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A Chat with Mary McDonald

Jul 14, 2017

Mary McDonald is a multi-talented musician from Knoxville, Tennessee. In addition to her work as a composer, arranger, producer, pianist, and organist, she currently serves as the organist for Central Baptist Church in Knoxville. Her music and talents have blessed choirs and congregations across the country for more than twenty-five years.

Mary is the composer of more than 600 published choral anthems, several Christmas and Easter cantatas, and numerous keyboard collections. She is also active as a choral clinician, traveling throughout the United States conducting workshops and concertizing. Her unique blend of heart, hands, and humor, combined with a wide range of writing and performing styles, keep her in constant demand. One of Mary's greatest joys has been serving as accompanist for the Tennessee Men's Chorale since 1985. In 2000, Mary served as the first woman President of the Southern Baptist Church Music Conference. She is currently on the board of the John Ness Beck Foundation and is a member of the American Guild of Organists (AGO) and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

Jubilate Music Group President/CEO Mark Cabaniss sat down with Mary to discuss her newest Christmas musical, Peace Has Come.

MC:  Welcome, Mary! Thank you for taking time out of your busy travel and writing schedule to speak with us today.

MM: It's my pleasure Mark!

MC: I remember the first Christmas musical of yours that I heard was way back in 1988 titled BEHOLD THE KING OF GLORY. Although I was already familiar with your writing by then, I remember how impressed I was with that musical. Was that your first ever musical?

MM: I had composed 2 cantatas prior to the 1988 release of BEHOLD THE KING OF GLORY; In 1984, "This Day of Celebration" was a collaborative work with John Purifoy and, in 1987, "The Dawn of Risen Glory" was also released through Purifoy Publishing.

MC: I remember those as well but didn’t know they preceded the 1988 work. Your new Christmas musical this year is PEACE HAS COME. We’re excited to be the publisher of it! I remember when we were first discussing the idea of basing the musical on the subject of peace, we both felt such a subject would be very timely, given the state of our world these days. What are your thoughts on the subject of “peace”?

MM: I was once asked for my favorite word and, after careful thought, responded with “peace.” It is something I constantly strive for in my own life – to find a quiet, calm escape from the busy, steady pace of a musician’s full agenda. For it is in that stillness where I find God - the Author and giver of true inner peace. Christmas has a way of settling us down and reminding of what really matters in life: family/children, Jesus, miracles, and the most sustaining gifts of joy, love, hope, and peace. Christ came to bring peace to the world, not as the world suggests but, rather, everlasting holiness and peace in the form of a baby - a King!

MC: Beautifully expressed. What about the content and musical styles in the work?

MM:  Throughout this musical, we acknowledge our need and yearning for Christ to come into the world. Varying styles, from classical to soulful sounds, provide a colorful pallet from which this endearing story is told. Well-known tunes and carols, joined by soloists, children and congregation, offer a pleasing familiarity and ease in the learning process. New tunes featuring lyrics by the gifted Rose Aspinall, along with beautiful narrative supplied by you weave together this significant story in a clear, powerful delivery. The orchestrations are by the very talented Ed Hogan. Careful attention has been given to the pacing of this work so that the story is clearly conveyed through narrative and song. An optional, final Reprise reminds us why we celebrate this special season of Christmas.

MC: The musical can be performed with the songs and narration only, or with drama. Please talk about the Drama Companion/Production Guide that is offered separately.

MM: This is an optional reproducible manual which includes a simple dramatization which weaves the songs together beautifully, and is very easy to produce with as few as 6 people, or many more. For those churches which may have never used drama with their Christmas musical in the past, this is an excellent one to start with. Plus, there are excellent staging, audition, production, and promotional tips and more also included in the manual.

MC: Thank you for creating PEACE HAS COME, Mary, with its timely and timeless message.

MM: It’s my joy, Mark, to have been involved in this project and my prayer is that it impacts lives significantly this year and for future years to come with the wonderful message of God’s peace.

