Harold Edwin Darke was born in London, October 29, 1888, he studied the organ with Parratt and attended the Royal College of Music, where he studied composition with Charles Villiers Stanford. He had a world-wide reputation as one of the finest organists of his era. He held positions at Emmanuel Church, West Hampstead (1906) and at St. James's Paddington. For fifty years from 1916 to 1966, he was organist of St. Michael's Cornhill, London. His weekly Monday lunch time recitals there became an institution. In 1919 he founded the Saint Michael's Singers and remained their conductor until 1966. During the second war he deputised at Kings College, Cambridge for Boris Ord from 1941 to 1945, who was on war service. Darke was president of the Royal College of Organists 1940-41 and a member of the teaching staff at the R.C.O. from 1919 to 1966, in which year he was appointed C.B.E. His Meditation for organ on Brother James's Air and his setting of the carol In the bleak mid-winter are amongst his best known compositions. He died at Cambridge on November 28, 1976.
"A Fantasy in E Major, Op. 39" was published in its "revised version" by Oxford University Press in 1931, although the edition I have (Anglo-American Music Publishers, London) dates from 1983. The work is dedicated to Betty (Elizabeth) Lutyens, a pupil of Darke at the Royal College of Music from 1926-1930. It fits-in to what we think of as the English pastoral school, and overtones of the works of Ralph Vaughan Williams will certainly come to mind. Starting and ending quietly, the work rised to a tremendous climax in the middle, and a slightly smaller one shortly before the end. It is a masterful compostion. Despite the fact that I claim to be a "button pusher", I find this work extremely hard to get just right. I can't say that I've ever heard a performance that scores a 100%, and I don't think that this one does either.