Lee Symphonic Band shares music in Central Europe

Special to the Banner
Posted 8/8/15

From June 6 through 16, the Lee University Symphonic Band completed a trip to Hungary, Austria, Croatia and Serbia, performing in various venues in these nations.

The ensemble was invited by …

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Lee Symphonic Band shares music in Central Europe

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From June 6 through 16, the Lee University Symphonic Band completed a trip to Hungary, Austria, Croatia and Serbia, performing in various venues in these nations.

The ensemble was invited by Jonathan Augustine, the regional superintendent for Central Europe for the Church of God World Missions.

Dan and Rose Smith and their daughter Marion served as the group’s hosts.

The Smiths are missionaries to Hungary for the Church of God. A 1977 graduate of Lee University, Dand and his family have spent the last 25 years ministering in Central Europe, particularly in Hungary and Albania.

The trip had several purposes, according to Mark Bailey, Lee Symphonic Band conductor.

First was to share the love of Christ with the people of Central Europe. Second, to allow Lee University Symphonic Band students the opportunity to experience the culture in Hungary, Austria, Croatia and Serbia, he said.

Students were exposed to arts, culture and important historical landmarks as well as other Christian believers.

The group was also able to share the gospel to many who heard it for the first time, Bailey said.

The Lee group performed concerts and religious services in Hungary, Croatia, and Serbia, but as in other nations, the band was able to incorporate the eclectic style the band has utilized in church services, concerts and other venues in America.

One concert was held at the Kroó György Music School in Budapest. The Symphonic Band performed works by Holsinger, Sousa, Galante, Bartok and other composers in its portion of the concert to a very large audience at the school.

The Lee Symphonic Band’s performance was deeply appreciated and the applause, according to Dan Smith, “was the loudest and longest he had ever heard in Hungary.”

The Lee Symphonic Band then joined with the music school’s 60-piece Youth Symphony, a 60-voice middle school choir as well as guest soloists, performing “America” from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.

“America” had to be performed twice because of the applause of the audience.

“I personally was very proud of the work of the students, both from Hungary and the Lee University Symphonic Band,” Bailey said.

The coordinators for this concert were the director of Crescendo, Eszter Dudas and her husband, Attila Füzesséry, the conductor of the orchestra.

The concert served as a real introduction to the Church of God and Lee University.

István Dominkó, who has a doctorate in piano, and his wife Csilla, an instructor in cello, are also members of the Church of God and performed for the Lee University group while they were in Hungary.

“We now have a connection between Lee University and Crescendo, a Christian music organization based in Budapest. It is possible in the near future for Lee University music professors, undergraduate and graduate music majors to take part in the Crescendo Summer Institute as applied music instructors and teachers. This past year, there were Christian musicians from 31 nations taking part in this Summer Institute,” Bailey said.

The leaders of the Crescendo office — Eszter Dudas, Balázs Végh and Dániel Hamar — were the organizers and coordinators for the five flash mobs Lee students performed throughout Budapest and Velence, Hungary.

“We performed these impromptu concerts that allowed us to take our music and ministry to the people in Hungary. After we performed short 10 minute concerts, young people from Calvary Chapel as well as the Church of God members in Hungary would talk with people about faith and Christ. This proved to be very effective. We promoted a final concert that was held in a central downtown area close to the Danube River on June 12,” Bailey said.

Approximately 700 people were in attendance at this outdoor concert. It was an important success for the church in Hungary because it gave the Church of God a much needed visibility to the people of Budapest.

National services were organized in Hungary, Croatia and Serbia. The first Sunday of the trip, June 7, all of the Church of God congregations gathered at the International Church of Budapest for a special service hosted by regional superintendent Jonathan Augustine and István Kocsis, the national overseer for the Church of God in Hungary.

Dan Smith and his family led in worship in that service. Eszter Dudas, Attila Füzesséry and Csilla Sallai Dominkó performed several incredible string trio numbers accompanied at the piano by István Dominkó. Included was a very worshipful rendition of “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

The next day the group traveled to Vienna, Austria.

On Tuesday, they traveled by train to the town of Velence where the band performed at Velence Elementary School.

Dan Smith, who has taught at this school, said it is known for its excellence . The students enjoyed the concerts and asked many questions about playing instruments and music in America.

The Lee Symphonic Band students were able to have lunch with a select group of students (these students’ reward for academic excellence in the classroom) and considered this as an extremely meaningful moment of the trip, Bailey said.