Read Mary McDonald's bio here.

Browse Mary McDonald's publications here.

A Chat with Mark Hayes

Jun 13, 2017

Composer/Arranger/Producer/Performer Mark Hayes is internationally known and his music is performed all across the globe. He has traveled throughout Europe, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, and South Africa to concertize, conduct and lead workshops. He is a frequent guest conductor at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. When he is not on the road, he is home composing or arranging the next project on his growing “to do” list. 

After graduating Baylor University in 1975, Mark moved to Kansas City in 1977 to work as the music editor for Tempo Music Publications. The next three years were filled with invaluable experiences learning the music publishing industry. When Tempo closed their doors Mark was presented with a tough decision. He chose to be a free-lance arranger for a year until he could get another job in the music industry. Thus Mark Hayes Productions was born in 1980 and Mark never sought another job working for a publisher.

Since then, Mark has had countless published compositions and arrangements, along with major works. Jubilate Music Group President/CEO Mark Cabaniss sat down with this prolific, creative force that has had an international impact for decades with his amazing gifts. 

MC:  It’s an honor to sit with you today and discuss your career and a few other things, Mark.  What prompted me to do this interview is when I ran across a musical of yours recently in my personal choral library published in 1985 that seemed as fresh as ever…as if it could have been released in 2017.  That’s one of the many hallmarks of your writing through the years, and that’s its timelessness.  Your work never sounds dated, even though you have pieces reaching back to the early 1980s.  To what do you attribute that?  What’s your secret?

MH:  Mark, it is a temptation to crank out music at times. Ultimately I know that I’m creating a brand or reputation with each piece of music I write. I ask myself, “Is this something I would buy if I were a choral director?” Is this piece building up my brand or weakening it? I try to guard against formulaic writing. I try to put something unique or special in each piece and not duplicate what I’ve written in the past. As you can imagine, that gets harder as the years go by! Finally, I have faith in my “muse” that what I’m being directed to write is the best I can create at that moment in my time.

MC:  What was the first piece of music you had published, and what year was it published?

MH:  My first published piece was actually an entire choral collection called “Spirit of Love”, published in 1976. I was a relatively new graduate of Baylor University and still living in Waco, TX. I played the piano for and arranged music for a gospel ensemble called “Spirit of Love”, made up of seven of my Baylor friends. We were offered a recording contract and I had the privilege and challenge of arranging and orchestrating the entire 10 song album.

MC:  There are so many classics you’ve created through the years for choral literature.  I know it’s unfair to ask if you have a favorite…or two…but here goes…do you have a favorite?

MH: It certainly is hard to choose, but one of my all-time favorites is “Rejoice and Sing Out His Praises” published in 1985. It was commissioned by a local high school in Shawnee Mission, KS. It’s based on Psalm texts and has an innovative and toccata-like piano accompaniment. There are several a cappella sections, some of which are polyphonic and highly syncopated, and some of which are homophonic and lyrical. I’m also very proud of my first major classical work for chorus and orchestra, “Te Deum.”  Another favorite is my “Requiem”, published in 2013.

MC:  In addition to your composing, arranging, and orchestrating, you also perform regularly all over the world as a clinician, conductor, and pianist.  What’s one of the funniest or oddest things that happened to you (thus far) in your travels?

MH:  Many years ago I used to perform with a piano quartet…four grand pianos on stage at one time. I was privileged to play with Stephen Nielson, the late Ovid Young, and Jeff Bennett. At one particular concert Jeff and I were playing a duet, an arrangement I had written, and one that Jeff had little time to rehearse. He was counting on me to guide him through the piece by setting tempos and ritards. I had failed to tape my music together. Right before the climatic ending, the last 2-3 pages of my score flew off the piano rack. There was no way I could retrieve them and keep playing. I always play with music, even if I’m playing my own arrangements. I did not have the ending memorized. Somehow I managed to play something that meshed with what I had written for Jeff and we ended together without the experience being too much of a train wreck! I’m not sure what the audience experienced that night, but it was definitely a nail biter for Jeff and me!  

