Our Composer of the Month is Cindy Berry. Cindy is a composer and arranger of numerous sacred choral works, children’s musicals and piano collections. Her goal as a musician is to always present her music as an offering of worship to God.
WHAT WAS THE MUSIC OF YOUR YOUTH?
Hmmm. . . that was a long time ago. But I listened to so many kinds of music! Of course I grew up with Hymns, but some of my favorite singers were The Carpenters, The Lettermen, and Andy Williams. I also remember singing along to the sound track from “The Sound of Music,” pretending I was Julie Andrews! My dad loved classical music and played it on our “record player” all the time, to my delight! I’m thankful for the real diversity in music that I was able to experience in my early years.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND AND HOW THAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE MUSIC AS A CAREER?
I started picking out melodies on the piano at my aunt’s house, so my parents decided that I needed piano lessons. I have always had the gift of playing by ear, but as a child, I thought that everyone else could do that, too. My piano teacher was our church organist, and she had to be a stickler about making me actually learn to read the music. I thought it was much more fun to just sit down and play. Our church pianist would let some of us play offertories occasionally, so it was an easy transition to me to be a church pianist. When I got engaged to Bruce, who was going into church music ministry, that made even more sense! I had no idea that I would end up having a career in composition and arranging. In early marriage days, I arranged my own offertories and wrote a couple of songs for our youth choir, mainly to save on music budget money – but also to have fun! Then God spoke to my heart in the summer of 1983 while we were at Music Week in Glorieta, NM. At that time, I knew that God wanted me to start writing. As I have often put it, He wanted me to “write down my worship.” I went home and wrote an anthem that next week. Still, I would have never had anything to do with the publishing world had my husband not sent that anthem to one publisher after another until it found a publishing home. That song is called “At the Name of Jesus.” What an amazing God we serve!
WHAT MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO NOW?
I still love classical music, both symphonic and operatic. I also like some of the wonderful, sweeping Broadway show tunes. The old hymns of the faith still resonate with me, as well as some of the beautiful newer music.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAITH JOURNEY, AND HOW IT INFLUENCES YOUR MUSICAL CHOICES.
I made the decision to follow Jesus when I was quite young. God has taught me so much, and continues to teach me. Sacred music is my music mainstay. And I hope that the music I write reflects God’s faithfulness and love.
NAME THREE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF THAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE.
- We had three sons under the age of 2 ½ years old. (first an older boy, then twin boys).
- When I was growing up in Houston, our backdoor neighbors were named Swayze – yes, as in Patrick.
- Joseph Martin lined up my first choral reading session for me, and encouraged and mentored me in preparation for that event. I think he was about 16 at the time.
WHAT PROJECTS ARE CURRENTLY ON YOUR HORIZON?
I have some children’s music coming up, as well as a commissioned anthem, and a new piano book. I love the variety!
WHEN ARE YOU MOST CREATIVE?
It’s usually when I least expect it! God keeps reminding me that HE is the creator of music, and I just hold the pencil. Sometimes the ideas flow, and other times, I have to just wait on Him. There have been many times when my thoughts or activities have been interrupted by a lyric, and I have had to stop and make note of that immediately; if not, it is gone!
WHAT’S YOUR SACRED SPACE?
My office is the place where I have my piano, my Bible, my prayer file, and devotional books. It has been holy ground for me on many occasions!
WHICH COMPOSERS/ARRANGERS INSPIRE YOU?
Some of my favorite piano pieces are by Debussy and Mozart. As relating to sacred music, I am inspired by so many wonderful composers, many of whom I am blessed to call friends.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT COMPOSING?
I read, play a little golf, teach a ladies’ Sunday School class, attend Community Bible Study – and bake pies! And of course I love to be with my 6 grandchildren.
WHERE DO YOU SEE CHURCH MUSIC GOING IN THE FUTURE? ARE THERE TRENDS YOU THINK ARE IMPORTANT IN THE CURRENT CULTURE OF SANCTUARY MUSIC?
It is obvious that church music is ever changing, and there is no way that I can predict where it is going. I’m still not brave enough to play from an electronic score, though.
As far as the music itself, my husband and I have found that when we visit other countries, we hear some of the same hymns that we grew up singing. At the seminary in Kiev, Ukraine, a few years ago, music students asked me to play “That American Hymn.” They sang it for me; it was “How Great Thou Art.” I love how music crosses cultural boundaries, and unites hearts together in worship. I want to embrace those songs of my youth, but also welcome the new ones, as long as they are consistent with God’s truths. For example, so much of The Getty/Townend music draws me into the presence of our Father in such a wonderful time of worship.
WHAT IS YOUR #1 TIP FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
Be true to yourself, and don’t try to imitate anyone else. The time you spend in writing your praise to God is never wasted.