This Awareness of Beauty is the first book to consider the orchestral and wind band music of Canadian composer Healey Willan, who was known primarily for his choral work. A succinct biography accompanies historical, analytical, and critical investigations of Willan’s instrumental music, asserting Willan’s seminal place in Canadian music and the significance of his orchestral and wind band music both nationally and internationally.
Each composition is investigated in chronological order to illustrate the composer’s evolution as a creator of instrumental music from his early years in England to his later, and more notable, accomplishments in Canada. Willan’s orchestral music may be seen as both a reaction to and a stimulus for the significant improvement in Canadian orchestral performance during the 1930s and 40s, a factor in the creation of his large-scale compositions, including two symphonies and a piano concerto.
Although much has been written about Willan, most of it has centred on his choral work, with biography and/or musicology as the frame of reference; this project considers his instrumental music in terms of performance, provides historical context for many of the works included, and corrects errors that have crept into the literature.
`It is in the chapter on the band works that the author's enthusiasms emerge most strongly—and it is here that his book breaks valuable new ground. One of Willan's best-known instrumental pieces, the Royce Hall Suite for concert band, composed in 1949, bears on its title page the indication ‘edited and scored by William Teague. ’. Teague, a staff arranger with the New York firm Associated Music Publishers, performed this assignment using written indications by the composer. Kinder has examined their correspondence, and uses it in presenting a bar-by-bar critique of the score, concluding with the judgement that a new instrumentation giving greater respect to Willan's notes would greatly improve the Suite's effectiveness. These pages are the most vivid in the book, and make one hope to one day hear a new version, perhaps prepared by Kinder, an experienced band director, himself. ''- John Beckwith, CAML Review, 42, no. 2, August 2014