A few days ago, a friend of mine, Wendell Kimbrough, asked about a Nigerian song he had heard. I checked it out and was immediately smitten. It has everything you’d want in an African praise chorus: it’s immediately singable, thematically focused, and it leaves plenty of room for ad lib verses. Oh, and one more trait of African praise choruses: everyone sings it slightly differently. Below are a few versions to give you an idea of the variety of styles.
I decided I needed to commit the song to notation, but that meant I needed to synthesize all the different renditions and make some comprises for Western musicians and notation. First, I bumped the key up to G. No biggy; it just felt more congregation-friendly. Next, I standardized the syncopation–“of the Lord” is always syncopated the same way. This is fairly consistent in all the recordings, so I felt it was the right thing to do. My transcription keeps the spirit of the original rhythm, and also gives newcomers only one rhythm to learn. On the same subject, “from heaven come down” is usually syncopated in the source recordings, but I decided to go with the straightest version of them–no point in giving Western congregations the “right” rhythm which they’ll never get right. Finally, I wrote it in four-part harmony. Since an SATB version doesn’t exist in any of the original performances, I had to create one from what those performances imply.
Consider the above paragraph “truth in advertising.” There are some Western arrangers (some of whom may hail from Scotland) who give the impression that their versions of songs are definitive. I want to document what recordings I was working from and what decisions I made. You are free to make your own arrangement or adapt to your context. That is especially true for an “off the page” song like this. For example, I must say that I really like Wendell’s rendition below. It’s completely different, yet entirely faithful to the original.
If anyone has any background information on the song, I’m all ears.