Mark Cabaniss, Managing Director of Alfred Sacred, caught up recently with veteran composer/arranger Ruth Elaine Schram to discuss her latest project released with Alfred Sacred, another project waiting in the wings, plus a bit about her career and philosophies as a writer.
MC: Hi Ruthie! Thank you for taking the time today to chat a bit with us. You’re enjoying such a wonderful and successful career as a composer for church and school (and more). What year was your first piece of music published?
RS: Hi Mark! I actually received my first contract in 1986, and that was from Brentwood Music, for a song that never actually got published. But that oversight on their part gave me the opportunity to write for other projects, including the very successful “Mother Goose Gospel” series which began as a recorded product but ended up with printed songbooks as well. My first individual song to appear in print was published in 1988.
MC: How many compositions have you had published since that first one?
RS: My current count is right at 2,100. I know that seems like a lot, but as I tell others, some of them are very short!
MC: Wow…that’s impressive! You’ve certainly developed a loyal following through the years, and we’re honored to have your numerous contributions to the Alfred Music catalog. Shifting gears – let’s discuss your latest children’s project – a collection of songs for children’s choir called “Something’s Fishy.” Tell us about that collection. What’s it about and how can it be used?
RS: This collection was so much fun to write! It can be used as a musical (by using the included introductions as narration between songs), or as individual selections throughout the year. Each song is about some aspect of God’s creation — the diverse creatures under the sea (Something Fishy’s Going On), the enormity of space (So Big), the different types of food we can grow which includes the parable of the sowing of seeds (Seeds and Soil and Such), how we can trust God because He is always watching over us in every season (Whatever the Weather), and the myriad animals God has designed (Birds and Bugs, Worms and Slugs). The recurring theme that runs through the work is that God created everything, particularly us, and loves each of us and takes care of us. We’ve also included thought-provoking discussion starters and suggested related Scripture passages that you can use in rehearsal to make these songs even more meaningful and memorable for your young singers.
MC: What do you like most about writing music for children’s choirs?
RS: Writing for children is very different from writing for adults, but I really love it. First we’re a bit limited in range, as children’s voices will sound best and be most comfortable “from C to shining C” (Middle C to an octave above). We’ll occasionally excursion beyond that, but that is the safest range for their voices. The lyrics need to be written as something children would *say* so they will be able to remember and understand the words. But what I love about it is its importance: we are instilling in them truths about our Creator, our Savior, God’s Word, and Biblical concepts that will stay with them for an entire lifetime.
MC: We know you and John Purifoy have been at work on a new adult Christmas musical for Alfred Sacred. Any teaser you want to give us about that?
RS: It’s titled “Upon a Midnight Clear” and the lyrics and melody from that beautiful carol are peppered throughout the musical. There are wonderful arrangements of many familiar Christmas songs as well as several stunning new works. The orchestration by Ed Hogan is exquisitely beautiful. There are opportunities to include your children’s choir and congregation. And the incomparable Cynthia Clawson not only contributed a song to the musical, but sang on the recording!
MC: Thank you, Ruthie, for your time today! Your contributions to sacred and secular choral music – for children and adults – are immeasurable, and we look forward to exciting new ideas coming from you in the years to come.
RS: Thank you, Mark, and thank you for continuing to give me opportunities to make my voice heard in the world of sacred choral music! God has given me this wonderful gift, and I want to be faithful to always use it for His glory. Writing sacred songs is an incredible blessing, being published is an honor. But it is also a heavy responsibility — to be Biblically accurate requires a lot of study. I take the process very seriously and am very grateful for every opportunity to contribute works for use in Worship Services for any age singer. I pray for the churches that use my works, especially around Lent / Easter and Advent / Christmas, and I pray that I will never write anything that would inadvertently lead someone away from the truth. It is my goal to make Jesus *real* to people through my music — young or old; singer or listener. Thank you for helping to make that possible!