Choral Composing

Chris Hutchings gives some background to two of his compositions that church choirs might find useful for Easter services and other liturgical occasions.

Crux Fidelis (SATB choir, or unison choir with accompaniment)

Crux Fidelis is intended for Easter, ideally for Good Friday but can be performed any time around Eastertide.

This was written in 1999, while I was still a student – it was originally a string quartet, but I realised it had very vocal lines to it, and that the text of “Crux Fidelis” would fit perfectly, and it became one of my earliest pieces for choir. This has been performed by several different choirs in the UK, USA and Canada. The piece looks simple – only a minute long, with no accidentals – but the SATB version demands very accurate tuning from the lower parts (particularly the D-Ab jump in the tenor part, and the G-D jump in the bass, both of which are jumps onto a semitone clash).

If performed with a unison line and organ or piano accompaniment, the piece is suitable even for beginning choirs, as the melody is mainly pentatonic and easy to pick up, with no big leaps. The melody can be doubled by an instrument if desired (email me for a transposed version).

God To Enfold Me (3-part choir; SABar or ATB)

God To Enfold Me is a short piece (2'), suitable for any time of year and for most liturgical occasions; it would make a good introit, communion motet or short anthem. It is intended for use by smaller choirs, but would be effective sung by a larger group also.

Written in 2014, to lyrics from Alexander Carmichael's “Carmina Gadelica”, the piece has had several performances already, including one by the National Youth Choir of Scotland's training choir, and a reading at the Association of British Choral Directors. It's for 3-part choir, and intended for choirs who are short of tenors and basses; the baritone part is within the range of both tenors and basses, and can be sung by all men in unison.

A version for ATB choir is also available, if you're lucky enough to have many tenors and basses (or if you have cathedral-style lay clerks who sing ATB repertoire).

My composing

When composing, I almost always begin with lyrics, finding their internal rhythm and what emotions and depths they hold, and trying to bring those through in the musical setting to add something that can't be brought across by the words alone; I think in these two pieces I've accomplished that particularly well.

PDF downloads of Chris' compositions, along with other new music are available on the New Music pages. There are many more works on Chris' website, ranging from simple pieces for unison children's choir to quite complex works for large choirs. Take a look at Chris' website for scores of all pieces, and SoundCloud for recordings of many of them.

Chris Hutchings has been composing for choirs since 1999, and has won several awards for his work; he has also completed commissions for many choirs, including the choir of St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh and orchestral hymn arrangements for St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, and a full-scale “Requiem” will be released on CD later this year (recorded by the University of Glasgow Chapel Choir).