By Joan Smith
Photos by Melanie Hansen
Saturday, April 28, 2012, the Idaho Falls Stake hosted a special event, “Morningside with Janice Kapp Perry and Bonnie Hart Murray,” co-creators of the inspiring new musical fireside, The Book of Mormon Has Come Forth. Sister Valerie Harten Briggs organized the 80-voice choir and 31-piece orchestra and coordinated production events.
“Preparations were made with prayerful consideration and outstanding support from priesthood leaders, and the talents and dedication of members of the Idaho Falls Stake and surrounding area, plus some non-members,” said Sister Briggs. “It was marvelous to see how our orchestra and choir, comprised of four generations, enjoyed preparing the spiritually moving music of this musical fireside. We are fortunate to have many skilled musicians in our stake and area. Their musicality all came together under the expert direction of our conductor, Marti Castle Warr. Eight new hymns are in the fireside’s songbook, along with scriptural narratives, and true stories for easy presentation by families, church groups, seminaries, etc. The double CD provides beautiful audio music of the songs to sing with or enjoy listening to, with full orchestrations arranged by Merrill Jenson. We anticipate subsequent presentations will be given in wards, stakes and other groups throughout the world, impacting the lives of everyone who sees and hears this special musical fireside.”
The morningside was sponsored by the Idaho Falls Stake Relief Society under the able leadership of President Debra Burton. It was the first of its kind to be held by the stake attended by enthusiastic adult, youth, children, both male and female devotees of the many songs and music written by Sister Perry. They came to hear the story of how this musical production with its scripturally inspired words and narratives had come about, and to meet in person the two extraordinary women responsible for this work.
Stake President John Murdoch presided over the meeting and introduced the program. He quoted the words of President Boyd K. Packer when he spoke of Arts and Music in 1976 and lauded these sisters for their inspirational work representative of Elder Packer’s thoughts.
Sister Murray was cited for providing 17 narratives to spiritual hymns...a “piece of heaven set to music,” and Sister Perry was lauded for the more than 35 years she has devoted to composing hymns and songs, having written 168 hymns and more than 1,300 songs. Sister Perry and her husband have raised five children of their own as well as many foster children. BYU-TV recently released a 60-minute video, Janice Kapp Perry: A Life of Service and Song as a tribute to Sister Perry’s dedication to providing inspiring church music for all ages.
A Royal “Roasting”
In an expression of esteem for her great friend, Janice Kapp Perry, Sister Murray provided an entertaining and amusing account of their email correspondence before and after they finally met in person. The fond nicknames they finally accepted during the years of their almost daily writings were “Bonzi” and “Jancie.” Their emails were full of puns and innuendos of two chocolate lovers, even including “Ode to a Utah Truffle.” One year Bonnie received twelve packages from Janice, each package to commemorate one of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” There was always much banter about “Bonzi, the perfect lady with makeup and hairdos,” and “Jancie, the tomboy who let her hair go grey, didn’t like to dress up, and loved all kinds of sports.” Sister Murray interspersed her presentation with a number of clever ditties written to familiar tunes and sung by her sister, Shelley Hart Beal, while she accompanied her on the piano–all of them geared toward the special Perry-Murray relationship.
Sister Murray had written maybe a half dozen simple poems before the thought came into her mind, seemingly out of nowhere, that there was not a hymn written directly about the Book of Mormon, the keystone of our religion, even though the Church had been organized for 175 years at the time, so she began to write such a text. She was referred to Sister Perry as someone who could help her with this project. Though her life was more than full to capacity, Sister Perry recognized the talented writings of this unknown person in a far away state, and thus began their email relationship which eventually blossomed into a precious friendship, binding sisters of joint spiritual acuity.
Bonnie later emailed copies of their first collaborative song, “The Book of Mormon Has Come Forth,” to family and friends which started a network that quickly went throughout the world and carried a wonderful gospel message. Another of their beautiful hymns reiterates the powerful teachings of the Savior as recorded in 3 Nephi 17, where Christ healed the sick and afflicted. Years ago Bonnie’s seven-year-old daughter developed a very serious form of leukemia. This scripture had brought her courage and hope to go forward with her life. Her daughter eventually overcame this dreadful disease and is now happily married.
Bonnie and Janice began their joint effort in putting together The Book of Mormon Has Come Forth several years ago, a challenge that was nurtured and guided as they individually spent many hours in the temple in fasting and prayer to gain the spiritual guidance they knew was required to complete the work. This wonderful fireside production with its beautiful hymns is the fruit of their collaboration, and will spread the powerful message of the Book of Mormon.
Sister Murray expressed her joy at being in Idaho Falls for this special performance. An added plus came when she found that she and Sister Valerie Briggs are second cousins. Bonnie stands in awe of her choice associate, Sister Perry. Their joy has been indescribable as they saw this production come to fruition. She referred to Janice as “a musical genius, an instrument in God’s hands. Thousands have had their testimonies strengthened because of her music.”
An Exciting Challenge!
Sister Janice Kapp Perry expressed her appreciation for the words of Elder Boyd K. Packer as he expounded on the need for non-professionals to develop their talents in the Arts and in Music. She quoted his words, “The greatest hymns and anthems have not been composed, nor have the greatest illustrations been set down, nor the poems written, nor the paintings finished. When they are produced, who will produce them? Will it be the most talented and the most highly trained among us? I rather think it will not. They will be produced by those who are the most inspired among us. Inspiration can come to those whose talents are barely adequate, and their contributions will be felt for generations; and the Church and kingdom of God will move forward just a little more easily because they have been there.