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Easter Cantata at Mahanaim School

Performance demonstrates "music can change people's hearts," says founder of theology and music academy.

According to organizers of this weekend’s Easter cantata in the 900-seat auditorium on the campus of the Mahanaim school in Huntington Station, visitors can expect a world class performance of choral and orchestral music.

They can also expect to hear the message that music can change people's hearts.

That’s thanks to the partnership between Mahanaim and the 80-member South Korea-based Gracias Choir, which will be supported by an international array of support musicians -- many of them from the St Petersburg Conservatory in Russia.The three-act cantata, being produced for the second time at Mahanaim, is a musical re-enactment of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and features detailed scenery and backdrops, full costume, staging, and “a message that runs deep into your heart and soul,” according Terry Henderson, a faculty member at the school, based in the former home to Touro Law College.

“We’re excited to present something so extraordinary like Easter Cantata,” said Kristi Castro, school director.

Mahanaim is a specialty Christian institution that offers diverse learning opportunities, including music, theology, and English as a second language. It came to the former Touro school building on Nassau Road in 2007.

The school’s origins are the Good News Mission in Korea, founded by Ock Soo Park, and its theological program is part of the Mahanaim Theology School, which operates in 40 countries worldwide, according to Park’s Orthodox Gospel Evangelist website (ocksoopark.com).

The musical component of the school grew through the inclusion of the Gracias Choir, also founded by Park, according to Rebecca Lee of Mahanaim, and a music faculty that is heavily populated by artists from Russia’s St Petersburg Conservatory.

That partnership, said Castro, “has been extremely helpful” in working to have the school’s music programs licensed and accredited to confer degrees in New York State.

From a community standpoint the school’s weekly concerts, and special seasonal concerts like the upcoming Easter Cantata, are the most public part of the school’s presence in the community. But while music is the medium, it serves Mahanaim’ larger goal, says Henderson -- the belief that music can change people’s hearts.

“Ock Soo Park saw this happen when the Gracias Choir performed in the Cote D’Ivoire in Africa, a nation that had been torn apart by civil war,” he said. “In the midst of all their difficulties, he saw the look of hope on the faces in the audience. It was a foundational experience.”

Not that everyone in the audience has to share the group's religious persuasion to find meaning and enjoyment in the experience.


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“We understand not everyone is Christian, and not everyone believes in God,” said Henderson. “But by presenting a high quality world class musical performance, we hope to provide the universal message of hope, and an understanding of how much joy and love we are actually surrounded by.”

The 2nd annual Easter Cantata at Mahanaim is set for two free performances -- March 30 and March 31, both starting at 7:30 p.m.


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