MC:  While choral music remains strong nationally, church music has certainly changed over the past 20 years, with the choir unfortunately being eliminated in some churches.  If you could say something to a music director who is considering eliminating (or has eliminated) their choir, what would that be?

MH:  Choirs are like mini bodies of Christ. They provide a sense of community and support unlike anything else in the church. They cause all singers to work together toward the common goal of praising God through music. Choirs provide a place where an “average” voice is valued and needed to achieve musical excellence. When people in the congregation see the choir perform, they are more likely to identify with a choir member than a sensational soloist or polished praise team singer. If our goal is to encourage the congregation to join in worship, what the choir models on the platform shows that every voice is valued. I would also encourage choir directors to be flexible in the repertoire they program. Sometimes the contemporary vs. traditional argument is more about one’s personal tastes than it is about what is best for the worship experience.

MC:  You’ve written so much and explored so many styles (sacred and secular) in your writing over the years (in my opinion, you’re one of the most versatile writers out there who can live comfortably and authentically in both the traditional and contemporary worlds).  That said…is there something on your “bucket list” you’ve yet to accomplish (musically or otherwise)?

MH:  A new project I’m very excited about is my “Gospel Mass”. I am in the process of researching that right now and expect to have it written by the end of the year for a world premiere performance in a papal basilica in Rome next July, sponsored by the Continuo Arts Foundation. Your readers may be familiar with Robert Ray’s “Gospel Mass”. Mine will be in a similar “black gospel” style but written with my unique experience of blues, R&B and jazz, mixed with my classical roots. The libretto will be in English and Latin. I will use a rhythm section and possible a Hammond B-3 for the core instrumentation. I may add some winds as well. My challenge will be to write something with an improvisational, soulful feel that can be sung by any type of choir and is appropriate for the mass setting.

MC:  Wow!  That sounds incredible and eclectic.  And the blend of musical styles is a perfect match with the wide palate of musical styles you’ve often drawn upon with equal ease.  We look forward to your “Gospel Mass.” 

Thank you for your time, Mark!  As it says on your website (www.markhayes.com), your mission is to create “beautiful music for the world” and you have done – and continue to do – just that.  You are bringing light, life, and hope to countless lives…through the transforming power of God’s gift of music. 

Read Mark Hayes' bio here.

Browse Mark Hayes' publications here.

Mark Cabaniss' Top 10 Reasons for Performing a Musical

Jan 05, 2017

Night of Miracles… Joy Comes in the Morning… Friends… It’s Cool in the Furnace… Celebrate Life… and the list could go on. Hopefully, you’re acquainted with or have experienced first-hand some or all of these now-classic musicals written by giants of church music. In my personal experience, the musical, or cantata, played a major role in my development as a church musician, writer, and then publisher.

In the modern church music world, I define a musical as a work that incorporates drama or dramatic/character narrative and a cantata as a work that simply has narration to tie the songs together (not a classic Bach cantata or oratorio). But unlike the Broadway musical where each song should develop the characters or advance the plot, I don’t think church musical songs necessarily need to adhere strictly to that form. For the purposes of this post, I call both musicals and cantatas “musicals.”

Like many, I have either performed in or conducted countless church musicals through the years, with those experiences being among my most enjoyable and rewarding music worship ones. But in the last decade, there’s no question the church musical genre has somewhat waned for a number of reasons: changing worship styles and fewer choirs, shrinking budgets, busier schedules, and I think a cultural shift of wanting more for less (less rehearsal and less hassle, that is). In my opinion, that’s a real shame given the tremendous benefits presenting a musical offers.

Before you stop reading because you think I’m only writing about the hour-long, fully staged dramatic musical, stay with me! This post concerns any sort of musical or cantata performed in the church, from 12 minutes to 60 minutes in length, whether using fully costumed characters, people in t-shirts and jeans, or no individual characters at all.

