Today, February 2nd, is the Feast of the Purification, also called Candelmas.
Counting forward from December 25 as Day One, we find that Day Forty is February 2. A Jewish woman is in semi-seclusion for 40 days after giving birth to a son, and accordingly it is on February 2 that we celebrate the coming of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem to offer sacrifice, both on behalf of Mary and on behalf of Jesus as a first-born male. As they did so, they were greeted by the aged Simeon.
The act of the blessing of candles and grand processions are also a part of this day.
The canticle, "Nunc dimittis," also known as the "Song of Simeon," comes from this event, and is sung at every Roman Vespers and Anglican Evensong.
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).
This dignified piece is the 3rd of "Six Chorale Preludes," published by Concordia in 1951.
See the First Comment for the text and musical notes.
The score and photos/pictures are attached below.