Derek Healey | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Derek Healey

Derek (Edward) Healey. Composer, organist, teacher, b Wargrave, England, 2 May 1936; B MUS (Durham) 1961, D MUS (Toronto) 1974. Derek Healey studied at the Royal College of Music 1952-6 with Herbert Howells (composition) and Harold Darke (organ).

Healey, Derek

Derek (Edward) Healey. Composer, organist, teacher, b Wargrave, England, 2 May 1936; B MUS (Durham) 1961, D MUS (Toronto) 1974. Derek Healey studied at the Royal College of Music 1952-6 with Herbert Howells (composition) and Harold Darke (organ). There he won the Cobbett, Farrar, and Sullivan prizes. He also studied composition in Italy at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena (1961-3) with Goffredo Petrassi and Boris Porena, before moving to Canada, where he lived for nine years. He taught 1969-71 at the University of Victoria, 1971-2 at the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo, and 1972-8 at the University of Guelph. In 1978 he joined the Department of Music at the University of Oregon and in 1988 became professor of music at the Royal Air Force School of Music in Uxbridge, England. Healey retired in 1996 and settled in Brooklyn, NY.

Healey's Compositions

Derek Healey's compositional style, originally neo-Classical, later made use of atonality and the chance elements and mass-structure techniques of the 1960s. The titles of some of his works and his interest in native music bear witness to Canadian influence on his work. His compositions Gabriola, Opus 70 (1989), Salal, Opus 71 (1990), and From the West, Opus 72 (1990) are all based on the native music of British Columbia. From the West was commissioned by Rivka Golani. He composed substantial works for organ (eg, Partita '65), for orchestra (Arctic Images and Gabriola), and for chamber ensembles (Stinging, a work notable for the instruments' imitation of the synthetic sounds on the tape). His opera Seabird Island was commissioned by the Guelph Spring Festival and premiered there 7 May 1977. It was the first professional contemporary opera to tour Canada in the 20th century. Homage: F.D., Opus 65 (1985) for piano and organ was commissioned by Hugh McLean.

Healey's output has been steady and shows no signs of letting up. Since the early 1990s he has composed well over 40 works and has had several of these recorded. His music has been played by the Amadeus Choir, the Elmer Iseler Singers, Musica Intima, Patrick Wedd, The Winnipeg Singers, Quartetto di Sassofoni Acadia, and The New York Virtuoso Singers, in Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Italy. His most-played work in Canada remains his arrangement of the "Salish Song," which is regularly programmed by choirs from coast to coast. Reflecting on his multi-ethnic style, Healey observed that "Despite the resulting compartmentalization of one's creative output, I feel that my music has been true to the different artistic worlds in which I have lived - the resulting divergences being an exciting phenomenon of global shrinkage and the immigrant twentieth-century composer" (Canadian Music Centre site).

Healey has more than 40 works published by Novello, Chappell, and Boosey & Hawkes. Other publishers include Jaymar and Augsburg. He is an associate of the Canadian Music Centre.

Selected Compositions


Seabird Island, opera in two acts (libretto - Norman Newton). 6 singing roles, chorus (mute), chamber orchestra. 1977


Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani, Opus 8. Ms. 1960. CBC SM-143 (CBC Vancouver Orchestra)

Six Epigrams, Opus 21. 1963. Vn, piano. Kerby 1976

Butterflies, Opus 36 (Matsuo Basho, Buson, Mortake, Shiki, Shusen). 1970. Sop, orch. Ms

Arctic Images, Opus 40. 1971. Orch. Ric 19778. CBC SM-265 (CBC Vancouver Orchestra)/Louisville LS-769 (P. Hétu)

The Raven, Opus 37. 1971. Str orch. Ms

Stinging, Opus 38. 1971. Alto recorder, violoncello, harpsichord, tape. Ms

Triple Concerto 'Noh,' Opus 42. 1974. Fl, piano, synthesizer, orch. Ms

Sweet Prospect. 1977. Orch. Ms

The Battle. 1978. Tpt, piano. Ms

Desert Landscape with Figures, Opus 49. 1978 (rev 1985). Orch. Ms

Oregon Fancy. 1978. Chamb orch. Ms

Tribulation and the Morning Trumpet. 1978. Orch. Ms

Wood. 1978. Sop, elec ensemble. Ms.

A Shape Note Symphony, Opus 53, 47, 45. (1975-9). Orch. Presser 1975 (3rd movement). (3rd movement Primrose in Paradise) CBC SM-331 (CBC Vancouver Orchestra)

Shaker Set No. 1, 2, and 3. String orchestra or string quintet. 1993

Serenata II: 'From the West.' String orchestra. 1995

Alert Bay: Idyll II. Orchestra. 2001

Red Hook Scherzo. Orchestra

Four Preludes on Latino Religious Songs. Violin and organ. 2000

Cuatro Alabanzas. Flute, clarinet, trombone, percussion, piano, violin, and cello. 1999/2002

Ocho Alabanzas. Flute, violin, viola, and piano. 1999/2002

A Sonata for Virginia. Violin and organ. 2004

Strange Dialogue. Two tubas. 2005

Cinco Preludios. Clarinet, violin, viola, and piano. 2005

Larus goes to Far Rockaway. Solo alto saxophone. 2006

A Northern Phantasy. Clarinet, viola, and piano. 2006

Three Characteristic Pieces. Saxophone octet. 2007


'O God of Truth' (St Ambrose). 1966. Sop, SSS, organ. Gordon V. Thompson 1975

Discendi, Amor Santo, Opus 28a (Bianco da Siena). 1967. SATB, organ. Ms

'Clouds,' Opus 41 (Matsuo Basho). 1972. SATB. Waterloo 1973

'There is One Body' (Ephesians). 1972. SATB, 2 synthesizer (tape). Gordon V. Thompson 1975

Six Canadian Folk Songs (traditional). 1973. SATB. Gordon V. Thompson 1973. CBC SM-274 (Festival Singers)

'In Flanders Fields' (John McCrae). 1974. Sop, SATB, alto recorder. Gordon V. Thompson 1976. 1978. 2-World WRC-6646 (Ont Choral Federation Choirs in Contact)

The Brown Season. 1978. Fl, percussion, SATB. Ms

Three Ross Songs. Baritone or mezzo soprano and chamber ensemble. 1994

Northern Songs, Book 1 and 2. Soprano, violin, piano, and organ. 1999. W.W.E. Ross

Five Edward Thomas Songs. Mezzo-soprano and piano. 2005

The Silvered Lute: a Wang Wei Song Album. Soprano and piano. 2006


Cookham Notebook, Opus 30. 1967. Org. Ms. RCI 481 (McLean)

The Lost Traveller's Dream, Opus 35. 1970. Org. Jaymar 1972

Three Quiet Pieces for Organ. 1974. Augsburg 1978

Lieber Robert, Opus 43. 1975. Pf, tape. Ms

Paraphrase - 'Discendi, Amor Santo,' Opus 26b. 1975. Org. Ms

Summer '73/Ontario, Opus 44. 1975. Org, tape. Ms

Also a work for tape, Incidental Music to Night Thoughts, Opus 39 (1972)

Further Reading