This year, Church of the Servant (my “alma mater” church) commissioned me to arrange a lovely “Magnificat” by Keur Moussa. I don’t know a lot about the Keur Moussa Abbey, but my impression is that they are something like the Taizé of Senegal. The Keur Moussa community has developed its own style of singing that combines the beautiful austerity of Catholic chant with the insistent rhythms of West Africa.
If you listen to the original recording you’ll hear a simple perfection that is irresistible, with the vocals and rhythms held in perfect balance. You’ll also hear what I found most difficult about writing this arrangement: the more “interesting” my arrangement was, the more it betrayed the original song. I must have reminded myself a hundred times while working on it: “Greg, don’t gild the lily!” But it was not easy to remain simple when writing for choir, string orchestra, guitars, and a smattering of percussion!
In the end, I felt that I struck a good balance. The arrangement is complex, but not flashy; exciting, but still mesmerizing. But I am hardly an impartial observer. You be the judge. The above recording is from the December 15, 2019 premiere at COS’s annual Lessons & Carols service.