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Choral composer Eleanor Daley is appointed to the Order of Canada

January 27, 2023   ·   1 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Eleanor Daley was extremely surprised to be appointed as an Officer to the Order of Canada.

“I still can’t get my head around it,” she told the Citizen. “It’s a huge honour and I am humbled and honoured. A couple of women from Fairlawn Church were instrumental. Beth Jones began the process about three years ago and a number of people helped.”

Ms. Daley very kindly agreed to a telephone interview with the Citizen, and we were honoured to have the chance to speak with her.

She went on to say, “I suppose it is a huge validation of the compositions I’ve written over the years. Linda Beaupré [conductor of the Bach Children’s Chorus] and Lydia [Adams, Artistic Director and conductor of the Elmer Iseler Singers and the Amadeus Choir] used my early compositions. And Elmer [Iseler] was the first person to play an anthem of mine, the music for Flanders Fields.”

Born and raised in Parry Sound, Ms. Daley was a regular attendee to church and went to Queen’s University in Kingston for her Batchelor Degree in Organ Performance. She holds diplomas in piano and organ from the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto and Trinity College, England.

Soon after graduating, as she told us, “My mother saw an ad in the Presbyterian paper for an organist and music director at Fairlawn [Heights United Church] in Toronto. I got the job in 1982 and I’m still here, 40 years later.

“I just really fell into composing,” she said very modestly. “I got sick of the same old pieces. So, I started writing some pieces for the church. They were a captive audience,” she joked softly, adding, “They were very supportive of my new music over the years.”

She commented, “I was commissioned in ’93 to write the Requiem.”

Beginning to identify her priorities for composing, she said, “For me, the text is all-important; it’s the words that are important. Composing brings the words to light in the music. The poetry that speaks to me helps me write the composition.” 

She told the Citizen that she has occasionally written the words for a couple of pieces.

Within the texts that interest her come the subject of mechanical issues, how certain vowels are working.

“I’m not an intellectual writer but write from the heart,” she explained. “Some people would analyze a piece of mine but I just write what I feel.”

Because she has played for choirs all her life, she has been surrounded by music. When it comes to accompaniment, the piano has to work with the choral part and help to support it.

Ms. Daley offered the expression “word painting,”saying if there’s a poem talking about rising up, the music has to follow. It has to lift.

“The text forms the music and inspires me to write.”

Her father was a huge supporter and her mother is still alive and well, living in Parry Sound. She has three brothers and she started a rhythm band when she was four.

“I’m very grateful,” she remarked. “And also to have found work that I love.”

Does she consider herself lucky?


For a sampling of her achievements, along with composing several choral pieces which were recorded and won awards, her Requiem, recorded by the Amadeus Choir in 2000 on their CD, Songs of the Spirit, won the National Choral Award for Outstanding Choral Composition of the Year 1994. The CD won the National Choral Award for Outstanding Recording in 2002 from the Association of Canadian Choral Conductors (ACCC).

Eleanor Daley has received commissions from choirs in Canada, the USA and Europe over the years, bringing this Canadian composer’s choral music to international attention and publication. 

For Ms. Daley, her comment was that it has been a delight at the church. Covid got in the way of children’s choirs and she noted some of them sing in the seniors’ choir now.

“Back in the day,” she recalled, ”The opera singers would come to the house for dinner during Parry Sound’s Festival of the Sound.

However tremendous the honour of the Order of Canada is, Ms. Daley’s plans are “to just carry on.

“I wrote music for Look to This Day, an old Sanskrit poem,” she said.

This is a Fourth Century Sanskrit poem. The occasion was for Canadian Doris McCarthy’s 95th birthday at Amadeus Choir and Bach Children’s Chorus, at York Minister Park Baptist Church.

Choral music is an influence on children, a lifelong love and not just the singing, Ms. Daley related. To go to a concert, both the children and the adult harmony is a “very good unison thing. It can be very bonding. The working towards the goal when everybody is on the team.”

Admitting that writing music can be a huge struggle – sometimes you have to search; sometimes it just rolls out.

For her, “It’s thrilling to think that people will sing a piece of mine more than once – people feel that it means enough to sing them more than once.”

Particularly to the times that we have gone through, she is clear, people still needed to sing. So, they managed to do it; they really needed to do it. There is a huge bond.

Of her music, “It wouldn’t happen but for the singers bringing it to life.”

Ms. Daley told us, “I went to the rehearsal when Elmer was doing the rehearsal of my requiem and I was astonished at the way he brought the music out. It was a marvel.”

And for those who would join a choir: “Join, sing, soak it up. More than music, there is the whole feeling of community and lifelong friendships.”

Readers Comments (1)

  1. Vera Risk says:

    Congratulations, Eleanor! I knew you were destined for greatness from your time at Suzuki Kingston!


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