Published May 21, 2009
MCDONOUGH — Casting Crowns, the Atlanta-based Grammy and Dove award winning band, apparently made an excellent impression on North Korea’s leadership when they performed for the country’s Annual April Spring Friendship Arts Festival in Pyongyang two years ago.
They were invited back again this year and have recently returned from their second trip to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Upon their return to the United States Casting Crowns learned that they were the recipients of three Dove Awards given by the Gospel Music Association at its 40th annual awards ceremony.
Casting Crowns, with lead singer Mark Hall, student pastor at Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church, won Dove Awards for Group of the Year, Christmas Album, and Short Form Music video.
The timely recognition was well deserved, not only because of the band’s considerable talent, but because of their willingness to use their talent to minister to the people of North Korea.
Performers from around the world were invited to the festival, but Casting Crowns and the Annie Moses Band from Nashville were the only American Christian bands invited to perform this year.
Global Resource Services, a U.S. based humanitarian organization, has worked in North Korea for the past dozen years, and cooperated with the organizing committee of the Friendship Arts Festival to facilitate the bands’ participation.
Eric Young of Christian Post reported Mark Hall saying, “The trip was great. We made many friends. We performed twice and were awarded [a gold trophy] for the performance of ‘Lifesong.’ We also recorded the Korean song, ‘White Dove,’ in their studio in Pyongyang.”
The Arts Festival is held every two years in concert with the birth anniversary of the late President Kim Il Sung, the father of present North Korean President Kim Jong Il.
Under the leadership of the past and present presidents North Korea has had one of the worst human rights records in the world. On April 27 UPI.com reported, North Korea “reduced public executions and revised human rights laws, but cases of abuses remain widespread.” Of the country’s 24 million people, about nine million are in need of urgent food assistance, according to the World Food Programme.
Consequently, the April 15 edition of the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC appeared to be critical of the two Christian bands performing in Pyongyang.
Maddow stated, “Kim Il Sung’s birthday is no floating three-day weekend in February. It was a week solid of apparently forced celebrations that would make Liberace blush…. In short, this is a forced national birthday party for the founder of a ruthless, rogue dictatorship that’s in the midst of defying the rest of the world.
“If you’re a band from Nashville (or Atlanta) and North Korea calls to offer you to play – the opportunity to play this gig, do you say, ‘yes?’ Among the acts performing at today’s Kim Il Sung’s birthday dictatorship extravaganza, believe it or not, are the Nashville-based classical fusion band, the Annie Moses Band and the Grammy-winning contemporary Christian band, Casting Crowns, who actually performed at the same festival two years ago.”
Rob Springs, CEO and president for Global Resource Services, who partners with the Georgia Baptist Convention in seeking to establish goodwill with North Korea, had praise for the work of Casting Crowns and the Annie Moses Band.
Springs stated, “Casting Crowns were commended by the festival committee members for their rendition of ‘White Dove, Fly High’ in English and Korean. In addition many local people were interested in Casting Crowns’ song ‘East to West,’ which they also performed at each venue.”
Springs added, “I have been an eyewitness observer of the dramatic changes that have taken place inside North Korea over the last twelve years – this trip marked my 53rd trip –and I heartily encourage this type of goodwill exchange.
“If we know anything from history, it is this: music can inspire thoughts and open minds far beyond the constricted political boundaries that citizens in many countries must face.”
If what Springs says is true, think of the potential of Christian music sung in North Korea.
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