Composer of the Month - Derek Healey


Derek Healey

Back in 1991, I hosted the joint WASBE and BASBWE Conferences at the Royal Northern, with gala concerts each evening at the Free Trade Hall. For me, one of the most interesting works played was given by the Central Band of the RAF, Derek Healey's Triptych. Since then, the Scottish conductor Brian Boddice recorded Derek's One Midsummer's Morning, a tribute to Percy Grainger, with the West Lothian Celebrity Wind, and on the 18th February of this year he celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Grainger's death with a programme which included Lincolnshire Posy and Derek Healey's English Dances. It would be great if in this his 75th year, we began a survey of his music for wind band.

Derek Healey was born in Wargrave, in the South of England; studied with Herbert Howells at the Royal College of Music, London and with Boris Porena and Gofredo Petrassi in Italy.

He has won prizes in the UK, Italy and the USA and has taught Theory, Composition and Ethnic Music at the Universities of Victoria, Toronto, Guelph and Oregon, finally becoming Academic Professor of Music at the RAF School of Music in Uxbridge, England.

He has written works in most genres, having had some fifty works published in the UK, Canada and the USA. His earlier neo-classic style gave way to atonal and aleatoric influences in the 1960's, and from Healey's arrival in North America in 1969, ethnic music became increasingly important. Works for large ensembles have been played by many orchestras and wind ensembles, and the opera Seabird Island was the first contemporary opera to be taken on a cross-Canada tour.

The works most often performed include the suite for orchestra: Arctic Images, and In Flanders' Fields and two sets of Canadian folk songs for choir. Healey's most recent extended work, 'A Mass for San Corrado', recently received its first performance in Noto Cathedral, Italy.

Healey is now retired from teaching and spends his time with composition and research, living in the Cobble Hill district of Brooklyn, New York.

More information obtainable from the composer


Op 66 Symphony II: Mountain Music 1986 32'

  1. When Men and Mountains meet,
  2. Mountain Man
  3. The West Wind,
  4. The High Snows,
  5. The Mountain's Song

Op 73 Triptych 1990 14'

Op 82 One Midsummer's Morning: 1997 20' 30"
an English folk-set - Arrangements of six English folk songs:

  1. Among the New Mown Hay
  2. The Banks of Sweet Primroses
  3. High Germany
  4. Strawberry Fair
  5. Bushes and Briars
  6. Shropshire Rounds

Op 89h Latino Preludes 1999/03 8' 45"
Four short preludes based on Latino religious songs:

  1. Fanfare, 2. Cancion, 3. Aria, 4. Salida

Op 93 Solemn Music: 2003 7' 37"
A Tribute to Station Number 3, Brooklyn - an elegy for fallen firefighters

Op 95 English Dances 2004 16' 15"

  1. Processional (Morris Dance)
  2. Cheshire Rounds (Country Dance)
  3. Jenny pluck pears (Elizabethan Dance)
  4. How d'ye do, Sir? (Morris Dance)
  5. Pop goes the Weasel (Morris Dance)
  6. Sir Roger de Coverly (Country Dance)

Op125 Kore: a symphonic poem 2010 10'
For large wind band Single movement, in four main sections

  1. Persephone picks flowers
  2. The appearance of Hades, King of the Dead
  3. Persephone in the Land of the Dead
  4. Persephone returns to Earth (the Arrival of Spring)

Recording of One Midsummer's Morning available on a disc entitled The Gathering, conducted by Brian Boddice on Amadeus AMSCD69, PROMOTED BY West Lothian Council under the leadership of the late Brian Duguid.