Fonds 78 - Derek Healey fonds

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Derek Healey fonds


  • 1947-2023 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

3 m of textual records and other materials

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Composer, organist, and teacher Derek Healey was born in Wargrave, England in 1936 and studied with Herbert Howells at the Royal College of Music, London (1952-1956). He received his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Durham in 1961, and continued his studies at graduate summer school at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena (1961-1963, 1966) with Vito Frazzi, Francesco Lavagnino, and Goffredo Petrassi. He also studied with composer Boris Porena in Rome (1962-1963) before moving to Canada in 1969, where he taught at the University of Victoria (1969-1971), University of Toronto (1971-1972), Waterloo Lutheran University (1971-1972), and the University of Guelph (1972-1978). He received his doctorate (D Mus, 1974).

Healey then joined the Department of Music at the University of Oregon in 1978, where he taught until 1988, when he accepted a position at the Royal Air Force (RAF) School of Music in Uxbridge, England. He retired from teaching in 1996 and moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he continues to live with his wife Olive Healey.

Healey's early compositions are marked by a neo-classic style, before showing atonal and aleatoric influences in the 1960s. His move to Canada in 1969 spurred an interest in ethnic music. Reflecting on his compositional style, Healey writes that:

"The first pieces with which I am satisfied were written in the Neo-Classic style, a style which appealed to me coming from an organist's background; the composers I particularly liked were Hindemith and Milhaud. After some four or five years I became concerned with the strict limitations of classicism and this resulted in a period in Italy where I studied the techniques of the Second Viennese and Post-Webern schools with Boris Porena and Goffredo Petrassi. The techniques of these composers have stayed with me ever since as a continuum on which to place other current interests, the most important of these being ethnic music (N.W. Canadian and other Pacific based musics) and also techniques learnt from electronic music.

"Since I have lived for considerable periods of time in England, Canada and the U.S.A., I am more conscious than most of the effect the environment has upon musical creativity – the effect of which is to divide one's compositions into a number of clearly definable artistic periods. 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 biography).

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Donated to the Music Library by Derek Healey (A2023-04).

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records pertaining to the career of composer, organist, and teacher Derek Healey. Records include manuscripts from his original compositions (op. 1-164) and other shorter works and arrangements; rough notes for his compositions; posters, fliers, postcards, programs, and photographs from performances of his compositions; significant correspondence with colleagues, including librettist Norman Newton, with whom Healey collaborated on his opera Seabird Island, op. 46; and copies of lectures, articles, and reviews of his compositions.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


Further accruals expected.

System of arrangement

Arrangement in accordance with conversations between the archivist and Olive and Derek Healey. Fonds consists of seven series:
(A) Compositions: consisting of Healey's major works, with opus numbers.
(B) Short miscellaneous works: consisting of Healey's other works, without opus numbers, including anthems, motets, carols, and music written as gifts.
(C) Rough notes and performance records: consisting of manuscript drafts, sketches, and materials from performances, including programs, reviews, and correspondence.
(D) Correspondence: consisting of general correspondence with publishers and conductors.
(E) Posters: consisting of select posters from performances including compositions by Healey.
(F) Writings: consisting of materials relating to lectures, articles, books, and poetry by Healey.
(G) Biographical material: consisting of articles about Healey and his music, and other miscellaneous ephemera.

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