Today is the Feast Day of the Confession of St. Peter, the Apostle. It is the day when Jesus asks his disciples who men say He is. Peter answers by proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God, and receives the blessing of Jesus.
The Canadian Enclycolpedia 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. It represents the culmination of Willan's first period of organ composition, which started ca 1906 with a Fantasia on 'Ad coenam agni.' 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 work is dedicated "To Dr. Charles Peaker", a well-known English/Canadian organist, and student of Willan. It is the first of five pieces, published by Oxford University Press in 1951 below.
Willan sets the famous plainsong in a vigorous, "Allegro energico, and is something of a cross between a toccata and a fanfare, and the quick-moving counterpoint is quite involved, and makes for a solemn, yet very festive mood.
The score is attached below, as well as photos of Willan, Charles Peaker, and El Greco's painting of the Confession of St. Peter.
I hope to do the rest of this complete set, so, hopefully, more Willan to come soon!