A very happy 80th birthday from North West UK, which is where I first became aware of your music back in 1991.? Five years ago for your 75th birthday I wrote:
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.
Three years ago in 2013, the Royal Scottish Conservatoire under Nigel Boddice played your then most recent wind work, Owls and Pale Maidens, which was written especially for and dedicated to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Wind Orchestra and Nigel, who gave an authoritative first performance.
The work is a single movement tone poem, some sixteen and a half minutes in duration, cast in a contemporary but completely approachable musical idiom, a homage to two Glasgow artists of the first part of the 20th century, Frances Macdonald and James Herbert McNair, who with Frances’ sister Margaret and her husband Charles Rennie Mackintosh formed the legendary “Glasgow Four”, the leaders in the Art Nouveau movement in Great Britain. I had the benefit of hearing two rehearsals of the new work; it made quite an impression on me at first hearing, and by teatime on Friday I found it utterly compelling, a work that I want to conduct and indeed publish as soon as possible.
The opening motif is built on a minor third, fff descending to ppp diminuendo, and this in various guises represents The Owl, a signature motif for McNair in his designs. In this work it runs throughout, sometimes softly lyrical, plaintive, sometimes screeching over low brass and percussion. Contrast is provided almost immediately by a five note theme representing Frances Macdonald and her pre-Raphaelite Pale Maidens, gently suggested by oboes and flutes in G major, alternating with The Owl in G minor. Other thematic ideas abound, a rising arpeggio in the bass clarinet, muted thirds in the horns reminiscent perhaps of Holst, an almost Wagnerian motif in the trombones, a sweeping gesture on vibraphone, harp and piano. The mood intensifies with a piu agitato, brass ostinato accompany high woodwind. The main thematic and harmonic shape of the work is clearly stated and then developed at times through lyrical melodies of great beauty, at times through a dazzling variety of orchestrations and dynamic changes, before dying away in a heart-felt coda.
Since then there has been a sequel, written in 2013 for University of Toronto, Op 134 HUNTER: a homage to Robert Flaherty.
There are other works which I have not yet heard, and none of them have I conducted. This I plan to rectify as soon as possible. Many thanks for a wonderful legacy of wind orchestra music of great originality, charm and integrity.
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 Drderekhealey@aol.com
WORKS FOR WIND ORCHESTRA
Op 66 Symphony II: Mountain Music 1986 32'
Op 73 Triptych 1990 14'
Op 82 One Midsummer's Morning: 1997 20' 30"
an English folk-set - Arrangements of six English folk songs:
Op 89h Latino Preludes 1999/03 8' 45"
Four short preludes based on Latino religious songs:
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"
Op125 Kore: a symphonic poem 2010 10'
For large wind band Single movement, in four main sections
Op 132 Owls and Pale Maidens: a Homage to Frances Macdonald and James Herbert McNair 2012 14.11’
A colorful, episodic work inspired by the work of these two great Glaswegian Art-Nouveau artists for large wind ensemble, percussion, piano and harp.
Op 134 HUNTER: a homage to Robert Flaherty 2013 12’
Winds and Percussion
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.