Basil Harwood (1859-1949) was born on 11 April 1859. He went up to Charterhouse in 1874 and left in 1876 having won an Exhibition to Trinity College, Oxford where he initially studied Classics and Modern History. He then studied for a further two years, 1881–1882, at the Leipzig Conservatory under Carl Reinecke and Salomon Jadassohn.
In 1883, he became organist of St. Barnabas Church, Pimlico completing his Sonata in C# Minor here in 1885. After this success, he then moved to Ely Cathedral in 1887 where he wrote the bulk of Dithyramb, possibly his greatest organ work. His final appointment was as organist at Christ Church, Oxford and as precentor of Keble College, Oxford from 1892 to 1909. He retired early at 50 (in 1909) but continued to compose prolifically. His organ works are very significant, and the "blackness" of his scores has sometimes had him referred to as the "English Reger".
He was a man who loved walking, was fastidiously proud of his beard, and who was loved by his choristers. His choirboys called him "Old Billy"... ;-)
"Three Preludes on Anglican Chants" was published by Novello in 1925. An "Anglican chant" can be simply defined simply as a way to sing unmetrical texts, including psalms and canticles from the Holy Bible, by matching the natural speech-rhythm of the words to the notes of a harmonized melody.
Certain chants have, by tradition, custom, or indication of the composer, been associated with specific psalms or canticles. This double chant (14 measures) was composed by Lord Mornington Garret Colley Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington (1735-1781) who was an Anglo-Irish politician and composer, for which he is remembered chiefly for glees and this chant. It is is is more "general" in nature, and often sung with words of praise and triumph. In this setting, the largest and most "involved" of the three, Harwood produces a unique sound and texture, which is almost "classical" in the lightness and grace of its phrases.