Alan Gray (23 December 1855 – 27 September 1935) was a British organist and composer. He was born in York, and attended St Peter's School and Trinity College, Cambridge. From 1883 until 1893 he was Director of Music at Wellington College. In 1893 he returned to Cambridge, succeeding C.V.Stanford as organist of Trinity College, and remained organist there until 1930. He died in Cambridge in 1935 at the age of 79. Among his compositions are music for the Anglican services, the monumental anthem, "What are these that glow from afar?", which was written to commemorate those who fell in World War I, and numerous organ works, many of high quality, and many extremely difficult. Sadly, his organ works have all but disappeared from the repertoire, even from the repertoire of English organists.
Gray was a TALL man, who stood at 6'7"! However he was said to be very gentle, especially with choristers, who loved him greatly. He is still thought of with words of praise at Trinity College.
"Fantasia on Christmas Carols" dates from the year 1909, and is dedicated to Frank Bates (1856-1931) who was organist of Norwich Cathedral for 42 years.
I found this to be very hard to get right. It's a continuous set of "variations" that combine the carols, "God rest ye merry, gentlemen," "In dulci jubilo", and "The First Nowell". The last two are played simultaneously. The writing is demanding and always tricky. Gray had HUGE hands, and if you don't, you'll struggle in more than one spot. You really need to follow the score, which is included.
I want to call this work monumental, but that might be because of the difficulty that I had with it. I don't know if it was ever a popular one, but although I've looked from time to time, I've never heard any other performance of it.
This work has been out of print for many years. I had it in an old book, but that book was "borrowed" years ago, and it was only recently that this reappeared on IMSLP.
Merry Christmas to All!