If a Canadian ever joined a choir, be at school or as a hobby, at some point, he or she likely sang something by Healey Willan, an English immigrant who landed in Toronto in 1913. He composed some 800 works, most being sacred music for choir and organ, such as anthems, hymns, and mass settings.
He composed O Lord Our Governor, an anthem for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Willan’s friends pitched in for airfare so he could attend the event and the work is still performed today at important events. While he was influenced by his love for plainsong and Renaissance music, he was a fan of Brahms and Wagner, and his music was composed with that scope in mind. He fused these two seemingly opposite styles: an homage to the scared music of five centuries ago and a reflection of the Romantic/post-Romantic era in which he lived.
Willan came across as rather prim and proper, but he wasn’t without a sense of humour – he summed himself up by saying he was “English by birth; Canadian by adoption; Irish by extraction; Scotch by absorption.”
This link is presented by Biretta Books, in corporation with the Healey Willan Society.
Healey Willan was born October 12, 1880 in London England, and died February 16, 1968, in Toronto, Canada.