This is a truly remarkabke work by a truly remarkable organist, Philip Marshall (1921-2005). He was Organist of Ripon Cathedral from 1957-1966, and then of Lincoln Cathedral from 1966 until his retirement in 1986. He was a superb performer, a brilliant improviser, who was legendary for his amazing but ALWAYS tasteful accompaniment of the psalms, and an excellent choir trainer. He did not "seek fame," and was happiest in the "cathedral environment",
I had the pleasure of meeting him several times, and the "best thing" I can say about him that he was a genuinely kind man. He was very "regular," despite the brilliance that was always there. He was rather "typically British" in that he loved trains and motor sports, and was an accomplished "engineer" who had built his own model railroad from scratch.
The 'Prelude on Forest Green' ('O little town of Bethlehem') is sort of the typical sort of thing that Dr. M would have improvised.
But hold on! It is a truly remarkable piece!
It combines the well-known English melody associated with the words of "O little town," and combines them with phrases from the exquisite carol by Peter Warlock (1894-1930), "Bethlehem Down".
Normally when you think of a setting of "O little town" you think of quiet and peace - and that is part of this work as well. However, when the melody of the Warlock carol appears on the Solo organ in the tenor, it is marked "Inquieto" and the mood gets quite agitated. I find it amazing how he skillfully combines the two melodies. It just goes on and on, despite the fact that the whole thing only lasts a few minutes! There's a fair amount of "piston pushing" in this one, before it melts down at the end, the two melodies chasing, and touching, and echoing each other right up until the close.
This Prelude, dedicated: "Mementote in Domino Arthur Hutchings" was published in 1995 and is part of the "Oxford Book of Christmas Organ Music".