The prolific singer/songwriter Christopher Cross returns to the Barns at Wolf Trap with a program of songs that range from his blockbuster Grammy winner "Sailing," the hit of his debut and self-titled album, to his latest album, "Doctor Faith."

His songs salute the wedding of memorable melodies and meaningful lyrics, so his surprising confession that he dropped out of high school belies his craft as a meticulous wordsmith.

"I grew up at a time when composers like Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen all had something to say," he said. "My father was a doctor who kept a bass around the house because he had played it in college with Lawrence Welk. I saw such joy in him each time he played the Glenn Miller album. I thought he would be furious when I dropped out of school, but he dismissed it as my being 'allergic to school' and assured me that I would be fine so long as I read. Since then, I never stopped reading." (Cross was awarded a belated degree at his 40th high school reunion.)

Christopher Cross
Where: The Barns at Wolf Trap, 1635 Trap Road, Vienna
When: 8 p.m. Friday, 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Info: $45; 877-965-3872;

After leaving school, he played guitar with a local San Antonio band but kept in touch with his friend Rob Meurer. The keyboardist and Cross soon became serious collaborators, hitting the big time in 1979 with "Sailing," which reaped major awards, gold and platinum records and international tours. Since 1988, the two have contributed songs and arrangements for six albums, the most recent being "Doctor Faith."

"The producer at Warner Brothers wasn't enthusiastic about 'Sailing,' " Cross said. "He thought it was too avant-garde and introspective, but he later gave in. It's been a long time since 'Walking in Avalon,' the last album Rob and I did together, so we decided last year to move ahead with 'Doctor Faith.' From the very first, the songs began coming out at a prolific rate and we soon had 13 we really liked. The definition of Doctor Faith can be whatever you put your faith into. It could be God, therapy, religion, anything that helps you.

"Some people get addicted to certain things in life and eventually learn that you can't transfer your dependency to them. The final song, 'Prayin,' sums things up by pointing out that God is not an old man in the sky. Your spirituality can stem from anything that has meaning to you. It should be your own business."

"I always enjoy performing at Wolf Trap and I want the audience to discover that my music covers a painted canvas far wider than my hit songs," he said. "I certainly will sing those that are well-known, but I've co-written and produced nine albums over the years. Some of the songs I perform will seem more obscure at first, but they will allow me to quickly connect personally with the audience."