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Gospel peace brings strength to opera singer

To feel the calmness and peacefulness of the gospel is very important for an artist, said Hans Choi, a baritone soloist who recently performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

And it is that peacefulness that has often given Brother Choi, a member of the Korean Branch, New York New York Stake, the strength to perform in competitions and before audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy, or at Carnegie Hall in New York City.Brother Choi, 33, a native of Seoul, Korea, and a convert to the Church, performed with the Tabernacle Choir July 12 and as a featured guest of the Temple Square Concert Series July 11 in the Assembly Hall.

"It has been my honor to be here in this holy place," Brother Choi remarked in a Church News interview. "Everyone is so gentle and kind."

"I feel the same wherever I go and meet members of the Church. There is always kindness and peace in our Church."

Since 1986, Brother Choi's career as a singer has made significant strides as he won top awards in several major international competitions, including the Tchaikovsky Competition; the Voci-Verdiane Competition of Busseto, Italy; the Rosa Ponselle International Vocal Competition; and the Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition among others.

Brother Choi was named the first prize winner in the male vocal section of the Ninth International Tschaikovsky Competition in Moscow. He was judged the superior male vocalist after competing for three weeks against more than 70 other singers from 20 different countries.

He was the first singer from Asia and the first non-Russian and first Latter-day Saint to win first place in the vocal competition. Brother Choi also received the special award for superior interpretation of the music of Tschaikovsky. (See Church News, Oct. 6, 1990.)

Music became a part of Brother Choi's life at an early age as his mother taught him to sing and enjoy classical music, he said. At age 7, he sang at school and his teacher told him he had a great talent and must be a great singer some day.

But because he was shy, he became embarrassed and stopped singing in public until he was 12 - when he sang in his church as a soloist.

He went on to receive his early music training at the Yon Sei University in Seoul. It was there where he became acquainted with another musician Kyung-Shin, a member of the Church studying composition.

She was conducting the Korea Mormon Choir at the time and invited her future husband to be the new conductor. He conducted the choir for 2 1/2 years and was baptized in 1982 after conducting the group for seven months.

"I accepted [the job] because I wanted to help the chorus," he explained. "I didn't know about the Church, but the chorus members looked so pure and very nice. I wanted to help the chorus because music exists for this kind of people, not for bad people."

Now as a member of the Church, he hopes that doing well in his profession will allow him to share his beliefs and permit him to be a good missionary. "I want to share with everybody."

After joining the Church, marrying Kyung-Shin, and graduating from the university, Brother Choi was awarded scholarships by the Korean and Italian governments and studied at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Osimo Academy, the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory and the Carlo Bergonzi Academy.

It was in Italy where Brother Choi's professional career developed as he performed in more than 70 concerts and operas. He can sing in nearly 10 languages.

From Italy, he moved his family - his wife and son Ji-Ho (now 9 years old) - to the United States in 1988. They live in Tenafly, N.J.

With his talent, Brother Choi hopes to teach and help others learn to sing, particularly younger singers for the future, he remarked.

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