I’m Chris McCurry, a now retired priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury in the UK.
I’m Chris McCurry, a Catholic Priest of the Diocese of Shrewsbury in the UK. In 2020 I retired from active ministry at the age of 75. Way back as a child, though, I’d found the idea of composing music very exciting. It was pretty feeble stuff to begin with of course, in spite of its pretensions (my first work, when I was perhaps 9 or 10, was – of course – a symphony, which never progressed beyond one and a half vanishingly brief movements in rudimentary piano score – piano being an instrument I didn’t own and certainly couldn’t play.) Although completely self-taught, I had an extremely helpful experience in my late teens through being one of a few church students (i.e. training for the priesthood) at the English College in Rome in the mid-sixties, still at the time of the Latin Mass, who were invited to try out music for new English texts of the Mass to be used at the College (and definitely not outside of it – I guess it was a sort of experiment carried out at a safe distance from the home country In the hope that it probably couldn’t do too much harm.) It was a bit like being a Kapellmeister in the tradition of J.S.Bach, churning out music for the following Sunday….. except, of course, for the quality of the music. At the same time I continued to write stuff for my own enjoyment.
Ten years or so on, another set of circumstances moved me on to a perhaps more mature level of composing, when I was appointed chaplain at Loreto Convent Grammar School in Altrincham and (in addition to the pastoral and liturgical ministry to the pupils) was invited to write a Christmas carol for the (very good) girls’ choir. This became an annual tradition for some years; and I was then asked if I could compose a piece for the choir and orchestra for the school’s Speech Night at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. Well, I didn’t know if I could but I knew I’d like to try. So armed with books like Teach Yourself Orchestration two pieces resulted and – for what they’re worth – they can be seen and heard in the ‘Special Occasions’ category on this site.
Anyway, decades on, I still enjoy writing music; now it’s not only for my own pleasure but also – usually – to provide for particular occasions or for particular individuals or groups (choir, parish congregation) where something seems to be needed. And it’s been gratifying to find my music being adopted more and more widely.
All the same, I never nursed any burning ambitions to make a living as a composer – which has turned out to be just as well. (I did, however, have a few pieces published in obscure anthologies of Catholic church music in the seventies and onwards.) Many people have said to me, a little naively I think, ‘You really ought to get this published, you know’, as though publishers cluster round one’s desk plaintively begging, perhaps poised to bite your arm off to get their hands on a Christmas carol not composed by John Rutter; but that’s just not the way things are. I was never particularly interested in making money from my music, and that turned out to be fortunate. (If any publisher, however, should happen to find something on this site that they like… please get in touch!)
That’s why I started to laboriously create this website. (If I had a child he or she could have done it for me in minutes! Now, in its present form, many thanks are owed to Peter and Tom Walters.) The intention was simply to make my music available to anyone who might find it useful or attractive, and perhaps especially to enhance the liturgy a little in your parish, school or community. So help yourselves; though please remember all copyright remains with me. All I would ask is two things:
Please email me if you are proposing to use a piece of my music. (After all, it’s always nice to know where your children are and what they’re getting up to.)
And, in lieu of royalties, please consider making a modest donation to CAFOD in respect of any piece, especially if you’re doing quite a bit of photocopying – bearing in mind what sheet music costs these days.
Most, though not all, of this music is religious, in one way or another, and nearly all choral or vocal: liturgical music for the Catholic Mass, for congregation and/or choir, songs and carols, anthems, plus the odd one-off special-occasion piece. As regards the choir music, you may notice a preponderance of pieces written for three parts – SAT, SABar or SAB. To be honest, all such pieces are simply for SAMen. The excellent Choir in my last church had only three or four men at the time I retired, and it would have been unfair to expect them to divide into two real parts. However, many other church choirs are in the same position, so I hope this music will be of use to them. If you find yourself desperate to use some piece but have quite different resources available, feel free to email me and, if possible (no promises!), I may be able to arrange it for you.
Along with a complete alphabetical list of works there’s also a drop-down list in categories, depending on their suitability for different feasts, seasons, or occasions. Many, of course, would be appropriate at more than one time. There are PDF and mp3 buttons to click against nearly every piece to bring up the score or an audio file, or sometimes a few notes from me about the piece. (PDF files are files that are readable and printable, without format changes, by any computer equipped with the free and universally available Adobe Reader/Acrobat program.) Where the letters ‘PDF’ are followed by an asterisk, scores in Sibelius 6 format are also available if that would be helpful for anyone who, like me, uses Sibelius – again, please email me. As for the mp3 audio files, they are computer-generated: accurate and useful – but please try as you listen to them to imagine how they might sound when performed by more flexible human voices responding to the words and the flow of the music.
I intend, in addition to the 60 or so pieces here at present, to add a few more (old and new) as and when I can. I’ve also compiled a complete set of Responsorial Psalms.for the 3-year Sunday cycle and major feasts, which follow a ‘system’ and have proved to be easy and effective, according to the feedback from many parishes where they have been used. It would be hard, however, to make either the whole system or every individual psalm available on this website. I intend to work on it. For the moment, though, books with the entire system of psalms, for the 3-year cycle of Sundays as well as feasts are available from me at the price of £10.
A few of the audio files are not computer-generated but are recordings of live performances (you’ll know them when you hear them!) they are not always immaculate in terms of performance or recording quality, but still possibly helpful.
It would give me great satisfaction to find that the music on this website was helpful or inspiring to individuals and communities. I’d love to receive your feedback.