John Berry Christmas Show
What: Benefit for Challenged Child and Friends
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 18
Where: Carlos and Sandra Cervantes Theater, Riverside Military Academy, 2001 Riverside Drive, Gainesville
Tickets: $30 to $35
More info: 770-535-8372 or www.challengedchild.org
As the Christmas spirit is about giving, country artist John Berry is primed to do just that in his upcoming annual Christmas show. But his giving will be two-fold.
The 55-year-old entertainer will give listeners a concert to put them in the holiday spirit as well as give a local nonprofit funds raised from the Dec. 18 concert.
Sponsored by Milton Martin Honda, the show is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18 in Carlos and Sandra Cervantes Theater on the Riverside Military Academy campus in Gainesville. Tickets are $30-$35, which will benefit the charity Challenged Child and Friends.
Challenged Child helps children with disabilities grow in an environment with typical developing kids. The program serves families in 14 counties across Northeast Georgia. The organization grew from a small church facility into its own location in 2000, which expanded again in 2003.
The Times asked Berry about his annual Christmas concert and his willingness to continue the show yearly.
Question: Why do you do this annual Christmas concert every year and what makes it different from your other concerts?
Answer: The reason why I do it is because I truly, absolutely love getting to sing Christmas music and to share the message of Christmas, especially at a time when it seems to be getting completely distorted. This is our 18th year doing this and it’s pretty remarkable that I get to do it year after year. I’m not sure how many years we have been in Gainesville doing this show, but it has been a number of years.
Q: How did you get involved?
A: Well, the first time we did the show, we did it before we ever had a record deal. My wife and I did a Christmas show for our church in Athens. (Then) we got a record deal and continued to do the show (in Athens). We recorded “O’ Holy Night” and “O’ Come Emmanuel” in 1994, and we sent it out that year as a Christmas card, a CD Christmas card, to radio stations just thanking them for their support that they had given me that year. I had brain surgery that year and when the card went out, we didn’t think about air play; we sent it out to just say thanks, and the air play went crazy. The following Christmas, in 1995, we went into the studio and recorded the rest of the album. We recorded eight more songs. We did a short tour in 1995, maybe 10 settings, and it just went over so well.
Q: What do you do to prepare for the Christmas concert?
A: There is a lot that goes into it. This is so different than what we do on a regular tour and its just a whole different style and different approach of doing the show. As far as music is concerned, which is the most important part, is in August we are finalizing what music we are going to do and getting it to the band and everyone that is going to be performing in it.
Q: How do you pick the songs for the concert? Which is your favorite and why?
A: We pick the songs and there are just some we have to do. There are some songs we have every year and that’s just the way it is. If we didn’t do “Little Drummer Boy,” we’d have people upset because they come to hear some of these songs, like “‘O’ Holy Night” and “The Lord’s Prayer.” But we cycle through some different ones like the “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “The Christmas Song.” Just different ones so we don’t have the exact same show every year. “‘O’ Holy Night” is a huge favorite of mine. I just love singing the song. It’s just a beautiful piece of music and it’s a gorgeous melody. It’s a pretty remarkable piece of music.
Q: What does Christmas mean to you?
A: Christmas to me is all about the birth of Christ. I certainly love celebrating family and all of that, that goes along with it, but the whole purpose, the whole meaning is to celebrate the birth of Christ.