Nancy Telfer | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Nancy Telfer

Telfer (b Lindsey), Nancy (Ellen). Composer, choral conductor, clinician, teacher, b Brampton, Ont, 8 May 1950; BA (Western) 1971, B MUS (Western) 1979, honorary licentiate (Canadian National Conservatory of Music) 2004.

Telfer, Nancy

Telfer (b Lindsey), Nancy (Ellen). Composer, choral conductor, clinician, teacher, b Brampton, Ont, 8 May 1950; BA (Western) 1971, B MUS (Western) 1979, honorary licentiate (Canadian National Conservatory of Music) 2004. She began piano at six, and played the french horn during high school and university, performing in bands, orchestras, and chamber ensembles. She taught music, drama, and special education 1972-6 in the public school system, then returned to study music 1977-9 at the University of Western Ontario, where her teachers included Jack Behrens, Kenneth Bray, Alan Heard, Deral Johnson, Peter Paul Koprowski, and Gerhard Wuensch.

Telfer's Compositions

Telfer's output since she began to compose full-time in 1979 has been prolific; as of 2004 she has written more than 300 works. She is best known for her sacred and secular choral works. In Telfer's imaginative approach to traditional musical devices, illumination of the text is always paramount. Open fifths and modal harmonic progressions are frequent characteristics. She has also written for solo voice and a wide variety of instrumental media including orchestra, strings, band, brass, woodwinds, keyboard, and percussion. She has received many commissions, including from Brassroots (Dinosaurus); CBC Mostly Music (The Sea's Strong Voice); the Canadian Music Educators Association (Canadian Kaleidoscope); Douglas Haas (Moved by the Spirit); the Ontario Choral Federation (Spell of Long Past); Royal Canadian College of Organists (Psalm 57); Catherine Robbin (The Ballad of Princess Caraboo); and the University of Western Ontario Faculty of Music (Triune); as well as the Dauphin Way United Methodist Church, Alabama (The Annunciation); Hong Kong Treble Choirs Association (Tai Chi Zoo); Les Choristes (The Blue Eye of God); the National Concert Band (Fanfare); the Peninsula Women's Chorus, California (Requiem Aeternam); and the University of Illinois Women's Glee Club Orchestra (Matters of the Heart).

Among her particularly successful compositions Telfer singles out her Missa Brevis (1993) and her De Profundis (2001), both of which are frequently performed at international choral competitions.

As Adjudicator and Author

Telfer is in demand as a judge and adjudicator, having served on the panel of judges for both the World Choral Olympics 2000 in Linz, Austria, and the International Choral Festival in Riva del Garda, Italy. She has conducted many workshops across Canada and in the USA, and in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Germany, Italy, Israel, South Africa, Namibia, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Guatemala.

Telfer is an associate of the Canadian Music Centre. Some of her books have been translated into Spanish and Korean.

Selected Compositions

Orchestra and Band
The Journey, oratorio. 1982. Mezzo, SATB, string orch. GVT 1982

A Child's Christmas in Wales (Thomas). 1984. Narr, orch. Ms

The Sea's Strong Voice (E.J. Pratt). 1989. Mezzo, orch

Processional of the Aliens.1993. Band. Ms

Matters of the Heart. 1996. SSAA choir, orch. Ms

Visions of Heaven. 1998. Flute ensemble, band. Ms


Contemporary Warmups: Ideas for Choral Conductors and Solo Singers (Newmarket, Ont 1985)

'Composing for children's voices,' CMEA Newsletter, 70, Mar 1988

'Understanding new music for choirs,' CMEA Newsletter, 72, Sep 1988

'Being a composer,' Association of Canadian Women Composers Newsletter, Feb 1989

Successful Sightsinging: A Creative Step-by-Step Approach (San Diego, Cal 1991)

Successful Sight-Singing, Book 2. 1993. Kjos

Successful Warmups, Book 1. 1995. Kjos

Successful Warmups, Book 2. 1996. Kjos

Singing in Tune. 2000. Kjos

Singing High Pitches with Ease. 2003. Kjos


String Quartet. 1983. 2 vl, vla, vc. Ms

Dinosaurus. 1989. Hn, 4 trumpet, 4 trombone, tuba, percussion. Ms

The Crystal Forest. 1986. Fl ensemble. Ms

Many other works for various instrumental groupings


The Spell of Times Long Past (Hawley, Lampman, D.C. Scott). 1982. SATB, piano. FH 1985

Missa Brevis. 1983. SSA. Lenel 1985. (excerpts) AYS-001-CD (Amabile Youth Singers)/(excerpts) P3-C (cass) (Powell River Academy Singers)

Sing Praises. 1984. SATB. Lenel 1985?

Requiem. 1985. SATB. Waterloo

Ninety-Nine Names of God. 1985. SATB

Lullaby. 1987. Unison. Leslie

A Time for Sharing. 1987. Musical for children's choir, pf, fl, glock, bells. Waterloo

Noel! 1987. SATB, fl, hrp or pf. Leslie

The Blue Eye of God, 1987. SA, pf. Kjos

Requiem Aeternam. 1995. SSAA, pf, perc, opt mezzo solo. Edition Music Contact

Chasing Northern Lights. 1997. SSA. Leslie

De Profundis. 2001. SATB. Edition Music Contact

Sicut Cervus Desiderat. 2001. SSA. Edition Music Contact

Stars. 2002. SSA, 2 trp, hrn, 2 trmb. Ms

More than 100 other sacred and secular choral works, settings, and arrangements, many published by Beaudoin, Frederick Harris, Mark Foster, Gordon V. Thompson, Hinshaw, Kjos, Lenel, Leslie, Shawnee, Son-Key, and Waterloo Music, including choral arrangements in Reflections of Canada, 3 vols (FH 1985-7)


The Ballad of Princess Caraboo. 1982. Mezzo, piano. FH 1983

Jesus, My Love, My Joy. 1983. Sop, piano. FH 1985

Christlove. 1984. Tenor, piano. Ms

Portraits. 1984. Sop, piano. Ms

Song of the Wedding Day. 1991. High and low voice editions, optional flute and piano. Kjos

Some works for keyboard: Old Tales in a New Guise, folk arrangement for piano (1985, FH 1986), Put on Your Dancing Shoes, easy piano pieces (1984, New School for Music Study 1985); Voluntaries for organ (1985, Beaudoin 1986); The Sun and the Moon; The Planets and the Stars; Space Travel (all 2004, Frederick Harris).

Also the musical A Time for Sharing (1987, Wat 1988) for children's choir, piano, fl, percussion

Further Reading