I heard that the great work of the composer Healey Willan, particularly within the context of the potential for English chant and polyphony, is being remembered and encouraged in a new society. The Canons Regular of St. John Cantius have established the Healey Willan Society "in consultation with Mrs. Mary Willan Mason [daughter of Healey Willan], for the purpose of fostering the musical works of Healey Willan."
While Willan’s music is known and loved by church choirs, organists and
instrumental ensembles, much of his music in no longer in print or has
never been published. After Johann Sebastian Bach, Healey Willan is the
most prolific composer of church music. It is the goal of the Canons
Regular of St. John Cantius and of the Healey Willan Society to bring
back into print as many musical works of Healey Willan as possible. This
will be accommodated through Biretta Books, Ltd., the publishing
house of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius. The Healey Willan
Society will foster an increase in the public performance of his musical
works in churches, concert halls, etc., as well as through audio
recordings, as well as in film, radio, the Internet and television, etc.
Healey Willan composed two of my very favorites. One is an absolutely marvelous setting of the Te Deum for use in Matins. It was a particular favorite at Junior and Senior College and I still miss singing it even after so many years away from those institutions. I only wish that I had a decent recording of the Willan Te Deum. The only one I could find on YouTube was a rather poor recording of one of the Concordia Colleges holding an alumni gathering. I did purchase the November Feasts album of the Choir of St. Peter's in the Loop. (From Fr. Hollywood: A magnificent choir known as the Schola Cantorum of St. Peter the Apostle (formerly the Schola Cantorum of St. Peter's in the Loop) has given the
Church a wonderful musical gift for this sacred time of transition in
the her calendar.
This album, Music for the November Feasts,
is one of my favorite musical albums of all time - in any category.
This is definitely a "desert island" CD. It is an ecumenical
collection of sacred music covering centuries in a diverse mix of
ecclesiastical musical styles: hymn and chant, English and Latin, old
and new, a choir of men and women singing both a capella and with
The other of my favorites is the Willan setting of p. 15 from TLH. It was composed at the behest of the LCMS Commission on Worship (there was another one they commissioned but I cannot recall it at this moment - Bender, perhaps?). I also sang this Willan setting first at Junior College in Winfield and came to love it dearly. As far as I know only Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, still uses this setting and it is, if I recall, their primary liturgical setting in use there. I have accompanied this and found this absolutely delightful. If I had had my way, it would have made it into LW and LSB. In my mind it is far superior to the also beloved setting from TLH still with us as Divine Service Setting Three. The Kyrie was initially available in Hymnal Supplement 98 by CPH but copyright issues have always been a problem with Willan's estate and much of this music is out of print. The new hymnal committee elected to use a different Kyrie for LSB.
Both were issued by Concordia Publishing House in the late 1950s or very early 1960s -- both as an accompaniment edition and as a paste in booklet (the Divine Service) or single sheet (Te Deum) so that they could be attached to the inside or outside cover of TLH and made a permanent part of that book. I would love to know if others have had any experience of these wonderful settings (outside the Concordia Colleges or Redeemer). It would be great to know that they are alive and well.
While I am reminiscing, I would highly recommend Willan's Introits and Graduals for the Church Year for all those using the one year series. It is of the highest quality and always in style -- plus, easily accessible for the volunteer choir without great musical ability!