Education Week: A sing-a-long of new hymns with Janice Kapp Perry, Marvin Goldstein

Maddie Driggs
Marvin Goldstein performs in the de Jong Concert Hall in the Harris Fine Arts Center on Wednesday, August 19, 2015, for a BYU Education Week class. Goldstein also performed in a sing-along of Janice Kapp Perry’s favorite hymns, with Vanessa Joy leading the melody.

Janice Kapp Perry lead a sing-a-long in the de Jong Concert Hall Wednesday with Marvin Goldstein and Vanessa Joy as pianist and song leader, respectively.

Perry and Goldstein addressed the de Jong Concert Hall with respect to Perry’s sizable collection of original and arraignment of hymns. Perry, well-known Mormon songwriter and composer, took the majority of the time in the afternoon class on Wednesday sharing the stories behind some of her favorite hymns. Goldstein, world renowned artist and pianist, took the mic for just a few minutes at the end of the class to say that he was sure that the class was singing music that would someday become common household tunes.

“With Janice Kapp Perry’s testimony, talents and exposure we maybe having a glimpse of what will be everyday music,” Goldstein said. He then joked that last change of the church hymnal in 1985 was due to his baptism that same year.

Perry told the stories behind the hymns “I Will Come unto Christ,” “I Marvel at the Miracle, “Christ Came unto His Other Sheep,” and “What Is This Thing Men Call Death?”

The text for “I Will Come unto Christ” was written by Rodney Turner, her bishop at the time and lecturer for a trip to Israel that Perry and her husband took at the end of the 1980s.

Turner approach Perry about setting a poem that he wrote for his wife to music. Perry was surprised; she didn’t recall Turner as a man who would write a love poem. She soon discovered that it was a hymn, not a love poem.

Later, Perry had the prompting that writing hymns would be a major part of her life in the future while was listening to a lecture by Turner on the Mount of Beatitudes.

“I Marvel at the Miracle” was a poem that was written by John V. Pearson, one of Perry’s contemporaries in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the 90s. They collaborated often and produced 80 new hymns together.

Pearson died in 2010. But before his death, Perry asked Pearson if he would send her hymns from Heaven. He paused a moment to think. Then took Perry by the hand.

“I don’t know if that would be allowed,” Perry recalled Pearson telling her. “But if one night you are working on a hymn text and it is hard or you want to do it better and suddenly you know how to do it, that might be me prompting you.”

Bonnie Hart Murray felt that she had a spiritual prompting to write songs from or about the Book of Mormon, noticing a lack of hymns on the topic. Murray wrote to the church and the church connected Murray with Perry. They have written 28 hymns about people and events from the Book of Mormon.

The words for “Christ Came unto His Other Sheep” are 73 percent direct quotation from the Book of Mormon, according to Perry. She also said that a commemorative edition of these 28 hymns will be published sometime closer to General Conference in October.

The last song of the sing-a-long was titled “What Is This Thing Men Call Death.”

Universe Photography
Janice Kapp Perry speaks during Education Week at the de Jong Concert Hall.

Perry said her niece Kathleen Kapp Blacker was dying of cancer. Blacker had a poem written Gordon B. Hinkley of the same title framed on her wall. Blacker said the poem had given more comforting to her than anything else and wrote then President Hinkley for permission to print it on her funeral programs.

Hinkley responded with a comforting letter to Blacker. This inspired Blacker to ask Perry to write to President Hinkley asking for permission to set it to music; President Hinkley gave permission but wanted a copy of the music.

Perry finished the hymn in December 2007 and Blacker was able to hear it performed before her death in January 2008. It was performed at Blacker’s funeral. Perry had submitted permission to include the hymn in one of her collections of hymnals earlier in Jan. 2008. A family member called her on Jan. 27, 2008 to tell her that President Hinkley had passed away. She was upset that she wasn’t able to get permission to include the hymn in her collections. The next day, the 28th, she received a letter from the First Presidency saying that President Hinkley gave her permission to use the hymn in her collection.

Craig Jessop then contacted Perry to let her know that the Hinkley family would like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to perform the song at President Hinkley’s funeral. Perry said that she felt overwhelming gratitude to be a part of the tribute to President Hinkley.

The class finished with a performance by Vanessa Joy, with Marvin Goldstein accompanying, of “Savior, Like a Shepard Lead Us.” Goldstein then performed a number to close the event.

Janice Kapp Perry is a Mormon songwriter and composer. She has written several albums, cantatas and musical firesides. She wrote one song in the hymnal (As Sisters in Zion) and ten songs in the Children’s Songbook, including “A Child’s Prayer,” “Love is Spoken Here” and “We’ll Bring the World His Truth (Army of Helaman).”

Marvin Goldstein is a pianist that has several albums to his name, including five albums of arrangements of Perry’s songs. He was awarded a scholarship to the Tel Aviv University School of Music in Israel. Then he continued his training at Mozarteum University of Salzburg, Austria. He earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in french horn performance from Florida State University. He is still touring and performing internationally.


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