Members of The Seventeen, a Catholic youth-led music band in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo courtesy of The Seventeen)
Michael Kunho Kim and his friends carefully checked all their musical instruments as their band, The Seventeen, geared up for YouTube livestreaming of their online concert in early September.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only son,” the Catholic youth-led music band sang in the Korean language to the accompaniment of guitar, piano, drums and more from a studio in Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
For more than two hours, the band performed a series of songs mostly based on Biblical and religious themes during the concert on Sept. 4.
Thousands viewed the concert, with many responding in real time and after the show to express how much they enjoyed the music and the lyrics.
“Congratulations and thanks. Your music has brought tears to my eyes. You have undertaken a lot of hard work. The sound was also very good. I appreciate you so much,” one viewer commented.
“I have always cheered you on. All your singing of praises approaches the Lord. I can feel the passion of loving the Lord. I want to be like The Seventeen brothers and sisters who sing praises to the Lord together,” wrote another.
Our lyrics are basically based on the Bible, but sometimes we express our hopes and feelings as Catholics
The concert was the latest in a series of musical enterprises of The Seventeen since the group was formed in 2017.
That year, the church-run Korean Catholic Broadcasting Center organized the 17th edition of its annual Catholic music and songwriting contest where 11 teams contested the final round. Some team members decided to form a single team to carry on Catholic musical ventures. To preserve the memory of the 17th contest, the group was named The Seventeen.
On the 17th of each month, this voluntary band group releases new, original Catholic music and music videos on YouTube based on lyrics composed by group members. The group’s YouTube channel has about 31,900 subscribers.
“Our lyrics are basically based on the Bible, but sometimes we express our hopes and feelings as Catholics. Our music is not only on YouTube but also can be found on Apple music and Spotify,” Kim told UCA News.
Kim, 35, is a software engineer in Seoul and music enthusiast. He is a composer, lyricist and sound programmer for the group.
The Seventeen are based in Seoul but they perform in various regions whenever they are invited by Christians groups and parishes, Kim said, adding that “hopefully we can perform in other countries too, after the pandemic.”
The group has 30 members and does not have any official process for adding new members. However, it requires the agreement of at least two-thirds of members before a new member can be added. That person must be “enthusiastic about Catholic music.”
From the beginning, the band has been self-financing with group members contributing to all musical ventures. Its chief producer has been providing his own studio for recording while also working on the music production process including arranging, mixing and mastering.
“And also we’re getting donations from our fans and people. We post our bank account on our YouTube channel and people who like our music and videos send us money. We’re so blessed that many people recognize our work and support us,” Kim said.
The band has also drawn support from the Catholic Church. Some 10 priests from various dioceses teach, guide and support the group.
Many churches invite the group to perform, but invitations have dropped during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Korean Catholic Broadcasting Center also invites The Seventeen to perform to promote the group to Korean Catholics.
Kim says the group gets emails from Christians every day with requests for musical scores so that they can sing songs in their parishes. There are plentiful songs on YouTube by Christians who covered their songs.
What really matters is that we can see people who met our Lord through our music
The band has enjoyed moments of glory in recent years. One song — “When mother’s prayer reaches to the sky” — was performed live by opera singers at Seoul Arts Center. The performers and most of the audience were not Catholics. The leader of the concert later said he was deeply touched by the song and decided to cover it at the concert.
In 2018, The Seventeen won first place in a Catholic musical contest.
Kim says the group’s main objective is to praise glory to God and help people “meet God through music.”
“What really matters is that we can see people who met our Lord through our music. They say they started to go to church again after they listened to our songs. That’s the achievement and that’s our goal. We want to keep us as a tool for God’s glory," he said.
It is not often easy to main a group of 30 people who make time for Catholic music besides their regular jobs. Sometimes there are conflicts, but these are short-lived and the members believe the diversity in the team helps them become better people.
The Seventeen has released two music albums and work on a third is poised to start next month.
The group is also planning to put English subtitles on its music videos on the YouTube channel so that Christians from all over the world can visit the channel and subscribe.
“When subscribers from various countries increase, we also want to create video content to let them know the beauty of Korean Catholic churches and the history of Korean Catholicism,” Kim added.