Charles Wood (1866-1926) was born in Armagh, Ireland. He was a treble chorister in the choir of St. Patrick's Cathedral (Church of Ireland). He received his early education at the Cathedral Choir School. In 1883 he entered the Royal College of Music, studying composition with C. V. Stanford & C. H. H. Parry. In 1889 he attained a teaching position at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, first as organ scholar and then as fellow in 1894, becoming the first Director of Music and Organist. After Stanford died, Wood assumed his mentor's vacant role as University of Cambridge Professor of Music in 1924. His pupils included Ralph Vaughan Williams at Cambridge and Herbert Howells at the Royal College of Music.
This is the fifth piece in the second set of the "Sixteen Preludes." They were published by Stainer & Bell in 1912, and really quite "rare" pieces. I say that since I've heard very few of these played.
This work is based upon a tune that is not used as much as it once was, but is a fine melody, and worthy to be more widely known.
It was composed by Thomas Ravenscroft (c. 1582 or 1592 – 1635), an English musician, theorist and editor, notable as a composer of rounds and catches, and especially for compiling collections of British folk music. Little is known of Ravenscroft's early life. He probably sang in the choir of St. Paul's Cathedral from 1594. He probably received his bachelor's degree in 1605 from Cambridge.
This work is dramatic and quite monumental, as you'll quickly discover. The tune is "fragmented" appearing mostly in the pedal, and indicated by "stress" marks in the score. I've played this in a somewhat free, "fantasia-like" manner, which I think is quite effective.
The text, "Disposer supreme, and Judge of the earth" (given full in the First Comment) is a powerful one, and Wood has successfully captured the "feel and sweep" in his writing.
The score is attached below, as well as photos of Wood, Gonville & Caius Chapel, and Ravenscroft.