The Canadian Encyclopedia says this about the "early" organ works of Healey Willan (1880-1968): With the music for organ one enters a different world. Here Willan was thoroughly at home and made a significant and lasting contribution. One work stands out: the monumental "Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue" of 1916. The Preludes and Fugues in C minor and B minor and the "Epilogue" are the other major works from this period. While not exploring the possibilities of the instrument as searchingly as his masterpiece, they are idiomatic and very typical of their time. They combine an innate Englishness (with a Stanfordian flavour) and a European chromaticism that can be found in Reger and Karg-Elert.
Born in England, Willan became organist-choirmaster of Toronto's largest church, St. Paul's, Bloor Street, but it was his royalties as a composer which allowed him to leave "low church" St. Paul's in 1921 and to become Precentor of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene (Toronto).
The tune, "O filii et filiae" is a Latin hymn dating from the 13th century. It is traditionally sung on the Sunday following Easter Sunday, and deals with the dramatic scene where Jesus appears a second time to the disciples, this time, when the apostle Thomas, who doubted that Jesus had risen, was present. Hence the phrase, "Doubting Thomas".
Willan's setting is dark, and passes through a fair amount of key centers, in an almost "Reger-like" manner. The mood is grandiose, and although the tonality is minor, it is not a gloomy piece - but not all together happy, either.
The work was published by C. F. Peters in 1956, and is dedicated: "For Francis Jackson", pupil of Sir Edward Bairstow. Jackson, like his teacher, was a long-time organist of York Minster, and well-known as recitalist and composer.
The sound of the organ is the latest in the ongoing refinement of the Peterborough Hill sample set.
The score is attached below, as well as photos of Healey Willan and Francis Jackson.