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Musical friends team up to share testimony

Published: Friday, March 19, 2010

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Well-known LDS songwriter Janice Kapp Perry teamed up with her friend and popular Japanese LDS singer, Nobuaki Irie, to share music and testimony in a whirlwind 10-day, eight-city tour of concerts and firesides from Japan's northern island of Hokkaido to Okinawa in the south. The tour ended March 14 in Tokyo.

In snowy Hokkaido, they performed in the Sapporo Japan Stake Center. Sister Perry, who was joined on the tour by her husband, Doug, shared some of her background in music and sports and how a basketball accident in which she broke her ankle when she was nearly 40, permanently changed her focus from sports to writing music. Her husband suggested she find "a safer hobby." What started as a hobby became much more. Once she began, she related, "I knew I wanted to start writing gospel music."

Japan Sapporo Mission President Lee Daniels said, "It was entertaining and uplifting as Brother and Sister Perry and Brother Irie shared not only their musical talents, but also their testimonies and gospel insights."

Photo by Elder David Robertson
Popular Japanese LDS singer Nobuaki Irie, left, joins with the LDS singing group "Bless Four" during rehearsal for a concert in Osaka, Japan. Janice Kapp Perry, joined by Nobuaki Irie, did concerts and firesides in eight cities over 10 days in Japan.

More than 700 attended a concert in an Osaka public hall. The Perrys and Brother Irie were joined by Bless Four, a Japanese LDS singing group popular among youth and young adult audiences. The four siblings; Akashi, Kanasa, Akino and Aiki Kawamitsu from Kawasaki, Japan; have been performing professionally for eight years, since they were in their early teens.

They said it was exciting to perform with the composer of many of the Primary songs they have known and loved since they were very young.

Photo by Elder David Robertson
Janice Kapp Perry, joined by her husband, Doug, leads the audience in singing the medley "As Sisters in Zion" and "We'll Bring the World His Truth" during a fireside.

With her husband, Bless Four, and Brother Irie as backup, Sister Perry delighted audiences by singing nine of her own songs in Japanese. With the help of Brother Irie and others, she had made a special effort to learn the Japanese words that have touched the hearts of so many Church members in Japan. The audience joined in many of the songs, prompting Sister Perry to declare, "Thank you! You sound like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir."

Photo by Elder David Robertson
Janice Kapp Perry accepts a thank you note from young Karen Akemi in Tokyo as Elder Samuel Lloyd looks on.

Sister Ryoko Higa of the Ginowan stake in Okinawa said of Sister Perry, "She gave her talk with humor and also shared the experiences of challenges she had overcome. We all felt the Spirit."

One such personal experience, involving one of her own compositions, occurred following a serious automobile accident, she said. Sister Perry was required to undergo an extremely painful procedure to determine the extent of damage to her neck. She said, "Four short lines from one of my own Primary songs came to my mind, and I closed my eyes and repeated them over and over for 30 minutes during the test.

"Pray, He is there.

"Speak, He is listening.

"You are His child,

"His love now surrounds you."

She testified of the power of music to sustain her in a very difficult moment and added, "That is why we want our families to sing the hymns and children's songs often."

She encouraged those in attendance to develop their natural talents by telling her story of joining the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at age 55. For Sister Perry, with the training and experience she had by this time, the written music-skills test and taped home audition were not particularly difficult. But she had great fear of the in-person audition. Despite those fears, she went and, to her surprise, was accepted into the choir, she said.

She noted, "My fears almost caused me to miss five years of the most glorious musical experience you could have on this earth." She added, "It is through our talents that we find happiness and focus in our lives, and give service to others."

Brother Irie has been a family friend of the Perrys for almost 20 years. A gifted musician, he visited the Perrys while he was a student at BYU and inquired about the possibility of making an album of her songs in Japanese. That was not something she had ever considered but, discussing it with him, she felt impressed to move forward.

Brother Irie concluded by saying, "I will be forever grateful to her for changing my life."

Brother and Sister Perry were called in 2002 to serve as missionaries in the Chile Santiago West Mission. Sister Perry told of how difficult it was for her to learn Spanish and her initial concerns about contributing in the mission. She went on, "Still, I could assist [my husband] by doing all the things I had learned in the MTC: singing hymns, praying, reading scriptures and bearing my testimony in the homes where we taught."

Ultimately, their mission consisted of "leadership, visiting inactive families, developing choirs, and teaching conducting and keyboard lessons."

As they were preparing to return home, they realized how the little things they had done for people had made such a difference in their lives; "a hug, a smile, a song, a shared testimony, a kind word." After their return, she captured these thoughts in a song, entitled "By Small and Simple Means." The song was particularly enjoyed by audiences on the concert tour.

Many commented that the Spirit was especially strong during two final numbers in which the audience and full-time missionaries joined in. The first was a medley consisting of "As Sisters in Zion" and "We'll Bring the World His Truth," with Sister Perry leading all of the women and girls and Brother Perry leading all of the men and boys.

The second was a song, originally written for the Japan Kobe Mission, titled "No Greater Joy." It tells of the fears experienced by members in attempting to share the gospel with loved ones and friends, but testifies of the joy that comes to those who overcome those fears. It has become a well-known song in many of the Japanese missions, so full-time missionaries or others familiar with the song were invited to join the performers in presenting this testimony to the audience.