Nanga Lin, a freshman at Millersville University, recently helped the choir at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster learn a new hymn in Chinese, which the choir will sing during a 10 a.m. worship service on the 6 March.
Lin, who was born and raised in China, first came to Lancaster with her mother when she was 12 to attend the 2015 Lancaster International Piano Festival. Two years later she returned to study in Lancaster Mennonite High School International Program.
“It felt very natural to me,” Lin said. “It helped me understand the religion and culture of the community. I love it here.
Now Lin, 18, is a freshman at Millersville University majoring in music, with an emphasis on piano. She studies with Xun Pan, Assistant Professor of Keyboard Studies and Artistic Director of the Lancaster International Piano Festival.
Lin was also a student of Robert Horton, organist and choirmaster at Holy Trinity, 31 S. Duke St., who taught him to play the harpsichord. He asked her to teach the choir to sing the Chinese anthem.
Lin was impressed with how quickly the choir – with just eight members due to the pandemic – learned the anthem.
“It was just once, just 20 or 30 minutes,” Lin said. “They learned incredibly quickly. I taught them how to pronounce the words and – bang – it went well. … I was fascinated by how they sang so naturally because they knew the melody. It sounded right. I enjoyed the teaching time. … When they sing it, I wish I was there.
Lin also made an audio recording of her reading the lyrics for the choir to use in practice.
Horton said the Chinese anthem translates to “Golden Breaks the Dawn”, with lyrics by Tzu-Chen Chao, written in 1936.
“It’s common for hymns published in the last generation with 700 to 800 hymns to include around 30 in other languages,” Horton said.
As an example, he said there is a Presbyterian hymn with “Amazing Grace” in the Navajo language.
Holy Trinity, with the motto “Breaking Barriers/Building Community”, also has several Spanish hymns in its repertoire. The congregation has the option of singing in either language, an idea Horton picked up at a Polish Catholic church near Chicago.
“It looks chaotic, but they’re having a great time doing it,” he said. “There is a Puerto Rican member of our congregation – Margarita Shultz – who always has a big smile on her face when we sing in Spanish.”
Raised in Spanish churches, Shultz has lived in Lancaster for more than 40 years. She said she likes to sing Spanish hymns in church because it brings her back to Puerto Rico.
“Holy Trinity has always been interested in building community,” Shultz said. “They have a wonderful Sunday morning breakfast program that has been going on forever. It’s a very big building, but people are so open. … I feel very loved in the church. I am very comfortable here.