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Sheldon Curry

Sheldon Curry, St. Philip’s Composer-in-Residence

Composer-in-Residence? Do you sleep here?

Recently, a young parishioner said, “If you’re our composer-in-residence, do you sleep here?”

Being a composer is like any other job. You show up, sit your butt in the chair and do the work. Sometimes you love it, sometimes you don’t. The gauzy movie image of a tortured, otherworldly, inspiration-possessed mystic of The Muse is a myth.

In my relationship with St. Philip’s, I write for certain choirs, services or events. I also help craft liturgies based on lectionary readings and approved resources like the New Zealand Prayer Book. Clergy guide development of these liturgies, and the music is written in consultation with St. Philip’s Director of Music.

You may recall the anthem, “God Is Here,” premiered by our mass choirs on February 6, 2011, on the occasion of the Presiding Bishop’s visit in honor of our 75th anniversary. There have been numerous other special anthems and Psalms over the last few years. We have worshipped together at special services for Epiphany, Earth Day (I loved working with the choristers for that outdoor service!) and an Appalachian Pentecost.

Each was a result of this collaborative process.

I know people in the pews and I know the church’s history. I use skills honed over 30+ years of professional experience to write special music for a congregation I care for and circumstances with which I am familiar. I start from the inside and reach out, rather than the other way around.

So that’s what St. Philip’s composer-in-residence does. (I don’t often sleep at the church, except during rehearsals.)

With that in mind, there are two unique services on the horizon:

  • Sunday, January 6, 2013, 5:30pm – A Celebration of the Epiphany: This Rite II Eucharist contains both new and ancient music and the liturgy is woven from a combination of sources. (NOTE: We also celebrate Feast of the Epiphany at the morning services on January 6.)
  • Tuesday, January 8, 2013, 7pm – A Special Service of Evening Prayer: We set aside time to focus on community building and healing framed in the context of the tragic events of January 8, 2011, and expanding to embrace all who are shocked and saddened by inexplicable violence. The service offers periods for quiet reflection and celebration of the good parts of our lives together. The liturgy calls us to a responsive ministry of mutual support and comfort for each other.  Pam Simon, an outreach coordinator for Congresswoman Giffords who was injured in the shootings, will be the preacher.

My prayer is that these services lead us in unusual ways to explore worship and our relationship to God. We cherish our traditional Anglican canon, but sometimes it’s good to examine our traditions and those of our ancestors through a wonky lens. A kaleidoscope gets our attention; we see truth we might miss otherwise.

St. Philip’s and its music ministry allow me to offer gifts and skills for specific needs and particular liturgies. You give me a chance to shift from serving a broad, but for the most part anonymous group of worshippers to one where I know people and they know me.

It a rare experience and I am grateful.

—Peace, Sheldon Curry

Sheldon Curry is a native of West Texas and a graduate of Baylor University, where he  studied and performed choral music under the direction of Robert Young and Euell Porter. He studied composition and orchestration with Prix de Rome winner Richard Willis.

He is a member of the Anglican Association of Musicians and has delivered lectures and seminars on church music in their national conferences.

His compositions appear in national and international catalogs; his choral writing includes music for small church volunteer choirs and music for choirs of hundreds. That range of experience includes writing for stage, film and commercial recordings.

He has two Grammy nominations as record producer, a top-ten country song, and many songs recorded in both the Contemporary Christian and country genres.

He has taught music from kindergarten through high school in both public and private schools.

He has planned and directed music for worship in small Baptist churches and Eucharists in large Episcopal cathedrals. He has also arranged for and conducted professional orchestras in New York, London, Chicago, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Nashville.

He is a contributing author to a book on worship styles, and he has two more books in the works.

For more information see Sheldon’s web site.

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