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03 September 2018 | Belgrade, Serbia [Peter Jeynes]

There had been a buzz in the air all week—there had to be with the human excitement and expectation created by skill-equipping workshops, reviving sermons and inspiring singing. The Sabbath afternoon buzz was different though, people were eagerly awaiting the Sabbath afternoon music festival.

With ten minutes to go before starting precisely on time, there was room in the programme for a trip behind the scenes to find the centre of media operations in the form of the large mobile studio operated by SECmedia and managed by Stefan Stanciu.

Sliders and buttons filled desks while large screens dominated the walls of the van. The timers were all showing that the start of the next event was fast approaching. With all the techie equipment in full view, Stefan explained that it was the team that made things look good and work well. The heart of SECmedia is not the technical miracles created by the computers but in the willing bodies of enthusiastic volunteers seeking to give glory to God. It also happens to be that they love what they do. All were ready to support the musicians.

EPC18 Choir2[photo credit: Elsie Tjeransen/ADAMS]David Neal, TED Stewardship director, took to the stage as Master of Ceremonies for the music festival. We were early reminded that music is what can draw people together. First on stage were the Joyful Choir, mainly from the south of Serbia. Note the ‘mainly’ and music drawing people closer. Their music was more of the classical choral style, their smart turquoise-accented dresses and white shirts stressed the professional approach these young people bring to their music.

Next on stage were a slightly older group of young people who shared some personnel with the younger choir. A little larger in number, marginally older and with a less classical repertoire, the audience could recognise these young people from appearances with other groups during the week. The suggestion could be that not only is music really important to the Southern European region but also that the South-East European Union (SEEUC) had worked very hard to co-ordinate a programme designed to create a wonderful worshipful atmosphere for the EPC 2018 event.

EPC18 Choir[photo credit: Elsie Tjeransen/ADAMS]The two young choirs were the ‘warm-up’ acts for the Croatian Agape choir, who this year celebrate 35 years of ministry and humanitarian work. Andrija Kovačević, son of choir leader Darko Kovačević, outlined a little of the story of a choir whose ministry has gone beyond the borders of Croatia across most of Europe. In 2020 the choir will be heading out to Australia. It would appear that the only part of Europe they have not visited is the United Kingdom.

The choir members include professional musicians, dental technicians, nurses and students, two sisters as well as a family of four: mother, father and two sons (Jakov and Andrija). The vocalists and band are all Seventh-day Adventists, except for their excellent drummer who is a Baptist Christian.

A written report cannot give a full idea of the concert experience. Marcel Ghioalda, Newbold’s Senior Pastor and a singer himself spoke of, “Amazing quality, good variety of style, very well executed and all uplifting God.” To this author, who does not listen to this style of music, the concert changed his mind. Even the songs in a totally different language proved encouraging and uplifting.

Described as ‘musical ambassadors’ the group have appeared on Croatian national television. They have set out to build bridges within the media and across the general population as well as among leading musicians from Southern Europe. Georgia Nikić, a Serbian attendee at the concert, stated that Agape and their musical influence was important across the Yugoslavian countries. Music, again, described as a method of drawing people together in unity.

That unity and that desire was expressed in the final song of the concert, “Side by side we stand” which was sung by congregation and choir alike each in their own language but all desiring to express their unity in Christ.

So what do Agape sound like? Think of the Carpenters and Heritage Singers, American singing groups of the 1970’s and 80’s: the similarities are strong and you hear some echoes in Agape’s style. Some of their material is shared. Agape’s song ‘Imamo Razlog’, translated as ‘We have a reason’ has distinct tones of the Carpenters.EPC18 AgapeAgape [photo credit: Tor Tjeransen/ADAMS]Agape do have one signature style which they have mastered. Singing in acapella which they have arranged for themselves, they include their bassist who takes the role of a vocal drummer. The ensemble add their pianist for these songs to augment the sound. While not ‘barber-shop’, they include some of the elements of that style.
Any Union of Seventh-day Adventist Churches would be proud to have Agape singing in their midst. They genuinely draw people together. The two other young singing groups who sing with such high quality bode well for the SEEUC in the Trans-European Division.

Darko Kovačević writing on Adventist News Network spoke of the group’s members in this way, “Agape members are thankful to God for the opportunity to reach out to others using their God given musical talents, perseverance and dedication. That gratitude extends to all those who have supported them through prayer and other means, the television and radio audiences, refreshed by the music and messages received, and the countless individuals which have been drawn closer to God as a result of their work.”


tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Sajitha Forde-Ralph, associate editor
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