The Canadian Enclycolpedia 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. It represents the culmination of Willan's first period of organ composition, which started ca 1906 with a Fantasia on 'Ad coenam agni.' 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).
These works are dedicated "To Dr. Charles Peaker", a well-known English/Canadian organist, and student of Willan. "Christe, Redemptor omnium" is the second of five pieces, published by Oxford University Press in 1951.
It is the Office Hymn at Matins on Christmas Day, although we certainly wouldn't recognize the sound of it as a "Christmas piece"!
It's really a very lovely item, intimate, yet intense, requiring the player to play the "interludes" rhythmically, while the chant is played "senza misura," or, "free rhythm, moving freely from the two styles. The exquisite "Amen" and final cadences are sublime.
The score is attached below, as well as photos of Willan, Charles Peaker.
More Willan coming soon!