Byrd, 38, of Westminster, Md., is a jazz pianist by trade, touring and recording with The Eric Byrd Trio. But gospel music holds a special place in his heart, and it's a passion he wants to share with others.
Byrd said gospel music presents a universal message of defeating adversity.
"The idea that someone can't relate to a spiritual or a gospel song because they've never had to overcome an obstacle means that they're not human," Byrd said.
Q&A with Eric Byrd
Is there a particular gospel song that you really like to hear, play or sing? One that has a special personal meaning for you?
No. I find meaning in them all, I'm fond of all of them. Different songs and different styles of gospel music fit your different moods.
How do you handle situations like this weekend, where you have no idea what type of singers you'll be getting?
I think a good football or a good baseball coach, they implement a game plan that fits their team. So, if you want to run a particular play, and that's not your team's particular strong point, then you're not going to be successful. So my job is to know the music as intimately as I can, come prepared with as many different options of music that I can, and then get the general tenor of the choir.
What do you want audiences to get from watching Sunday's concert?
Just the joy of the music and the love of God. The music speaks for itself, and the music speaks to us all, whether we're old, black or white, in or out of the culture -- it's universal. That's what God is.
Growing up in New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia, had you always been involved in church or is your faith something that developed later in your life?
I've been going to church my whole life. My family is a religious family and not going to church was not an option, just like not going to church is not an option for my kids. But at some point, there has to be something that makes God real to you. ...
Every time I sit down at a piano or something, I'm aware God is real because it's not about my own talent, there's things I can do musically that I, today, account to God. It only makes sense. It's not stuff that I'm even aware of playing. I'm kind of just an open channel.
If you go ...
Gospel choir performance featuring Eric Byrd and members of the McDaniel College Gospel Choir
3 p.m. Sunday, April 26
Berkeley Springs High School auditorium, 149 Concord Ave., Berkeley Springs, W.Va.
Eric Byrd will lead a daylong gospel workshop Saturday, April 25, at the Ice House. Participants from the workshop can sing in Sunday's performance. For more information, call 304-258-2300.