27 Feb 2013 by Adeline Lum-
God did not give Korean Tenor Greg Yoon only powerful vocal chords but a funny bone as well! When asked how he met Jesus, he answered, “I met Jesus before I was born, in my mother’s womb!”
Greg Yoon is one of the most active dramatic tenors in the international music scene and had delivered close to 1000 performances to date. Recently, he came to He Is Sovereign (HIS) church headed by Rev. Raymond Mooi to deliver a powerful opera performance. What a privilege!
Greg graduated from Firenze school which hailed other distinguished dramatic tenors in the world such as Mario Del Monaco and Alfredo Krause. A rare talent, he was able to sing “high D” required for many great songs. He also won numerous competitions such as the Italy European music contest, Italy International Music Competition, the Italian ‘Mario Del Monaco’ International Vocal Competition, the Toulouse, France International Music Competition and other awards.
Watch this video by Greg Yoon in He is Sovereign (HIS) church recently, called 'Yangtze River'!
“You won’t believe that I was actually tone-deaf until I was in high school. (In fact) I used to love sports more than music,” said Greg. “But because my siblings and I grew up in a pastor’s family, we had a lot of opportunity to be exposed to music.”
Although he was well-acquainted with music, he was once expelled from one choir practice due to his singing. And when his voice was louder than the rest, the conductor would point him out as a culprit for the disharmony, ‘even though he was the pastor’s son.’
So, how did he become a world-class tenor?
“It was a miracle!” said Greg.
One day, his eldest sister who was a pianist asked him to accompany her to a pianist and singing competition in Seoul.
“It was my first time in Seoul as a high school boy and country boy,” chuckled Greg. “I was wandering outside the competition hall until my sister summoned me inside.”
Turned out, although many participants signed up for the pianist competition, only a handful participated for the singing competition. The organizers gave him an opportunity to sign up to join the competition! And in ten minutes after completing the application form, he transformed from being an audience to a participant.
“My sister asked me if I knew any songs. The only song I knew back then was the one I memorized for my music test,” said Greg. “In Korea, whether you’re a good or bad singer, you must learn to sing a song for the (mandatory) music class in school.”
At that moment, the miracle happened. He sang and got the grand prize for the competition!
“I knew it was God’s gift for me and not my own ability. But in my human mind, I was shifting between feeling arrogant from owing my talent to my own ability and acknowledging that it was solely God’s gift for me,” said Greg.
Since it was his first experience, he doubted his talent. Hence, he applied for many singing competitions after that to prove his talent. And true enough, he won the grand prize for every successive competition even without coaching from professional singing gurus. Through these experiences, he felt called by God to use his voice for God’s work.
“Music was not the purpose but through music, I started to do God’s work. It is just a tool to do the Lord’s work to me,” said Greg. “My weakness was focusing on the music even when I was younger. I had no talent but because God gave me a talent. He ordered me to sing a song to work for Him.”
Indeed, music is powerful in crossing all barriers, be it politically or culturally. He recalled a time when he entered China 24 years ago. It was a time of heavy persecution and it was very dangerous for missionaries to enter. But because he entered as a musician, he was accepted as a ‘real friend’ although an official relationship between Korea and China were not established back then. He was the first man to praise the Lord in China since the revolution in 1949. Anyone who praised God in the open would be subjected to imprisonment, but the Lord granted him favor.
At first, the officials in China approved him having a praise and worship recital at a rundown university gymnasium with water leakage in Beijing. They gave him two conditions to follow. Firstly, he was strictly forbidden to use any worship words such as Jesus Christ, God, Hallelujah and Amen. Secondly, he was not allowed to use programs, posters, placards or brochures to advertize for the event.
“It was impossible to sing worship songs without these words,” said Greg.
On that day, the conditions were far from right to have the recital. Back-stage, police officers stood ready to imprison Greg if he dared to worship God in words; there was a zero percent possibility to escape. Thousands of birds also perched at the frame of the roof, chirping noisily in unison and releasing droppings from above, described as ‘bird dung rain’ on the audience. Since no advertisements were allowed, only people from the vicinity area came to the concert. But they began to turn their backs to leave because of the poor condition of the concert.
“We knelt down with all the missionaries, preachers and pastors who were there… there were more than a hundred of us and we prayed to God for Him to allow us to worship Him,” said Greg. “I, myself, prayed for God to give me wisdom and courage and God told me to go ahead.”
Greg courage grew. At the moment he opened his mouth to sing, the thousands of birds stopped chirping. The audience stopped to focus on Greg. And the police officers were dead silent. Even the ‘dung rain’ ceased. Greg’s powerful voice reverberated through the gymnasium when the Lord suddenly opened his vocal chords to shout “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” as they boomed through the microphone. And he sang and sang, continuously for two hours until the completion of the recital. The audience who left returned whilst the police officers back-stage were heard applauding during the recital. Praise the Lord!
“Only by the power of God, everything’s okay. Only with the power of God, the birds were silent. How God use us is like this,” said Greg.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; you rod and your staff, they comfort me.
When asked for his advice for youngsters in Malaysia, Greg said, “I see hope in Malaysia where the future lies in the youth. Pray for courage, wisdom from God to overcome the challenges here. Success or failure depends on whether the youths would live and act in Christian spirit or not.”
And Greg appreciates the youths! In the secular music industry, it is common practice that professional singing must be accompanied by professional musicians. Greg shared how other professional opera singers would tease him for collaborating with young musicians deemed to lack experience and skill.
“But to me, these youths are our future. We bet our lives to praise God. If the youths would bet their lives to praise Him with courage, then God would be responsible for their future,” said Greg. “Also, always do things in a team because two is better than one.”
Amen to Brother Greg Yoon! Let him be a reminder to use the gifts that God give us to glorify our Heavenly Father. Amen?
References of pictures: