The Song That Almost Wasn’t
When I began sketching the outline of the musical, Old Testament Records in 2005, I skipped several important stories. One of these was the story of Ruth and Naomi. Usually I am all about adding the female voice to any play, but I just wasn’t feeling the love for Ruth/Naomi.
Prior to completing the show, I received a visit from my friend, Stephanie Olsen. As I reviewed the scope of the show with her, she was horrified to learn I didn’t plan on writing a song based on the book of Ruth!
“It’s over-used,” I said. “The words are already in a wedding song that people have heard way too many times!”
Hard Lobbying to Highlight the Sistahs
During the course of our walk (3+ hours if I remember correctly) Stephanie waged a campaign for including the song: Steph is a single, working woman and is part of a cohesive group of smart, single, professional ladies who’ve created one of the best support systems I’ve ever seen. They call each other “The Sistahs”.
“You have to include Ruth!” she said. “Women taking care of each other is something that needs to highlighted, but it’s so rarely talked about. It’s important. This is the perfect venue for it.” We both bemoaned the fact that the most-often quoted verses from this book (Ruth 1:15-17) were often used in the context of romantic love (as in the wedding song) and rarely used to retell the beautiful story of a young woman leaving her home to care for her widowed mother-in-law, whose two sons had also just died.
After pondering Stephanie’s words, I began to notice how the women I knew DID take care of each other. The lyric “All women are sisters! In times of trouble, call upon your sister!” came into my head, and I wrote this song “Sister” (lyrics are here).
The next year, I visited Stephanie in her home and got to meet all her “Sistahs”. I was so impressed with how they cared for each other and interacted through the week! One evening, I sat at the piano and played the entire musical for them! Most of the women have since married, but I’m told the bonds of the sistah’hood remain strong.
Life Imitating Art
When I composed this song about Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, none of my children were yet married….however in the intervening years, the marrying commenced! Singing the part of Ruth on this MP3 of “Sister” is my real-life daughter-in-law, Angelina Daum Sieber! Angelina is from Germany and currently lives in the U.S. with her husband (my oldest son) Christian. Angelina and I recorded this song during the Christmas holiday and we shot the song’s cover this spring. I love her. She has enriched our family in so many ways. Hooray for expanding the family circle through happy marriages!
This song – like many songs – in not only a retelling of the scripture story, but a window into my own life. This bridge’s lyric came with quite a price:
For husbands and fathers and brothers die.
They’re here, then suddenly they’re gone.
In my family, we really did have “husband and father and brother die” – and likewise, each death had no warning. I am so grateful for the people who surrounded us at those awful times and when I see awful things happen to others, I remember those times, and I try to be the extra sister who steps in and cares for the grieving “as if they were my own”.
This IS a great story and it certainly deserved a musical retelling.