It’s that time of year: hustle and bustle, holiday planning, the stores playing those same 15 to 20 songs over and over.
But a North Texas-based music writer and conductor is also discovering something new in the music we’ve known for decades on end.
Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below. This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.
Texas Standard: Tell us a little bit about this assignment you had to rearrange carols.
Taylor Davis: So I’ve been long friends with the artistic director of VOCES8, which is this British a cappella group, and they are world-renowned. And in the pandemic, they were sort of retooling so that they could continue to work. And, all of a sudden, he had this idea of doing these arrangements for a broadcast that would be somewhat distanced and whatnot.
And we had no idea that the recording would go so well and turn into something larger. We just thought we were doing something good in the Christmas of ‘21. Then Decca [Classics] got a hold of it, and all of a sudden we’ve got an album on our hands.
Did you get to choose which carols you worked on?
I did not. I’m the lowest person on the food chain here. But they did give me just sort of carte blanche once the carols were chosen. I had kind of a blank slate and just ran with it.
Let’s talk about how you take something like “Joy to the World” and make it new. That’s got to be quite a challenge.
It is a challenge. And yet, there’s a very long history of great choral tradition in the UK and Europe in general, which is where a lot of our carols come from. And so, if I was having to acknowledge the fact that I was sort of going to home base for a lot of these, so it was it was daunting.
I felt like I needed to keep true to my sound, the sounds that swirl in my head, and also kind of weigh them against sounds that have come before me. You know, am I replicating something or am I acknowledging something that has already happened?
So I tinkered a little bit and tried some things on and hopefully didn’t steal from anybody. There are a few tips of the hat along the way, just acknowledging the greats that wrote arrangements before me. But it was a fun challenge.