CANADA 150 Guide to Canadian Music

June 30, 2017

2017 is Canada’s 150th year! To mark the occasion, we’ve put together The Leading Note Guide to Canadian Music, with a list of Canadian composers, arrangers, and collections for you to browse. Check out some of our personal favourites below!


Canada has a rich and varied choral tradition, with too many composers to list all in one place! If you’re looking for that perfect Canadian piece for your choir to mark 2017, we recommend the following composers/arrangers: Stephen Chatman, Eleanor Daley, Matthew Emery, Stephen Hatfield, Laura Hawley, Donald Patriquin, Nicholas Piper, Sarah Quartel, Imant Raminsh, Mark Sirett, Nancy Telfer, Ruth Watson Henderson, Healey Willan, and James Wright.

Laura Hawley – Vivre, Aimer, Partager

Local composer (and former Leading Note staff member!) Laura Hawley’s piece “Vivre, Aimer, Partager (Ahlamdoulillah / Tala’ al-Badru ‘Alayna)” gained international acclaim after going viral in December 2015!

James Wright, professor of composition at Carleton University, is another local composer. Check out his fantastic setting of the late Honourable Jack Layton’s “Letter to Young Canadians”—a favourite of Ottawa’s own Orkidstra program!

Looking for a Canadian addition to a worship service? Canadian choral legend Healey Willan has a number of great anthems, including the ever popular “Rise Up My Love, My Fair One” (perfect for weddings!)

Celebrate the life of Canadian icon Leonard Cohen with a performance of his best known song, “Hallelujah”!



There are a LOT of versions of O Canada out there, and it can get confusing finding the right one. Check out our suggested versions below.

For SATB choirs, consider the old favourite arrangement by Godfrey Ridout!

Ruth Watson Henderson has a beautiful arrangement of O Canada for 2-part choirs, with ranges and difficulty suitable for a variety of voices and skill levels!

Looking for a simpler piano version for a student? Check out this simplified edition from Mayfair Publishing, a Canadian company! O Canada is also included in all Conservatory Canada books, arranged to match the grade level of the book!

Looking for a version for voice and piano? Try well-known Canadian arranger Stephen Chatman’s version!

O Canada is also available in many versions for larger ensembles, such as this one for beginner string orchestra! Having trouble finding an arrangement particular ensemble? Give us a shout!



There’s a wealth of Canadian piano music available at all levels. Check out some of our top suggestions below, or take a look through our catalogue to see what treasures you can find!

Looking for a Canadian selection for your RCM exam, or a showpiece for a concert? Check out Alexina Louie’s “I leap through the sky with stars”.

For a jazzy twist, check out Canadian piano legend Oscar Peterson’s “Canadiana Suite”!

There is also a variety of repertoire available for less experienced students! Frederick Harris’ series of elementary/intermediate repertoire contains works by a number of Canadian composers (including local composer Christine Donkin) for a range of students.



Canada’s rich tradition of song, both English and French, has created a vast repertoire for singers, ranging from folk songs to opera to art song.

For that Eastern sound, Keith Bissell’s settings of Maritime folksongs, with songs from across the East, are classic, yet elevated.

Originally written for Canadian alto Maureen Forrester, Robert Fleming’s “Confession Stone” has become a favourite concert and recital piece for altos and mezzos across North America.

Up-and-coming Canadian composer Matthew Emery has been making waves with his gorgeous sense of lyricism and colourful musical language. He was named one of CBC’s Top 30 Classical Musicians Under 30 in 2016!



Not limited to piano or vocal works, Canadian composers have made significant contributions to repertoire for all instruments. Check out some suggestions below.

For violin, check out Oskar Morawetz’s “Duo for Violin and Piano”. With its strong rhythms and bold exploration of tonality, this piece is sure to please! Check out more Canadian repertoire for violin here!

Local composer Deirdre Piper’s “Fantasy for Viola” is a free blend of lyricism and technique perfect for advanced players. See more Canadian viola repertoire here!

Malcolm Forsyth, father of former NACO principal cellist Amanda Forsyth, wrote a variety of repertoire for cello, ranging in difficulty and style, including this tender piece, “The Swan Sees His Reflection”. For more Canadian cello repertoire, click here!

Canadian organist and composer Denis Bedard’s publication company Cheldar specialises in Canadian music for organ. Along with works by Willan, Watson Henderson, and others, there is a wide variety of Canadian repertoire to choose from. Click here to see more Canadian organ repertoire!

Gary Kulesha’s “Prelude and Fugue for Trumpet and Piano” bring a classic form into the 21st century with a distinctly Canadian flavour. For more Canadian trumpet repertoire, click here!

Jacques Hetu’s “Aria for Flute” was originally written as a contest piece, designed to test the competitors’ breath control with its long phrases and delicate lyricism. Click here to view more Canadian music for flute!



For those academically inclined, we also have a selection of books on Canadian music, ranging from history textbooks to artist biographies to stories of Canadian musical institutions!

Timothy McGee’s “Music of Canada” covers the history of Classical music in Canada from the 17th century through 1984.

From Anne of Green Gables to Billy Bishop Goes to War, Canadians love our musical theatre! Part history, part memoir, this book explores the rich story of musical theatre in Canada.
Vladimir Konieczny - Glenn Gould: A Musical Force

Canadian pianist Glenn Gould was renowned the world over for his skill (and eccentricity!). His biography makes a fascinating read, at times humorous, at times tragic.


Think we missed something? Having difficulty locating a Canadian work? Need some advice on Canadian repertoire? Drop us a line or check us out on Facebook!


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2 Responses to “CANADA 150 Guide to Canadian Music”

  1. Sheila White says:

    Hi Tina, Gary and Sheilah,

    Happy Canada Day to you as well! And thank you for all the fantastic and important work that the Leading Note continues to do for musicians, and various communities in Ottawa, and well beyond. The efficiency in which the orders are dealt with by such a knowledgeable and friendly staff, in addition to a fantastic website is all very much appreciated.
    Here are a few concert band charts by Canadian composers that I did with our bands over the past few months (many of which were swiftly received through our order at the Leading Note!) that I would highly recommend:
    (for intermediate level concert band):
    Cape Breton Lullaby, by K Leslie arr.Vince Gassi
    North Shore Overture, by David Marlatt
    Takin Care of Business, by R Bachman, arr M Sweeny
    Hallelujah, by L Cohen, arr M Brown
    Sketches of Canada, Trad, arr M Storey
    Land of the Midnight Sun by Vince Gassi
    Ogopogo, by Robert Buckley

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