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).
"Prelude on 'Ellers'" is the the sixth work in "36 Short Preludes and Postludes on Well-Known Hymn Tunes, Set II," and based upon the once popular tune, "Ellers", which was composed by Edward Johns Hopkins (1849-1901), organist of the Temple Church, London, and one of the leading organists of his day. Willan's setting is compact and expressive.
I have to admit that there was a time when I simply could not tolerate this melody. This was made worse by the fact that the church where I was working LOVED it...
It's hard to imagine a "prelude" upon this hymn, as it's always a closing hymn, as made clear by John Ellerton's text:
Savior, again to thy dear name we raise
with one accord our parting hymn of praise.
We stand to bless thee ere our worship cease,
and now, departing, wait thy word of peace.
The score is attached below, as well as photos of Healey Willan and one of Edward John Hopkins, composer of the tune.
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