The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


How sweet the sound

These kids have their sights on Royal Albert Hall

The Lord has promised good to me; His Word my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be As long as life endures."

Amazing Grace has never sounded as festive as it did at St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Brooklyn, on Christ the King Sunday. It might be hard to imagine what the hymn sounds like on steel drums. But when it's played on 31 of them and backed up with a drum set —with a gospel beat, three key changes and a softer verse for a little extra drama —the old classic becomes hard to forget.

Nearly four years ago, 18 teens at the church were assembled to form the Young Acolytes Symphonic Steel Orchestra. They began as kids who liked having a reason to see each other, but they have become virtuosos whose sights are set on playing Royal Albert Hall in London.

Three band members are from the borough of Queens, and the rest live in Brooklyn —many in Flatbush, where St. Stephen is located. The congregation was founded in 1898, when German immigrants worshiped at the Tudor-style church. Now it's as diverse as the surrounding neighborhood, with more than 15 countries represented but drawing heavily from the West Indies.

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