English concert organist Simon Preston (b. 1938) was a chorister at King’s College, Cambridge, under Boris Ord and the Organ Scholar under David Willcocks. He was appointed sub-organist at Westminster Abbey in 1962, a post he held until 1967. He returned as Organist and Master of the Choristers in 1981, after eleven years at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. His published output is small but contains some very effective short choral works and a handful of pieces for the organ. The earliest of these is "Alleluyas," which appeared in an anthology of new organ compositions in 1965. Its extrovert style reflects something of his character as a performer and it is clearly influenced by the music of Messiaen. After the initial improvisatory gesture, Alleluyas is built from the juxtaposition of two contrasting ideas—the one fast and spikily rhythmic, the other a series of richly scored jazzy chords.
The work is dramatic in style. Large in concept, this Messaien-like paean of praise contrasts the declamatory style of the opening with moments of repose. A thrilling coda, recalling earlier themes, brings an exhilarating end to a work which makes demands on both performer and instrument.
This used to be a "signature piece," but I became completely afraid of it. With all the wonderful new players, organs, and works that are being posted daily, I felt like I should try to get this one going again.
I once met Simon Preston and told him that this piece made me VERY nervous to play! He said, "Well, that's the way it's SUPPOSED to be!"
OK, then... ;-)
The piece is headed by a quotation from the Liturgy of St James:
At his feet the six-winged Seraph;
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
as with ceaseless voice they cry,
Alleluya, Alleluya, Alleluya, Lord most high.