Bristol Herald Courier w/ John Berry

Posted by Jeffrey Cowart

From the Bristol Herald Courier:

 

EMORY, Va. — A Grammy-winning singer and songwriter who has released some of country music’s most soulful performances will take the stage at Emory & Henry College on Dec. 5 during his annual Christmas tour.

John Berry’s legendary show “Christmas Songs & Stories with John Berry” — a quick sellout throughout the country — is filled with traditional Christmas songs, including his a cappella version of “O Holy Night,” and a few of his childhood stories.

The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. at the McGlothlin Center for the Arts on campus.

The country music artist will perform some of his big hits, including his 2018 single “Beautifully Broken,” which put Berry back on the music charts for the first time in 22 years.

“It’s an amazing song,” said Berry in a recent phone interview.

“Everybody’s been broken in some way — your dreams, your family or whatever it may be.”

Only months after losing his mother when he was 20, Berry suffered two broken legs and a broken hip after being hit by a car while riding a motorcycle.

“God is always there,” said Berry. “He has a plan, but we don’t always see it.”

Berry had no idea a small church musical in his hometown would eventually evolve into his Christmas Songs & Stories tour, which celebrates its 22nd anniversary this year.

“My pastor had asked my wife Robin and me to do a Christmas program in our church. It went over so well that they asked us to do it again the next year,” recounted Berry. “The following year, we brought in our band and the string section from a university symphony.

“It’s kept growing each year, and it has turned into a beautiful thing.”

Actively recording since 1979, Berry has one platinum album and two gold albums. He’s also landed 19 songs on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, including the No. 1 single “Your Love Amazes Me” from 1994 and six more hits making the top five.

Berry said he’s living the dream despite setbacks along the way.

On June 10, 1994, Berry recorded “O Holy Night” only 30 days after undergoing brain surgery.

“There’s always been something special about the recording,” Berry said. “It was an emotional day. The realization of how fragile we really are is an emotional thing.”

The singer’s ability to convey emotion through songs is a talent he learned at an early age.

When Berry was 10, his fifth-grade teacher asked him to learn a song for the Christmas PTA meeting. “It was a difficult song for me, but I practiced. When I walked on stage and saw all of my family and classmates, I got pretty nervous, but as I started singing, the nerves all melted away,” said Berry.

“‘The Little Drummer Boy’ was a favorite for me for a long time.”

Berry was born in Aiken, South Carolina, near Atlanta. “My oldest brother and sister played the guitar. I’ve always been intrigued by music.”

The family moved to Decatur, Georgia, when Berry was 8. “I have a song named after Thomas Road where we lived. That’s when my music really began to take off.”

The singer said music was a big confidence booster when he had to leave his friends to attend a new school across town. “All of the sudden, you’re not just the new kid walking down the hallway, you’re the new kid walking down the hallway who plays the guitar.”

Exposed to a variety of music when he was a child, Berry fondly remembers listening to the radio when he hung out with his father in his shop.

“One of the coolest things Dad had was a little white AM radio that sat on the shop table —it was just about the size of a bread box. We used to listen to WQXI-AM out of Atlanta. The DJ played a great selection of music.”

Berry sang onstage at the 1995 Country Music Awards, but performing for former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush ranks as one of the highlights of his career.

“That was a hoot,” told Berry, who was asked to sing at Mr. Bush’s birthday and anniversary party held in a conference facility at the Astrodome.

“There were lots of important people there when Larry Gatlin, Michael W. Smith and I each did a medley with the house band. Near the end of the program, a video of three Italian tenor opera singers wished the couple a happy anniversary and birthday.

“Not to be outdone by the three tenors, we thought we’d sing ‘O Sole Mio’ in Italian,” Berry said.

“We learned and sang the song in our biggest opera voices. We just meant for it to be humorous, but I don’t think the audience actually got that. They thought we did such a wonderful job,” Berry said with a laugh.

Tickets to Christmas Songs & Stories cost $30 to $35, depending on seating, and can be purchased at the McGlothlin Center for the Arts at Emory & Henry College, or by calling the box office at 276-944-6333.

For an additional $20, the VIP Experience Package offers ticket holders access to the theater starting at 5:30 p.m. for a casual meet and greet, question and answer session, two to three acoustic songs, collectible souvenir laminate and an autograph and photo opportunity with Berry.

 

By Carolyn R. Wilson

It’s kept growing each year, and it has turned into a beautiful thing.
-John Berry

Save & Share:

More News

  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/64-emory-henry-college-partners-with-symphony-of" title="Emory & Henry College Partners with Symphony of the Mountains" aria-label="Emory & Henry College Partners with Symphony of the Mountains"><img src="/live/image/gid/83/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/184,0,732,548/618_a0178f5e17f45630b97904ab73bb4779_f8217.rev.1505918196.jpg" alt="President Jake Shrum shakes hand with Music Director Cornelia Laemmli Orth" class="lw_image" width="345" height="225" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/83/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/184,0,732,548/618_a0178f5e17f45630b97904ab73bb4779_f8217.rev.1505918196.jpg 2x" data-max-w="1000" data-max-h="666"/></a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/64-emory-henry-college-partners-with-symphony-of" title="Emory & Henry College Partners with Symphony of the Mountains" aria-label="Emory & Henry College Partners with Symphony of the Mountains">Emory & Henry College Partners with Symphony of the Mountains</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary">Emory & Henry College and Symphony of the Mountains have entered into a partnership to promote musical entertainment and education by offering rich cultural experiences. <a href="/live/news/64-emory-henry-college-partners-with-symphony-of" class="link-with-arrow gold" title="Emory & Henry College Partners with Symphony of the Mountains" aria-label="Emory & Henry College Partners with Symphony of the Mountains">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/372-bremner-honored-with-arts-alliance-achievement" title="Bremner Honored with Arts Alliance Achievement Award" aria-label="Bremner Honored with Arts Alliance Achievement Award"><img src="/live/image/gid/83/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,400,599/3486_Kelly_Bremner_2.rev.1520627493.jpg" alt="Kelly Bremner" class="lw_image" width="345" height="225" data-max-w="400" data-max-h="599"/></a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/372-bremner-honored-with-arts-alliance-achievement" title="Bremner Honored with Arts Alliance Achievement Award" aria-label="Bremner Honored with Arts Alliance Achievement Award">Bremner Honored with Arts Alliance Achievement Award</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"><p> The Arts Alliance Mountain Empire is honoring Emory & Henry College theatre professor Dr. Kelly Bremner as an arts educator.</p><a href="/live/news/372-bremner-honored-with-arts-alliance-achievement" class="link-with-arrow gold" title="Bremner Honored with Arts Alliance Achievement Award" aria-label="Bremner Honored with Arts Alliance Achievement Award">Keep reading</a></div></div>