The songs keep coming for Janice Kapp Perry

Published: Thursday, March 10 2011 6:30 a.m. MST

Now in her early 70s, the woman many consider the "matriarch of Mormon music" sometimes thinks about retiring. But the music won't let her. The songs keep coming. There is still more she finds to say. The passion for it is as strong as ever.

"I guess I'll have to keep writing until I can't," Janice Kapp Perry says. "It's my recreation. What else would I do?"

She comes across something of interest, and words and music seem to come. "I've been writing songs that mean a lot to me. And before I know it, I have enough for a new album." That's how her newest CD, "He Brought Me Light," came about.

It's been a while since she's recorded anything. "The music market has certainly changed. Now it's all downloads; fewer CDs are being released," she says. But while this music is downloadable on most Mormon music sites as well as iTunes and the rest, "we wanted to do a CD. And we have such wonderful singers, such beautiful voices." Vocalists include Daniel Beck, Jenny Frogley, Tammy Simister Robinson, Tanya Barkdull, LaRene Tiney, Johanne Frechette Perry and others. The album was produced by Greg Hansen, "who always works such magic."

It is always exciting, Perry says, to be in the recording studio, to hear something she's written being worked on by other people. "They always bring it to life. It makes you feel your part is minimal."

It's not, of course. But it is something she's been doing for more than 30 years — ever since the sports career she was enjoying got derailed by a broken ankle, and her bishop asked her to write a ward roadshow while she was recovering.

Musical things took off from there. By now, she's written more than a thousand songs, has a hymn in the current LDS hymnbook and 10 songs in the Primary songbook. She's sung with, and written for, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. She's written her own words, but she's also collaborated with a large number of lyricists, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, her cousin Joy Lundberg, musical producer Doug Stewart, hymn writer John Victor Pearson and countless others.

"He Gave Me Light" is the 83rd CD produced by Perry and her musical family, including son Steven Kapp Perry and daughter Lynne Perry Christofferson, who are musicians in their own right; and son John, who works with the production and technical side; as well as collaborations with other artists and musicians.

That total also includes five albums recorded in Spanish, five in Portuguese and five in Japanese.

"No one is more surprised than me that music has taken up so much of my life," she said in 2001 when she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Faith-Centered Music Association. "But I've just loved being involved with it."

That love is evident throughout "He Gave Me Light," which is filled with songs that lift and inspire. The title song is one she wrote for the unveiling of a Liz Lemon Swindle painting, "Jesus Healing Man Blind Since Birth," during a BYU Education Week. "I put myself in the place of a man who has never seen and imagined what it would be like when the first thing he saw was the face of Jesus. I had my heart in the writing of that song more than any in a long time."

But other songs in the collection are equally powerful. "I Will Shine" was inspired by a talk by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on nourishing women's creative impulses. "Tender Mercies of the Lord" was drawn from Elder David A. Bednar's "moving talk on this subject." "My Father's Faith" was commissioned by Mack Wilberg as a Father's Day song for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and was debuted by the choir in 2010.

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