My Compositional Journey: Wendy Edwards Beardall-Norton

Many will know that I enjoy highlighting the work of living composers, particularly educational composers – and especially music written by women. Today, I welcome back Canadian composer Wendy Edwards Beardall-Norton. Wendy, who is married to composer Christopher Norton, who has so generously written numerous posts for this blog, is a ‘star’ composer and is currently published by several publishers, including 80 Days Publishing, Debbie Wanless Music, and Boosey & Hawkes. Here, Wendy lifts the lid on her fascinating life and compositional journey.

Hi Everyone – Wendy Edwards Beardall-Norton here!

I’d like to thank Melanie Spanswick for inviting me to write this blog post for her site!  We met in Britain when she and my husband, Chris(topher) Norton were working together and I admired both her talent and her creativity, as well as her positive and sunny personality.

Where do I start?  I was born in Toronto, Canada, but spent most of my growing-up years in Hamilton, Ontario.  I studied both dance and piano in my formative years, as well as having occasional singing lessons.  As a teenager I was most fortunate to be a student at Westdale Secondary School in Hamilton, where the music program was brilliant.  I spent 90 minutes a week in the music department for a period of five years. I played clarinet, studied music theory, and played in bands and orchestras and sung in a fantastic choir.  It was a gift for anyone who adored music as much as I did!

Not long after graduation, I married a Toronto fellow, and for the next 15 years we lived in Weston, a suburb of Toronto, where my husband had been raised.  In those 15 years, we acquired three sons, Gregory, Cameron and Jeffrey, and as I had no piano at the time, I bought a ‘Stella’ guitar and taught myself to basically strum and sing such memorable songs as ‘Jean, Jean’, to the everlasting annoyance of my three sons, who nevertheless all became proficient guitarists!

In 1972, my husband’s work took us to Fredericton, New Brunswick, where we settled down for what we thought would be a short stint – BUT- we bought a piano, I proceeded to take formal lessons again and within a year had started my own piano studio, under the tutelage of the wonderful Mary MacLean, a venerable and masterful teacher who had been instrumental in the founding of the NBRMTA (New Brunswick Registered Music Teachers’ Association).  We were still in Fredericton in 1999 when my husband suffered a fatal heart attack. I was faced with the decision of staying out east or returning to Ontario, where my youngest son was living and was very involved with bands and a burgeoning music career.  I decided to stay in New Brunswick, sold our family home and bought a beautiful town-house on the St John river.  For almost 15 years I enjoyed my life, teaching piano and music theory and continuing to be very active in our local branch of the NBRMTA.

I taught all grades up to ARCT and found time (sporadically) for writing some music of my own, either to inspire students, or to express my own musical creativity.

In 2007, the renowned UK composer Christopher Norton came to Fredericton as part of a North American tour to launch his ‘Connections’ series, commissioned by the Royal Conservatory of Music, Canada’s premier examining board.  At the time I was President of the local RMTA branch and I was asked to look after Chris during his time in town.  Who was to know then that seven years later he would return and propose to me with the question ‘would you rather spend the next forty years of your life teaching piano, or would you like to leave it all, and travel the world with me?’ Well, what would any sane woman say to that proposal?

Since our marriage we have lived in London U.K. (for four years, at the Barbican) and then in 2018 we decided to move to Canada and we chose chose Stratford, Ontario, as our Canadian home.  We have never regretted the move to this lively music, art and drama-infused city!

When we married, Chris had no idea that I was a writer of words – I had written short stories and works for children, as well as a lot of poetry. I was also a lyricist, and had written words to many songs, my own as well as for others. I had already written a lot of music.  Of course, I had never felt it necessary to publish ANY of my work!

Over the almost ten years of our marriage Chris has been the most encouraging of partners, and because of that, I have had a great deal of my work published, both by the excellent Canadian publisher, Deborah Wanless Music, and by Chris’s own publishing company, 80 Days Publishing. I have also co-written, with Chris, many of his 30-plus MicroMusicals for junior and senior schools, some of which I wrote completely myself! These have been or will be soon be published by Boosey & Hawkes.

I have also had the privilege of setting new melodies to 20 John Wesley hymns, in a book called Eternal Depth. I have published, with Chris, 10 volumes of Songs from the MicroMusicals, written Memories, featuring four of my songs and written a number of pieces (for an Australian publisher) of unaccompanied and accompanied flute music. I have also written a number of commissioned pieces. Arrangements of some of my pieces will be on the new ABRSM string syllabus. I have produced four books of intermediate level piano pieces – Take it from Me, Take it from Me Again, So Here We Are Again and Images of Remembered Places. I have just completed Streets of Salamanca, a collection of six piano pieces influenced by Spanish music and dance. A free sample from this book, Castanets and Flamenco, is available for download below.

I must publicly thank Christopher Norton for his encouragement, support and enthusiastic publicising of my work.  He is not only an amazingly talented composer, but is the most un-competitive person in his field!  I’m so glad I became his fellow-traveller in 2014!



Songs from the Micromusicals, Eternal Depth and Memories

Piano books


Castanets and Flamenco from Streets of Salamanca: audio and sheet music

Spotify artist page

Wendy Edwards Beardall-Norton


Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.

For more information, please visit the publications page, here.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Martin says:

    Thank you Melanie for this blog post. Indeed, she has already had a nice career in her own way and has done a lot of work. And together with Christopher, what a duo, professionalism everywhere. The song immediately puts me in a Spanish mood, also one for my “to do” list. Nice that the fingering is included and it can also be listened to, this couldn’t be better! 😉

    1. Hi Martin, thank you for your kind comments. I am so glad that you found Wendy’s story interesting, and hope you enjoy playing the piece. Melanie 🙂

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