Using music with drama and/or narration to depict religious subjects reaches back to ancient Biblical times. The modern-day church musical has its roots in the 1950s with John W. Peterson’s works, such as Night of Miracles (1958). Peterson was the first to bring a contemporary, almost Broadway sound and sensibility to the pulpit, and the public loved it. I had the honor and privilege of working with Mr. Peterson on his final musical, and when I asked, he told me his early musicals sold in the hundreds of thousands of copies in their first few months of release – unheard of by today’s standards but clear evidence that Peterson tapped into a real thirst for musicals within the context of worship.

Good News (1968) by Bob Oldenburg, was another early musical milestone, along with the aforementioned watershed Celebrate LifeA Pulpit Musical Drama (1972) by Ragan Courtney and Buryl Red. These writers were the pioneers who dared to blaze new trails, not only bringing more contemporary sounds into the sanctuary of their day, but also the musical drama connected with it. All we church musical writers of today stand on their shoulders and owe a great debt of gratitude to these visionaries.

I remember a few years ago having a conversation with a minister of music who said he doesn’t do musicals with his choir anymore. “Too much work,” he said. I was stunned (and think I heard the sound of the late, great Buryl Red spinning in his grave). If difficulty was a deciding factor in our artistic endeavors, I’m afraid our world would be bereft of artistic achievement. Besides, musicals really aren’t that hard to prepare and present if chosen carefully for your choir.

But as I say, like it or not, our world has changed in this area. So are preparing musicals still worth it in our age of the Internet, social media, reality television and other modern pursuits that can steal away our rehearsal time? Of course, my answer is a resounding YES!

Here are my top ten reasons for doing a musical once, twice, or even three times in your church this year and in years to come. They’re based not only on my personal experience through the years, but on what I’ve heard from countless directors and choir members over the last three decades:

  • The event factor. Since musicals aren’t performed on a regular basis, whenever they are performed, they’re an event. And events, if they’re promoted correctly, generally bring out more people to see them than a regular worship service. They can build excitement and a real positive buzz in a church and community.
  • Dramatic impact. There’s no question we live now more than ever in a fast-paced, visual world. Drama – especially when connected with music – offers a way to tell a story that can leave an indelible impact on its listeners. The gospel story is dramatic in and of itself and offers unlimited possibilities to be told in dramatic ways.
  • Greater depth. A musical offers a longer time for the choir to present a message in the context of a worship service, therefore offering more time to plumb the depths of any given subject musically and dramatically than a weekly three-minute anthem affords. Not that the weekly anthem isn’t potentially deeply impactful. Of course it can be. But a musical is, in essence, eight to ten anthems organically woven with drama and narrative, so the potential impact is exponentially increased.
  • Growth. Musicals offer the opportunity for choirs (and individuals) to grow in a number of ways: musically, numerically, and spiritually. Musicals tend to offer healthy musical challenges the choir might not experience otherwise. They occasionally attract non-choir members who want to try out the choir on a short-term basis, and sometimes these people become regular choir members. And since musicals can offer a greater depth of exploration of a subject, they provide deeper spiritual understanding of the subject in question, which can engender additional personal and corporate devotional time inside and outside regular rehearsal time.
  • Outreach. The unchurched – seekers who don’t attend your church or any other – often attend a musical. These folks are sometimes attracted to a musical simply because they want to see their friend who sells insurance play the part of John the Baptist (akin to one of the main draws of community theatre). Or maybe they come simply because they’re invited. But a one-time special-event musical is a great excuse to invite those friends and family members who don’t attend church regularly. Even those who are regular churchgoers but not members of your church often attend, and that’s great, too, of course.
  • Bonding. An event tends to rally a choir and focus its rehearsals for the period leading up to the presentation. If there are a few extra rehearsals to pull the musical together, these offer an opportunity for greater bonding between director and choir and among choir members. If there’s a church-wide fellowship event or reception following the presentation, these events can promote even more bonding and unity among the choir and entire church.
  • Wider involvement. A musical offers areas for people not usually associated with a church’s music program to use their gifts at least short-term with the choir: designing, building, and painting sets; lighting and audio/visual enhancements; costumes; and more.
  • Attracting more men and younger members. There’s no question that many choirs today are lacking in men and younger members. Musicals often require men to participate in speaking roles such as Jesus and the disciples, and with a little creative and gentle arm-twisting, the resourceful director can use a musical to recruit new men to the choir. The dramatic medium often appeals to the twenty- and thirty-something crowd – teenagers, too, for that matter… to say nothing of children’s musicals laying the foundation for a lifetime of choral singing.
  • Dinner or dessert theatre. A whole article could be written on this form of church musical presentation, but here I’ll say I’ve done several dinner theatres at churches over the years, and every one of them was a big success – because people love the mixture of food and musicals, especially at Christmas. And they definitely bring in non-church people in addition to regular church members while offering all the above-mentioned benefits.
  • Memories. Ask any church or choir member what anthem they sang on a particular Sunday a year ago and they’re likely to scratch their head and draw a blank. But ask them what musical they did when they were in high school, college, or last year in the adult choir and they’ll rattle off the title immediately. Again, I’m not saying the weekly anthem isn’t the choir’s bread and butter, but this is further evidence musicals are worth it.

