Life!, written by Buryl Red (music) and Ragan Courtney (lyric),
is the musical pulpit-drama presented by the Maranatha Singers on various
choir tours in the 1970s and 80s. I caught up with Mr Courtney via
email . . .
Subject: Celebrate Life!
Date: Wed, 10 Feb
From: Curt Cassingham
Mr Ragan Courtney
Dear Mr Courtney,
It's amazing -
one plugs "Buryl Red" into an internet search engine, and finds him at
And, when one looks for "Ragan Courtney", one finds you at http://www.hbu.edu/!
Back in the 70s, I was
blessed with being involved with Mr Red's and your wonderful
Life!, through the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church. It was debuted
at Menlo in April 1973, and presented by our Maranatha Singers high school
choir, directed by Dan Bird, to many congregations during the next ten
or 12 summertime concert tours. Matter of fact, we played our background
tape so much it wore out, and we managed to get a studio-quality dub from
its master tape at Woodland Studios. Like many people we know and
don't know, it changed my life forever. Thank you for contributing
The Singers had
a reunion the summer of 1997, where many of us saw each other after over
twenty years. Of course, we ran through Celebrate Life!, from
the organ prelude through the postlude. Oh, the memories it evoked!
I think my favorite piece is "Hello Baby". I included it some years
later in a Christmas program I directed.
a small website as a result of that reunion. Lately, interest has
grown to the point we'd like to expand it to include a section about CL.
To make sure we don't violate anyone's copyrights, I wonder if I could
trouble you with this inquiry - With whom should we inquire for permission
to reprint they lyrics? I can't find a web reference to Broadman
Press, the original publishers. One search for CL did turn
up Hal Leonard, but their server is always "too busy, try later"!
Is there a web
or another source for the history behind CL, and how you and Mr
Red came together to create it? We'd like to include a little of
those insights in our web pages.
I appreciate how
busy you must be with your duties at HBU, but I'm glad your web page there
included your email address.
Subject: Celebrate Life!
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999
From: Ragan Courtney
To: Curt Cassingham
Sorry to be so
long answering your email. I'm slow, what can I say? Thank
you for the kind words about Celebrate Life! That work is
still in print and it is published by Broadman Publishers, but the Baptist
Sunday School Board has gone through major restructuring and they are now
called Lifeway Resources...their address is 127 Ninth Avenue,North, Nashville,
Buryl Red composed
the music to this work of mine, and he got a young lady to sing the solos
for the initial recording. Her name was Cynthia Clawson. I went to
direct the first performance of
Celebrate Life! and met her and
fell deeply in love. We were married the next year. (That was 26
years ago!) I have been celebrating ever since. I have continued
writing, and she became a rather well known gospel singer with 17 recordings
to he credit, a GRAMMY and five Dove Awards. We have two children.
We try to keep in touch with Buryl who lives in NYC, but we don't see him
nearly as often as we would like to. At last count sales for Celebrate
Life! were nearing the one million mark. Last year Second Baptist Church
of Houston, Texas celebrated the 26th anniversary of the publication of
this work with about 6,000 people there to see it performed. It was
pretty spectacular, and we were given nice plaques by the publisher.
Through the years I have heard from countless people who have done this
work, and God has touched their hearts during the process of doing it.
I was a new Christian when I wrote the book and lyrics, little did I know
that the effects of this work would be so far reaching.
Blessings on you and yours.
About the availability of Celebrate Life!
Menlo Maranatha does not own the rights to Celebrate Life!,
nor do we have available any music books or recordings.
The original publisher still owns it. Today they're known as Broadman
and Holman, and it's available through their distributor, LifeWay Resources:
Broadman and Holman: