Choral Composers’ Top 10: Donald Patriquin

Donald Patriquin (photo David Wray)

Donald Patriquin received his BSc in biology before attending McGill and Toronto Universities where he studied composition with István Anhalt – a former pupil of Bartók and Kodaly – and John Weinzweig. His earlier studies in environmental biology are reflected in many of Donald’s composed works such as Karenna, Reflections on Walden Pond, A Dream (from Songs of Innocence). While professor at McGill’s Faculty of Music (now the Schulich School of Music), he taught theory, musicianship (injecting a significant repertoire of Canadian/Québécois folk music), initiated the Choral and Instrumental Arranging courses, and directed choral and instrumental ensembles. He has worked considerably with community and church choirs, as composer, conductor, organist, accompanist and clinician.

A prime aim in Donald’s many world music arrangements has been to create accompaniments equal in interest to choral content. This began with Six Songs of Early Canada (1980) and was realized fully in his various J’entends le moulin arrangements, the latest (SSA) in 2014. The recipient of several competition awards, his composition Antiphon and the Child of Mary won the American Alice Parker award while his Scottish Contrasts arrangements (Island Spinning Song and Ae Fond Kiss) took first place in Choral Canada’s (ACCC) 2010 composition competition. Donald’s world music arrangements are sung worldwide; they have been featured in many major congresses, and have helped many choirs win awards. His music is published by Earthsongs, Cypress, Lorenz and A Tempo.

Donald Patriquin’s Top 10 Canadian A Tempo Original Compositions and Arrangements

The works I have chosen have been selected only from those published by A Tempo. All have been premiered, subsequently performed, and a number of them may be heard on YouTube. PDF perusal scores are freely and immediately obtainable, and all may be ordered in PDF format. Complete recordings may be freely obtained from A Tempo.

The arrangements of Canadian songs run the gamut from a traditional west coast First Nations Welcome Chant, through two old Québecois songs – one Christmas, one secular – a contemporary east coast song by Nova Scotia ‘Song of the Year’ award winning song writers, and a very recent arrangement of a love song from the Canadian musical Waiting on a Dream.

The original works run from three carols – one composed as a young boy, one as a father, one as a grandfather – through Reflections on Walden Pond much informed by my background in environmental science, to Make Me a Channel of Your Peace reflecting my years as organist, choir director and composer of sacred music.

May you and your choirs enjoy them!

Original Compositions


A Child’s Carol (SSA)

A Child’s Carol (SSA): pdf (view sample pages)

  • A tender Christmas ‘manger’ song containing an extended ‘Alleluia’ (for choir or solo) leading to a final climactic verse.

Waiting on a Dream (SSAA/SSATB)

Waiting on a Dream (SSAA/SSATB)

  • A touchingly romantic love song that would make a fitting grand finale for a love-filled (Valentine’s Day?) concert!

Carol of the Field Mice (SA)

Carol of the Field Mice (SA): pdf (view sample pages)

  • Wind in the Willow writer Kenneth Graham says it all – “As the door opened, their shrill little voices uprose in the air, singing one of the old-time carols that their fathers composed in fields that were fallow and held by frost, and handed down to be sung in the miry street to lamp-lit windows at Yule-time.” Good Christmas fun!

Il est ne le divin enfant (SATB a cappella)

Il est ne le divin enfant (SATB a cappella): pdf (view sample pages)

  • This traditional carol, well known in France and French Canada, has been given a new spin in this lively and lightly jazzy a capella arrangement.

Reflections on Walden Pond (SATB)

Reflections on Walden Pond (SATB)

  • This coloristic twenty minute ‘environmental’ suite evokes the wilderness flora and fauna of Henry David Thoreau’s time. Each of its five movements may be performed on its own, in which case the suite’s Introduction may be used to introduce any given movement.

These Hands (SATB/SA)

These Hands (SATB/SA)

  • This energetic arrangement derives much of its energy from Canadian East Coast song-writers Dave Gunning and George Canyon who won the East Coast Music Award’s Song of the Year for this remarkable, impelling piece of music.

Make Me a Channel of Your Peace (SATB/SA)

Make Me a Channel of Your Peace (SATB/SA): pdf (view sample pages)

  • The well-known text, often attributed to St. Francis, is set to a dramatic ‘descant’ rising out of J.S. Bach’s accompanying Prelude in C. The vocal parts include Gounod’s Ave Maria which may be performed simultaneously with the ‘St. Francis’ melody. The same score may be used for S, SA, and SATB choirs.

Tsimshian Welcome Chant (SATB/SA/TTBB a cappella)

Tsimshian Welcome Chant (SATB/SA/TTBB a cappella)

  • This vibrant ‘potlatch’ song of welcome comes from British Columbia’s Tsimshian First Nations. Appropriately, this arrangement is often performed as a concert opener.

Come and See the Little Child (SA/SABar/SATB)

Come and See the Little Child (SA/SABar/SATB): pdf (view sample pages)

  • With both text and music by the composer, this energetic ‘calypso’ recalls the Christmas Story from the star in the east, through Mary and Joseph’s problems in finding a room, to “that night as all the angels sang The Son of God is born for you and the heavens fairly rang!” The same score may be used for SA, SABar, and SATB choirs

Un Canadien Errant (SSA)

Un Canadien Errant (SSA): pdf (view sample pages)

  • This arrangement of one of the most beautiful slow melodies in all of Western world music is challenging only in interpretation. As such, it is a wonderfully rewarding piece of music to spend time with.
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