Heathcote Dicken Statham, CBE (1889-1973) was educated at Gresham's School, Holt and at St Michael’s College, Tenbury, Caius College, Cambridge and at the Royal College of Music under Sir Walter Parratt.
He was Organist at Calcutta Cathedral (1913), St Michael’s Tenbury ((1920), Southampton Parish Church (1928) and at Norwich Cathedral from 1928 to 1966. His compositions were mainly for organ, especially worthy of note being the "Four Diversions," the "Rhapsody in C" (1927) the "Divertimento on Monkland", and "Rhapsody on a Ground" (1944). He also wrote a few anthems, carols, a Te Deum dedicated to the present Queen, and other services. His "Evening Service in E minor" is very distinctive, and was (is?) a favorite at Ripon Cathedral.
"Fantasia on 'Veni Emmanuel'" comes from the first book (of six) of "Festal Voluntaries" published by Novello in 1956. I think the use of the word, "festal," is to be read as "significant," rather than "triumphant."
The composers in the series are mostly of the "cathedral organist type," such as Statham, William Harris, Francis Jackson, etc.
When I had church positions, I would always take a look at this piece as a possible voluntary for Advent, but it looked "nasty" as it changes keys - a LOT!
The piece is a true fantasia, and it's flowing lines have a sense of drama and mysticism to them. In learning and playing this piece it made me think of the movement of a huge procession - far away but always coming nearer. The air is full of incense smoke, and is the procession gets near, the clamor of the crowd, and the volume of smoke veil the presence of the Lord from our eyes. We THOUGHT we'd see Him, but we can't really be certain whether or not we did.
We realize that our chance has passed as we hear the refrain stated once more, but this time it is in a stately, churchly manor, played upon the Swell diapason, and gradually disappearing into the still smoky air...