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Prelude on "Bedford"

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Uploaded by: Agnus_Dei (10/28/20)
Composer: Willan, Healey
Sample Producer: Lavender Audio
Sample Set: Hereford Cathedral Willis Organ
Software: Hauptwerk IV
Genre: Mid-20th Century
The Canadian Encyclopedia 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. 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 flavor) 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).

The tune, "Bedford" is linked with a number of texts, so, I'm not sure which words Willan had in mind when he wrote this.

The tune was composed by William Wheal (Weale) (c.1690-1727) was the organist at St. Paul's, Bedford. He graduated with a Bachelor's in Music from Cambridge in 1719. The tune "Bedford" appeared in the "Psalm Singer's Magazine" of 1729, but it was probably first published earlier. It appears in The Divine Musick Scholars Guide by Francis Timbrell, which has an unknown date of publication, but copies found in personal libraries have dates beginning in 1723.

Willan's setting is flowing expressive, with a perfect sense of balance and shape. Nothing is wasted or puffed up, and everything falls neatly and devotionally into place.

It is the second work in "36 Short Preludes and Postludes on Well-Known Hymn Tunes."

The score is attached below, as well as photos of Healey Willan and one of the impressive church of St. Paul's, Beford.
Performance: Live
Recorded in: Stereo
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