Bernard Naylor | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Bernard Naylor

Bernard (James)Naylor. Composer, conductor, organist, b Cambridge, England, 22 Nov 1907, d Bassenthwaite, Cumbria, England, 19 or 20 May 1986; B MUS (Oxford) 1930, honorary LLD (Manitoba) 1980, honorary LLD (Winnipeg) 1980.

Bernard Naylor

Bernard (James) Naylor. Composer, conductor, organist, b Cambridge, England, 22 Nov 1907, d Bassenthwaite, Cumbria, England, 19 or 20 May 1986; B MUS (Oxford) 1930, honorary LLD (Manitoba) 1980, honorary LLD (Winnipeg) 1980. Grandson of John Naylor (1838-97) and son of Edward (Woodall) Naylor (1867-1934), both English organists and composers of note, he studied with Gustav Holst, John Ireland, and Vaughan Williams at the RCM and was an organ scholar 1927-31 at Exeter College, Oxford University. During his first Canadian sojourn, 1932-5, he was conductor of the Winnipeg Male Voice Choir, the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir, and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and was organist-choirmaster at Holy Trinity Anglican Church. He took a post in England as organist and musical director 1936-9 at Queen's College, Oxford, but returned to Canada in 1940, founded the Little Symphony of Montreal in 1942, and conducted that orchestra until 1947. After another short term, 1948-9, with the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir he left again for England, where he taught 1950-2 at Oxford University and 1952-9 at Reading U. In 1959 he took up permanent residence in Canada, working thereafter almost entirely as a composer, first in Winnipeg and from 1968 in Victoria, BC.

Naylor wrote large-scale, heavily scored orchestral and choral works as a young man but rejected many of these later. There was a period after 1935 when he ceased composing, but he resumed in 1947 and gradually evolved an intensely personal style of choral writing, lean yet passionate, singular yet idiomatic, exemplified by the Three Latin Motets and Nine English Motets. He received commissions from the CBC (King Solomon's Prayer, written in honour of the coronation of Elizabeth II), the Winnipeg Choristers (Missa da camera), the University of Manitoba Chamber Music Group (The Nymph Complaining...), and Peggie Sampson (On Mrs. Arabella Hunt Singing). Though he composed mainly to liturgical texts, it would be incorrect to label him a church composer. It is poetry itself - often but by no means exclusively poetry of the church - that attracted him.

Naylor died in his sleep while visiting friends in England. He and his wife Dorothy left an extensive collection of fine and decorative art to the Winnipeg Art Gallery. His library (including some 1000 scores) and papers were acquired by the University of Victoria. His status as an associate composer is maintained by the Canadian Music Centre.

Selected Compositions

Orchestra and Voice
The Living Fountain (R. Watkyns). 1947-63. High voice, string orch. Novello 1966

The Annunciation According to Saint Luke (Bible). 1949. Sop, tenor, SATB, chamber orch. Novello 1949

King Solomon's Prayer (Wisdom of Solomon IX). 1953. Sop, SATB, chamber orch. UE 1955

Three Shakespearean Sonnets. 1957. Bar, orch. Ms

Stabat Mater (13th-century liturgical). 1961. SSAA, orch. Novello 1964

Three Sacred Pieces (liturgical). 1968-71. SATB, full orch. Ms

Personal Landscapes (P.K. Page). 1971. Sop, chamber orch. Ms


Sonnets from the Portuguese (E.B. Browning). 1948. Mezzo, string quartet. Ms

String Trio. 1960. Ms

The Nymph Complaining for the Death of Her Faun (Marvell). 1965. Mezzo, chamber ensemble. Ms

Not So Far as the Forest (E. St Vincent Millay). 1966. Sop, string quart. Novello (rental)

On Mrs. Arabella Hunt Singing (Congreve). 1970. Sop, voice da gamba, harpsichord. Ms

Dejection (Coleridge). 1973. Bar, woodwind trio, horn, string quartet, piano. Ms


Three (Latin) Motets (various). 1949. SATB, soli. Western 1949-50

Nine (English) Motets (Bible, Apocrypha). 1952. SATB, soli. Novello 1960. (No. 1, 2, 5, 6, 8) (1965). Argo ZRG-5426 (John Alldis Choir)/(No. 4) 1976. Abbey LPB-770 (Chichester Cathedral Choir)/(selections) (1979). RPC Z-07221 (Concordia Choir)

Six Poems from Miserere (D. Gascoyne). 1960. 2 soprano, SSAATTBB. Rob 1972

Exultat mundus gaudio (various 16th century, adapted A. Freeland). 1969. Sop, alto, tenor, bass, SATB. Rob 1972

Missa sine Credo a 4 (liturgical). 1969. SATB. Rob 1973

The Three Stars/Epode (D. Gascoyne). 1973. Sop, tenor, bass, SSAATTBB. Ms


Presences (M. Webb). 1947. High voice, piano. Ms

Speaking from the Snow (Lewis). 1947. High voice, piano. Rob 1973. Centrediscs CMC-2185 (Vickers)

Songs of Regret (M. Webb). 1947. Low voice, piano. Ms

Four Dreams and a Vision (R. Pitter). 1974. Low voice, piano. Ms

Three Feminine Things (R. Pitter). 1974. High voice, piano, Ms

Several other works for orch and chamber ensemble, numerous works for choir, some works for film and stage, including music for the play entitled The Cloak (1967). Some published, some manuscript; listed in Compositeurs canadiens contemporains and The Catalogue of Printed Music in the British Library to 1980 (London 1985)

Further Reading