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Songwriter puts lives of LDS prophets to music

Published: Thursday, Jan. 17 2008 12:47 p.m. MST

Janice Kapp Perry, left, with her kids Steven Kapp Perry and Lynne Perry Christofferson in 2005.

Ask Janice Kapp Perry who her favorite LDS Church president is, and she might say David O. McKay. "He was the one I grew up with. He presided with such dignity. He was just what I thought a prophet should be."

Or, maybe she will say Gordon B. Hinckley. "He has so many qualities that I admire so much."

Or, maybe it would be George Albert Smith. "He was such a peacemaker and friend to all."

More likely, however, Perry will say it is impossible to choose a favorite because each one has so many things to love. She has recently been involved in a song-writing project that includes a Primary song for each of the presidents.

In researching the lives of the prophets, "it was amazing for me to realize anew how each prophet seemed to be just the right man for the challenges of his day," she says. "I got caught up in the project and just loved the time I spent writing on it. I couldn't wait to finish one and move on to the next."

Those songs, plus one that names each of the men all in one, have been compiled into a CD and piano/vocal songbook called "Let's Sing About Latter-Day Prophets."

The impetus for the project actually came from a friend who lives in North Carolina, says Perry. "She wanted their Primary children to be able to sing about all the modern-day prophets once a month in sacrament meeting. She asked if I would consider writing a children's song about each of the 15 prophets."

That call came at a time Perry had not been writing much music due to health concerns — she had a stroke in July 2006.

"This really interested me and was a way for me to maybe get back into the writing mode," she says.

The singing project in North Carolina eventually fell through, "but by then I was hooked," Perry says. "I thought, 'I'm not quitting, this is too much fun.' I took them all one by one, and it was a wonderful experience."

It also became a true family project. Perry's son Steve and daughter, Lynne Christofferson, arranged and recorded the songs in Steve's home studio.

As Perry wrote the songs, she knew she needed to aim for variety, so they would not all sound alike. David O. McKay's song, for example, has a Scottish flavor because of his Scottish roots. Brigham Young's song is more western.

"Their arrangements are enchanting," says Perry with a mother's pride and a musician's ear. "The songs have all been produced in a unique way that seems to capture the interest of the children who have heard it so far."

And that is what she hopes for. So many of today's children have grown up just knowing Gordon B. Hinckley, she notes.

"They don't know as much about the earlier prophets because they've only lived with this one," she says. "I tried to include some of the main accomplishments and things they were all known for in each song."

Although it comes first in line, the Joseph Smith song was actually the last one she did. "I thought, 'how can I do justice to him?' His song talks about the restoration and is one of the more serious songs."

On the other hand, Brigham Young's song "was a lot of fun," Perry says.

Each of the men had amazing lives and offered a lot to write about. John Taylor was such a man of faith and service, Perry says. Wilford Woodruff kept copious journals that helped preserve the history of the early church.

Some of the songs include quirky little things. "Did you know that Lorenzo Snow was the shortest of all the prophets?" Perry says. "But he always seemed so tall. He was called 'a mighty man on earth."'

Perry says she didn't know much about Joseph F. Smith before starting the project.

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