By Ed Staskus
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Rocky River, Ohio, threw open its doors recently to Cherie Brennan, the Florida-based Christian Inspirational songwriter and singer, for a concert previewing her new CD release ‘He Loves You a Lot’.
Seated behind a Yamaha electric keyboard, in front of the church’s Schantz pipe organ, the blonde, soulful singer, with more than a hatful of country-western twang in her voice, wove a tapestry of stories and songs together in a 90-minute show that kept her audience both delighted and enthralled.
“It took me three years to complete this CD (her second) and there were many challenges and seeming obstacles in my path, but God sustained me at every turn,” she said.
“I have been incredibly blessed. I give credit to God, who, as always, has given me the music, lyrics, and the inspiration for singing, playing, and writing.”
Christian Science is known more for hymns than the Billboard Top 10. Some of the church’s music is arrangements of poems by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the new religious movement in the last half of the nineteenth century.
But, Christian Scientists from Doris Day to Lionel Hampton to Bruce Hornsby have put their faith and philosophy into the popular music of their times.
Beginning the night with ‘You Lift Me Up’, a song about waking up to clouds of gray, but then being lifted to the light, Ms. Brennan’s strong emotive voice filled the nave of the high-ceilinged auditorium.
Reprising most of the songs on her just-released CD, Ms. Brennan ended the night, appropriately enough as dusk darkened the church’s wall-to-wall windows, with ‘You Be the Light’. As with all her songs, the words and music were uniquely her own.
“You be the light, be the one, God is calling on today. You be the light, be the one, God is calling out your name,” she sang.
After the concert the line between performer and audience blurred as Ms. Brennan joined most of the crowd in the church’s Sunday school for mingling, refreshments, and autographing CD’s.
“We were very pleased to be able to host a concert by Cherie Brennan, who came all the way from Jacksonville, Florida,” said Richard Warsinskey, a Social Security administrator and President of the Board of Trustees of the church.
“Cherrie’s music is very uplifting and you could definitely feel this during the concert. Her music makes you feel God’s love,” he added.
Before emerging on the Christian Inspirational scene Cherie Brennan sang with pop bands in Boston and New York, living and working in Los Angeles for more than six years.
“I made a living as a singer in a number of bands, all good, never famous,” she said.
“I sang back-up for several famous people, but never found fame myself. I wrote a lot of songs, some of them good, but no hits. I was trying to make it as a singer and songwriter, but it just wasn’t happening.”
By the mid-1990s she was married and soon after became a new mother, while her husband, Jack, acquired a plastics manufacturing company in Cleveland, where they shortly moved.
“When I came to live here,” she said, “I decided I wasn’t going to write or play or sing. I had a young son and I thought that was all I needed to do, which was take care of my little boy.”
She devoted herself to being a wife and mother, establishing her new home in Cleveland, and investing in church-related duties and activities at the First Church, in Rocky River, on Cleveland’s west side.
But, just when she had seemingly walked away from singing and writing, a life challenge brought her back. She turned to her beliefs.
“I turned to God for spiritual healing,“ she explained.
Although Christian Scientists respect the interests and work of medical professionals and don’t oppose them, many Christian Scientists pray first about their challenges, including health issues, and find it effective.
“Sometimes I had to pray for what seemed a really long time for the healing to come. But my efforts to know God better as ever-present love were met with success, and many of the healing solutions came to me in the form of songs.”
She had never considered recording after being away from singing and playing for more than ten years, but felt compelled to start writing music again.
“The music and lyrics just poured out of me,” she said.
“The words came from God, and I just wrote them down, and from that time I have just wanted to write music all the time, just for Him.”
Ms. Brennan’s first CD was ‘You Are Loved’, which became the the rebirth of her singing and songwriting career, and was released in 2007.
“It had become increasingly important to me to share this music with others in the hope that the message of God’s great love for us would bring the same kind of healing to others as it had to me.”
The recording featured a stirring rendition of the Lord’s Prayer, with an integrated spiritual interpretation by Mary Baker Eddy.
Her new CD showcases the veteran gospel and country band pedal steel guitarist John Le Master, and as well as the lead guitarist Daryl Phenneger, who tours with Al Green, the Godfather of Soul.
“The direction of my music has changed a little bit,” Cherie Brennan said, “from inspirational pop to more of a country feel.”
‘You Be the Light’ is being released as a single to more than a thousand inspirational country radio stations. It is being promoted with a full-page ad in Power Source, the influential Nashville magazine started by the founders of Christian Country music.
The following month Cherie Brennan will be appearing in Nashville at the Inspirational Country Music Awards. Past winners include Johnny Cash, Ricky Skaggs, and Carrie Underwood. She will be highlighting two songs from her new CD, as well as participating in seminars and instructional classes.
“I am kind of excited about that,” she said.
“I have many influences on my music,” she added, “but even though I do, I try not to sound or write like anybody else. Up to the point of my first recording, I had only sung on other artists’ CDs. Now when I write I don’t listen to anybody’s music.”
“I am always seeking fresh inspiration for new songs from thinking about God in new and different ways, and having fun doing it. I know in my heart that all my songs come from God.”
With the divine as her muse, Cherie Brennan doesn’t suffer from writer’s block or a lack of inspiration, as her audience was witness to at the end of the concert. They gave her show a big round of applause, for her songs, which were both poignant and intimate, going straight to the heart and soul.
In April 2014 Cherie Brennan performed at the Midwest Church Alive Summit, a yearly conference for member-to-member sharing of Christian Science benefits and experiences. In July she showcased at the BB King Theater in Nashville in support of her new single ‘911’, which quickly climbed up the Inspirational Country Music Chart.
Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.