Nancy Telfer: warmth, welcome and whimsy

Nancy Telfer is a Canadian composer living in Bracebridge. She received her formal education at the University of Western Ontario where she concentrated on music education, composition, piano and voice. Since 1979, she has composed more than 350 works for soloists (instrumental and vocal), chamber ensembles, orchestras, bands and choirs, over 150 of which are published in Canada, the United States and Europe. She is perhaps best known for her choral works, and resources for singers.  To me, she is best known for her humility and warmth.

I have worked with Nancy several times in different capacities.  A few years ago, I interviewed her for a paper I was presenting on Canadian identity in music.  Aspects of ‘Canadian-ness’ are not only expressed through her arrangements of, and work with Canadian folk songs, Nancy also said, “My love for wide open spaces and music for large ensembles is a result of being Canadian. The link with the environment (nature) is also very Canadian. The open demonstrations of caring but still letting other people have their own space are also a Canadian feature.” Her music encourages conversations about national identity, emotions and creativity.

It was a pleasure to have Nancy join me recently in a Skype workshop with a group of my singing students who were preparing her compositions. Nancy is warm and welcoming.  She puts performers at ease, and encourages them while challenging them to reflect and improve.  For studio teachers, many of her whimsical compositions are included in the RCM syllabi for piano and voice.  Her imaginative style is engaging and challenging for students. Her choral works constitute an immensely valuable and relevant contribution to choral music programs both in public schools and within community groups.

I celebrate Nancy Telfer, as a successful composer, performer and teacher. Ms. Telfer has provided quality choral music and resources for choir directors; her music places value on skill-building and musicality; and her compositions are imaginative and engaging. But more than this, she is a lovely person. Here is a link to read more about Nancy, and with a full list of her publications:  I encourage you to consider including her compositions in your teaching and concert programming, and/or to invite her to come and work with your group.

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