by Gordon Nary
Gordon: When were you appointed Director of Music and Worship at St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Parish and what are your primary responsibilities?
Seon Hwan: I started working at St. Gabriel in August of 2019, and my primary responsibilities are to direct and lead worship for the parish. This includes programming the music for the liturgical year, overseeing funerals and weddings, recruiting and training members of the choir, ensemble, bell choir, as well as cantors, and being responsible for live broadcasts of weekend Masses and other sacramental events.
Gordon: Where did you study Music and what was your favorite course, and why was it your favorite?
Seon Hwan: I studied music at the University of Louisville and did both Bachelor’s and Master’s programs there. My focus was in Choral Conducting, and courses relating to conducting and choral ensembles were my favorite.
Gordon: You are also a singer. Where do you sing?
Seon Hwan: I sing at the Parish as one of the cantors, and I also sing with the Louisville Chamber Choir, a semi-professional choir in Louisville directed by my mentor, Dr. Kent Hatteberg.
Gordon: What musical instruments do you play?
Seon Hwan: I play the clarinet and renaissance recorders. I am a novice at guitar and piano, and I am practicing to get better at playing those instruments.
Gordon: Please share with our readers some of your experiences as a member of the Cardinal Singers?
Seon Hwan: Being part of the Cardinal Singers was one of the biggest privileges I had while attending the University of Louisville. The Choir gave me the opportunity to not only perform for local outreach events around the city but also allowed me to perform in numerous choral conferences such as Sing’n’Joy by Interkultur, NCCO, and ACDA. Each year, Cardinal Singers also traveled abroad to either participate or compete in International Choral Competitions and Choral Festivals. The countries I traveled as a member of the Cardinal Singers include Germany, Austria, China, Croatia, Poland, Slovenia, Taiwan, Thailand, and South Korea. Performing in these competitions and festivals and winning the grand prize during some of the trips abroad challenged me to become a better musician, and such experiences involving diverse cultures also contributed to my personal growth that gave me a broader perspective of our world.
Gordon: How do you train choirs?
Seon Hwan: I am teaching my current choirs to be able to use solfege to make them better sight-readers and tuners. The easier it becomes to learn new music, the quicker the choir can mean what they sing. I also emphasize the importance of rhythm in music. During warm-ups, we go through various solfege exercises with different rhythms. I also work with the choir to match vowels while vocalizing to produce a healthy tone without straining the voice.
Gordon: Do you believe that great music brings us closer to God? If so, in what ways?
Seon Hwan: I do believe that great music brings us closer to God. When we worship together, music becomes a medium in which peoples of various backgrounds with different ages, political views, nationalities, and cultures can come together to pray as one body. Such experiences can bring spiritual nourishment and an opportunity for us to come closer to God.
Gordon: Thank you for an exceptional interview.