Bottom line: musicals – when carefully chosen, prepared, and performed – can create a lasting and sometimes life-changing impact on those who experience them. All the hard work and prep time are worth it when you and your choir members experience “the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd”!

A Chat with Jean Anne Shafferman

Jul 20, 2016

Alfred Sacred (a part of Jubilate Music Group) celebrates its 27th anniversary this year. 

Jubilate Music Group’s President/CEO Mark Cabaniss sat down with Jean Anne Shafferman, Alfred Sacred’s Founding Editor, to chat about Alfred Sacred’s beginnings and more.

 

MC:  How did you come to begin the Alfred Sacred catalog?

JAS:  In 1989, Morty Manus (late President of Alfred Music) decided to expand the Alfred Choral Catalog. He hired Sally Albrecht and Jay Althouse to re-imagine the Alfred school choral catalog. Several months later, he asked me to create Alfred’s first church choral catalog. At the time, I was working for Shawnee Press as one of its church choral editors; it had recently experienced a corporate buy-out and was transitioning its staff and catalog. Morty offered me the opportunity to work from my home in PA for his company in CA. Working at home was a great rarity at that time, and I was delighted to ride the first wave of “telecommuting.” 

MC: Who are some of the composers you first published at Alfred Sacred?

JAS:  In the first years: Sally Albrecht and Jay Althouse; Don Besig and Nancy Price; Eugene Butler; John Carter and Mary Kay Beall; William Cutter; Benjamin Harlan; Jerry Weseley Harris; Mark Hayes; Hal Hopson; Ron Kauffmann; Steve Kupferschmid; David Lantz; Michael Larkin; Robert Lau; Steve Lawrence; John Leavitt; Patrick Liebergen; Joseph Martin; Donald Moore; Carl Nygard; Anna Laura Page; Dave and Jean Perry; Brad Printz; Ruth Elaine Schram; Carl Strommen; Doug Wagner; David Ashley White; J. Paul Williams.

MC: What are some of your fondest memories of the "early days" of Alfred Sacred?

JAS:  The 1990’s were a great period of expansion in church music publishing. It was a great time to “come of age” in the music publishing industry.  At Alfred, Morty challenged me to create a new church catalogthough I was still relatively new to publishing (2.5 years)! I still marvel at the great opportunity that he gave me, and at his confidence in me.

I modeled it after Alfred’s highly successful “educational series” approach to its piano publications. The result was a catalog that served the comprehensive music ministry, with four levels of octavos for choirs “from the cradle to the grave.” This was a rather novel approach to church choral music within the mainstream church publishing industry.

