Feast of Healey Willan (February 20)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of Canada, 1965-Present

Image in the Public Domain

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JAMES HEALEY WILLAN (OCTOBER 12, 1880-FEBRUARY 16, 1968)

Canadian Anglican Organist and Composer

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A scholar with a musical background a thousand years deep.  One of the chief sources of his inspiration is Gregorian music….He is obviously well acquainted with the English school, and…the method and traditional music of the Eastern Church.

–Quoted in Armin Haeussler, The Story of Our Hymns:  The Handbook to the Hymnal of the Evangelical and Reformed Church (1952), 183

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(James) Healey Willan comes to this, A GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES:  AN ECUMENICAL CALENDAR OF SAINTS’ DAYS AND HOLY DAYS, via The Hymnal (1941), of the old Evangelical and Reformed Church.

Willan was a son of James Burton Willan and Eleanor Healey Willan.  Our saint, born in London, England, on October 12, 1880, started his musical education when four years old.  He, a choirboy at St. Saviour’s Choir School when eight years old, went on to serve as organist and choirmaster of St. Saviour’s Church, St. Albans, from 1897 to 1900.  Our saint, steeped in Anglo-Catholic liturgical and musical traditions, served as the organist and choirmaster at Christ Church, Wanstead (1900-1903); then at St. John the Baptist Church, Kensington (1903-1913).  He married Gladys Ellen Hallin in 1905.  The couple had three sons and one daughter.

The Willan family moved to Canada in 1913.  He became the head of the theory department at the Toronto Conservatory of Music (1913-1920); the Vice President of that conservatory (1920-1936); the organist and choirmaster at the Anglican Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Toronto (1921-death).  Our saint received his doctorate in music from the University of Toronto in 1921.  He, the Director of Music at Hart House, the University of Toronto (1919-1925), served on the music faculty at that university (1937-1950).  Furthermore, Willan served as the President of the Authors and Composers Association of Canada (1933f).  He also became a Companion of the Order of Canada (1967).

YouTube offers some interesting and informative videos regarding Willan.  There is an interview (parts 1 and 2).  I also refer you, O reader, to a recording of our saint playing the organ at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene.  Furthermore, I recommend that you listen to recordings of some of his compositions:

  1. Piano Concerto in C Minor (1944);
  2. The Three Kings;
  3. Missa Brevis #2 in F Minor;
  4. Missa Brevis #5 in F Sharp Minor;
  5. Lo, in the Time Appointed;
  6. Rise Up, My Love;
  7. Hodie, Christus Natus Est; and
  8. Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue for Organ (1916).

Willan composed in a traditional style informed by his Anglo-Catholic roots, Tudor-era music, and German Romanticism.  His oeuvre encompassed about 800 compositions.  These included masses, motets, organ works, cantatas, symphonies, chamber music, and settings of poems.

Willan, aged 87 years, died in Toronto on February 16, 1968.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY, PRINCESS OF HUNGARY, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF ALICE NEVIN, U.S. GERMAN REFORMED LITURGIST AND COMPOSER OF HYMN TEXTS

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR HENRY MANN, ANGLICAN ORGANIST, CHOIR DIRECTOR, HYMNODIST, AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND PIANO BUILDER; AND HIS SON, JACOB CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN PIANO BUILDER

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHN STONE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

We bless your name for inspiring Healey Willan and all those

who with music have filled us with desire and love for you;

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 728

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