Saturday, October 31, 2009

Canada: Healy Willan

Canada issued this stamp in 1980 in honor of Healy Willan. It was part of a set of two; the other (same denomination 17c) featured singer Emma Albani (1847-1930). Willan was one of the most important Canadian composers of his generation. He was for years (1921-1968) organist at St. Mary Magdalene, Toronto. Without information on the stamp, one might assume that the console shown is that of the organ at St. Mary's from Willan's era. I've played many of Willan's chorale preludes and one or two of the larger works. I have had choirs work on a couple of his anthems. A nice article about the organ can be found here.

I found this humorous tidbit at Wikipedia: People who remember Willan from his time at St Mary Magdalene's like to moderate his somewhat dourly pious public image by quoting him—it was a mainstay of concert talks by Robert Hunter Bell—as to his provenance: "English by birth; Canadian by adoption; Irish by extraction; Scotch by absorption."

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