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Musical family bridges distance by singing alone, together

The Berry family never goes too long without music.

MINNEAPOLIS — "Best Buy Security Manager of Compliance" may be Robert Berry's official title, but there's another role he fulfills, one without a break.

"We don't sing for money, we don't sing for whatever," Berry said. "We just love to sing. It's a difference. We really do. It's a family trait that was passed down to us from both our mother and father."

Berry, who lives with his wife Yvonne in Inver Grove Heights, has a buttery-rich voice. No surprise, because he's a singer. Music is something he can never quit.

"Even the most crucial times that I've ever been through in my life, literally it was music that I would say would save me," Berry said.

So in this crucial time, one of trying times, filled with stay-at-home orders and moderate levels of anxiety due to the coronavirus, Berry and his family decided to turn to music, once more. To be clear-- that's Berry, and nine other Berry's and a few extended family members.

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Berry said family group chats and texts weren't cutting it anymore, so he said his brother Timothy suggested that they all sing together. At first, Berry said everyone said no. However, Timothy, being the Dean of Urban Education at Metro State, someone who is a choral director and a composer, had plans in motion already.

Berry said Timothy assigned each Berry a part to sing for an arrangement of Mavis Staples' "I'll Take You There." This meant that every Berry, and a few nieces and nephews was assigned a voice part for the song. Timothy then asked each Berry to record themselves singing, by themselves and send it over. Then his nephew Josiah, would patch it all together into a video.

The result was this video. From Robert himself near Minneapolis, Douglas in Texas, Karen in Florida and others spread around the Twin Cities metro area, the video looped the family together from 10 different cities and five different states.

"We haven't sung together since my father's funeral in 2008," Berry said. "So it was interesting. This time when we were singing together, my brother John-- he's the one in Maryland-- he was almost in tears, he said this was so much fun, I've missed this."

Musical apples don't fall far from the musical tree. Berry said his father and mother was always surrounding the house in music. However, it's not just music that's carrying them through, it's a certain type of philosophy, according to Berry. It's something we can definitely apply to our every day lives, especially right now.

"I didn't know we were poor until maybe I was a senior in high school," Berry said. "I didn't understand it. We had everything we needed. It's almost our family philosophy that everything we need is in the house. It just is. If you have this connection with the people you really love and those people live with you, all the rest of the things just kind of come and go in life."

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Leaving us, with now the time and mental space to appreciate the ones we love a little more, even if we can't squeeze them tight, for now.

"Family is the most important thing and people that you love," Berry said. "So establishing those relationships is just so much more than stuff."