Especially dear to my heart was the Level II Series, for the “developing church choir,” whether young singers, struggling volunteer choirs, or senior choirs. For this series, I simply returned to the historic musical formats of canons and quodlibets, and also was inspired by the successful models of more recent composers like Natalie Sleeth. These structures proved to be perfect for their targeted choirs, helping them to learn to sing, and to sing well – because, really, in order to inspire worship, we should offer our very best sound to God and our congregations! 

I have a very vivid memory of one of the first church choral clinics that I led. I was impressed by the fact that so many church musicians gave up their Saturdays to attend clinics, even though most of them worked full-time jobs Monday through Friday. At the first break, I was mobbed by folks asking questions, wanting to learn more about appropriate repertoire for their choirs, more about vocal pedagogy, more about programming for the church year. As I listened to their questions, I very clearly heard God calling me to my work in church music publishing.

To better serve their needs, I decided to incorporate corresponding scriptures, seasons, and performance suggestions into every octavo. While this practice is fairly widespread today, in 1990 it was rather unique. This service to church musicians became one of the very bedrocks driving the success of the growing Alfred catalog – and with the eventual birth of personal computers and search engines, the ready availability of this information became both highly-demanded and widely-expected. I LOVED doing this work, and sharing it with others.

My memories are also filled with the images of so many wonderful writers. I was able to form friendships, both professional and personal, with both the established giants in the industry, like Hal Hopson and Don Besig & Nancy Price, AND up-and-coming writers at the time, like Benjie Harlan, Mark Hayes, Joe Martin, Anna Laura Page, Ruthie Schram.

MC: What do you think about the evolution of worship styles since your earliest days at Alfred?

JAS:  I could write a tome on this subject but will try to limit this to several broadstrokes!

The continuing thread that has run through my three decades in church music publishing is the demand for music that is theologically sound AND that inspires worship. Having stated this, from my viewpoint, it is worship itself which has changed so greatly since 1990, and this evolving worship scene has dictated that music publishers respond accordingly.

Again from my chair, the two most transforming elements are the changing demography of churches and the attendant diversification of musical styles.

The standard congregational profile has changed. Whereas in 1990, congregants were likely to be worshipping in the church affiliations of their birth, today they are scattered far and wide. This cross-breeding of worship traditions creates a co-mingling of musical tastes, from gospel to classic, multi-cultural to traditional hymn, folk music to pop music. It is performance by choirs and by praise teams, and with accompaniments that can range from organ to rhythm band and from a cappella to full orchestra.  How do I feel about this? Personally, I love it!

Praise God with the sound of the trumpet, the lute and harp, the timbrel and dance, the stringed instruments and flutes, and the loud clashing cymbals!

Let everything with breath praise the Lord!

MC: What have you enjoyed most about your role as editor through the years?

JAS:  First, serving God, for truly God called me to this career and blessed me throughout it.

Second, creating ideas and developing them with writers – and forming fast friendships in the process. Amazing—how these writers have ennobled my ideas!

Third, developing my own voice as a writer and partnering with some incredible writers.

Fourth, working as a clinician throughout the US & Canada – I love teaching and sharing, and in the process I have learned so much!

Fifth, the honor of working with folks throughout the music publishing industry: church musicians, composers and lyricists, publishers and editors, engravers and graphic artists, studio musicians and engineers. It’s a small industry and highly competitive – but also highly supportive of one another.

MC:  Thank you, Jean Anne, for that wonderful and interesting background on the early days of Alfred Sacred, along with your thoughtful and insightful reflections on church music! 

JAS:  My pleasure, Mark.  Thank you for asking!

Editor’s Note:  Jean Anne Shafferman recently retired from her role as editor in the sacred music industry.  Congratulations Jean Anne!  Your contributions to the local church through publishing and writing will continue to enrich lives around the world.  Jean Anne’s work with the Alfred Sacred catalog is alive and well and the publications she references in her interview are available on this website and from music retailers coast-to-coast.

Read Jean Anne's bio here.

Browse Jean Anne's publications here.