Although born in England, James Healey Willan spent most of his professional life in Canada, most famously as precentor of the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Toronto. As a high-churchman, the Anglo-Catholic liturgy here suited him, and he was instrumental in establishing the musical standards for which the church is famous. Willan’s compositions (written mostly for the choir at St Mary Magdalene) were held in such regard that Willan was the only non-English composer to be asked to submit a piece for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Likewise, he was the first non-English church musician to be awarded a Lambeth Doctorate by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
His Postlude in D is an ebullient piece with some interesting harmonic twists. Written in triple meter and in ternary form, the quieter central section (the latter part of which is built over a dominant pedal point) is framed by two bold passges notable for their descending scales in the pedal part.
The 1877 ‘Father’ Willis organ of Salisbury Cathedral would have been very familiar in sound to the English instruments Willan played before emigrating and is therefore ideally suited to his organ music.