On Wednesday, the ensemble spent time sightseeing throughout Budapest, specifically spending time at the downtown city market. The students were able to visit several famous sites in the city in Budapest. Particularly stunning was the St. Matthew’s Cathedral, which overlooks the Danube River, Parliament and other sites in the city.

On Wednesday evening, they rehearsed with students from the Kroó György Music School.

On Friday in downtown Budapest, the group performed another full concert at 7:30 p.m. Approximately 700 people attended the last concert. Many of the people from the Thursday night concert came, as well as others.

Many people were witnessed to after the concert and the organizers thought that the entire week was a great success and had initiated an idea that would be a format for future similar flash mob events in Hungary.

Dániel Hamar, who coordinated the evangelistic events, was especially complimentary of the way these mini concerts worked.

On June 13, the band traveled to Vukovar, Croatia to participate in a special Valley of Blessings concert as well as a combined worship service in Vinkovci, Croatia on June 14.

Dan Smith had worked very closely with Vlado Pšenko, the director of Valley of Blessings and Matej Lazar Kovačević, the national overseer of Croatia in organizing these events.

Vukovar is referred to as “The Valley of Sorrow,” because of the number of atrocities that happened there during the Yugoslavian War in the 1990s. The event was focused on building bridges between the Serbians and Croatians and bringing unity to the city.

Music teams from the local Catholic church (Croatian) and the Orthodox church (Serbian) joined in the concert. The local Church of God team, as well as other singers and musicians performed. The Church of God leadership considered this to be an extremely effective service.

On June 13, the group ministered at the Church of God in Vinkovci, Croatia. This sanctuary was built by the Central Church of God of Charlotte, N.C. congregation after the previous sanctuary burned during the Yugoslavian War. The beautiful facility seats about 400 people. It was packed for the Sunday morning service, a national Church of God event supported by all the Church of God pastors in Croatia and Bosnia. People traveled from eastern Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina to attend these services.

“Four people accepted the Lord in the service. It was extremely moving to worship with the people of Croatia and for them to worship with us in the service,” Bailey said.

On Sunday afternoon, the group crossed the border into Serbia. An outdoor concert was sponsored by the Church of God in Sremska Mitrvica, Serbia.

Miroslav Radovanović, the national overseer in Serbia and pastor of the church there, had arranged for an outdoor concert in the city square. This was the largest attended event of all of our concerts in Central Europe.

The church in Serbia has a very large youth group. They had worked with the city leaders in planning the concert. The Lee University Symphonic Band was the first band from America to visit the city.

This was extremely important to the Church of God in Serbia because of opposition to evangelical churches in Serbia by the Orthodox Church. The concert was cut short by severe thunderstorms, but the music was very well received. After the concert, the students went back to the church and had a meal with the young people of the church.

“One of the most moving events of the trip was the band students and the youth from Serbia taking turns singing ‘10,000 Reasons’ in their respective languages.

“Pastor Radovanović is a visionary leader and had planned the event well. He told me that this was extremely important to their future ministry in Serbia. The city leaders were very impressed with how the event was planned and the quality of music performed,” Bailey said.

On June 15, the ensemble returned to Velence, Hungary and performed one more concert in the city square.

“The Europe trip, for me, was extremely overwhelming. It was overwhelming to see castles on street corners. It was overwhelming to hear people speaking different languages in all directions. It was overwhelming to play a concert in Budapest, Hungary, and see how music truly is a universal language, how it brings joy and life to people's hearts, no matter where they are from or who they are,” Lee University Symphonic Band member Sophie Lockhart said.

“But I think more than anything, it was overwhelming to experience how deeply and passionately God loves us, that He would choose us to do something so beautiful in a country that is equally beautiful,” she said.

“I’m not sure I can explain how humbling it is to truly feel God moving in my life, and to know that out of all the people in the world, He picked me,” Lockhart noted.

Yu Ying Chang, who joined Symphonic Band this semester and is a master of music in performance major in piano, related how she had a profound experience with Christ on the trip. She had performed the Bartok Piano Sonata masterfully for several concerts.

“It was extremely moving to all of us as she shared her testimony about how Christ had changed her life. This is why we raised the money, made detailed plans, and worked diligently to execute this type of trip. It is why we do what we do at Lee. Share Christ’s love to others, provide profound meaningful experiences for our students, and mentor our students to let their talents and abilities be joined with their faith so incredible things can be done for the kingdom,” Bailey said.

The group raised $110,000 through fundraising activities and direct contributions given to students through fundraising letters. This amount paid for all the transportation, lodging, extra luggage and instrument requirements by the airlines as well as and the rental of the instruments and equipment in Central Europe.

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