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Rocking the way to heaven

Rock music can bring Catholics closer to God

Rocking the way to heaven
A performance of the rock concert at Easter reporter, Nanning

May 30, 2011

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This rock band does more than just play rock music to entertain young people in southern China. They use their music to bring Catholics closer to God and tell others about their faith. Margaret, the rock band, has its genesis in Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Nanning, in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in 2010. Its members, aged 20-26, comprise a vocalist, two guitarists, a bass guitarist, a synthesizer player and a drummer. Three of them are Catholics. Nicholas Zhang Xiongtao, the 24-year-old Catholic vocalist, said they owe it to the parish for giving them a room for regular practice. “Rock music has various styles, some of which carry and instil a negative sense of the obscene, violence and death,” said Zhang. However, contrary to what people might think, “Catholic rock music on the other hand is not monotonous” he said. “We hope to influence people with our joyful and passionate music,” he added. With support from the parish priest, Father John Baptist Tan Jingtuan, they have performed at Christmas, Easter and other Church feasts. This Easter they organized a rock concert at the church. The church not only serves as a stage, but also an excellent interactive space between the musicians and the audience, Zhang said, adding that this is the biggest difference of performing inside a church. “Through rock music, we present a completely new image of the Church to the young workers and students, attracting them to come more frequently so that the parish can spread the Good News to them,” he said. Father Tan said that the concert, which included other rock bands, a choir and a dance group of Indonesian students in Nanning, was a “bold breakthrough” for the parish. Many “curious” young people watched the rock performances in a church for their first time. However,  “the evangelizing effect would be greater if we could preach more on Church values during the concert,” the priest observed. He Hua’nan, a non-Catholic rock musician who took part in the concert said, “Performing beneath the crucifix was a joyful experience.” He expressed the hope  that the Church would adopt his religious rock music but believed that it is not easy as “it requires different instruments and sound effects to present a different frame of mind.” Zhang admitted that creating Catholic rock music is “an arduous and long-term process.” He said the band got its inspiration from Eastern European rock music to create appropriate religious music. “Most importantly, we must remain united and must pay attention to each member’s creativity and inspiration,” he said. Thanks to Father Tan’s explanation to parishioners and the purpose of promoting rock music inside the church as a tool for evangelization, many have gradually accepted the importance of their work. But some still have reservations. Lin Haijin, 31, said the Easter concert was a bit extreme. “I wished there could have more of a religious atmosphere,” she said. He Songhuan, 63, said the church is a strange place for a rock performance. He suggested the parish consider other ways to attract young people. Related reports Choirs sing in praise of summer music school Singer-priest dedicates hymn to bishop under house arrest Wenzhou Christians Hold First Ecumenical Concert, During Unity Prayer Week CH14343
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