PC(USA) Korean language translator Paul Huh enjoys a certain hymn on the first day of spring, his birthday
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Born on March 20, the first day of spring, the Rev. Dr. Paul Junggap Huh knew just how he wanted to celebrate his birthday and simultaneously usher in springtime on Wednesday — by singing a hymn he adapted for the Presbyterian hymnal “Glory to God.”
Huh, associate for Korean translation at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, said the church where he worships, Harvey Browne Presbyterian Church in Louisville, planned to sing “Soft Rains of Spring Flow,” Number 680 in the hymnal, at precisely 5:58 p.m. Eastern Time — the first minute of spring — as part of its regular Wednesday night dinner program.
As it turns out, there’s a story behind the hymn, Huh said.
As a member of the committee selecting which submissions would find their way into the 2013 hymnal — more than 10,000 hymns were suggested — Huh recalled the committee selecting the text for “Soft Rains of Spring Flow,” but not a tune to go with the text. “It was put in a tune bucket,” he said, “waiting for a perfect tune to match the beautiful text.”
Alas, the committee found no tune match and the deadline was near. “The only way to include the text in the hymnal,” Huh said, “was to write an original tune for it.”
Huh took the challenge, borrowing the music for the first two lines from a piece by Seung Nam Kim that had been published in 2001 in “Come, Let Us Worship: The Korean-English Presbyterian Hymnal and Service Book.” Huh wrote music for the third line, then reused the music for the first line for that of the fourth line, which he called “a common feature in hymn writing.”
Alfred Fedek, who chaired the tune committee for the hymnal, added harmonization for the accompaniment.
“It was truly a collaborative work that happened in the Presbyterian Center chapel and conference room where the committee met,” Huh said. Additional collaboration took place everywhere from homes to airport waiting areas, he said.
The text, Huh noted, is by a Jong Rack Im, a Korean Methodist pastor and superintendent, who pastored a rural church (Kyosan Church on Kangwha Island in South Korea). The church faced the border with North Korea.
“Outside of Seoul, Korea is mostly agricultural country, with four distinct seasonal changes,” Huh said. “Because of this, planting a seed and harvesting thanksgiving are reflected in many of well-known hymn texts from the Korean church.”
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