Several years back, I had the pleasure of teaching a talented young singer-songwriter named Jerica. She was a member of my choir and would often share recordings of the songs that she was writing. I fell in love with one particular song from the very first time that I heard it. “Legacy” was written as a tribute to Jerica’s grandmother and it is easy to hear that it comes straight from her heart. You can feel the emotion in her performance. After listening to it over and over again for the past few years, I decided that I want my entire choir to experience this piece. I believe that each chorister will all be able to relate these lyrics to a family member who has inspired and cared for them.
Once I acquired Jerica’s permission, I was quickly reminded of the challenges that appear when adapting a pop song for a choir. The first step was to listen to the recording on repeat in order to slowly transcribe the vocal and piano parts. Once the transcription was complete, I made a tough decision: rather than try to capture the improvisatory rhythms and ornamentation of a pop song, I was going to recreate the piece as if it was originally written for a choir (aka removing some of the “pop”). This involved rewriting some rhythms to be singable for a large group of voices, simplifying some of the piano accompaniment, and adding harmonies that are reflective of modern choral music. However, I kept the melody, form, and chord structure of the piece intact and didn’t change any of the lyrics. It won’t sound exactly like the recording below but it will still sound like Jerica’s song. In another important decision, I decided to make the opening verse a solo. This song is obviously very personal to Jerica and I believe that the opening solo will support the concept that each choir member is singing the piece about a family member who they would like to honor.
“Legacy” is still a work in progress but I am excited to finish it and get it into the hands of my students. I am still making adjustments to the rhythms, adding “oo’s” over the instrumental section, notating the accompaniment for the second verse, and adding dynamics. In other words, it isn’t even close to being finished so for now, here is Jerica’s original recording of the piece:
For more information about Jerica and to listen to my other favorite song, “Run to You,” visit her website: http://jericawilliams.com/