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 catalog…though 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.