the Art Song form.

These emotive songs, delivered by Youmi Cho, filled the space with the feeling of Han, described as a lament, the quintessential sentiment of Korean people.

More details of the festival can be found at its web site. Maybe, festival organizers said, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

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