Fantasy on ‘Easter Hymn’ – William Henry Harris (1883-1973)
View the video here.
During his tenure as Organist at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, William Henry Harris composed much music for choir and for organ solo as well as larger pieces for the Three Choirs Festival and two premières at the London Proms. To many church musicians his name brings to mind the eight-part anthem Faire is the Heaven, surely one of the greatest pieces of Anglican church music of the last century. A man who was humble, mild-mannered, humorous, deeply spiritual, dedicated to his church work, loyal to his friends, restrained in his organ accompaniments and, sadly, impoverished in his later years hardly seems to be a description of the same man, yet they were indeed one and the same.
Stylistically, Harris remained a late Victorian/Edwardian composer. Parry, Stanford, and Rheinberger are his steadfast influences. This morning’s postlude in church, Harris’s Fantasy on Easter Hymn, never states the familiar hymn tune directly, but instead weaves its musical phrases into the texture of the piece. In the recording linked above it is played on the magnificent Willis / Harrison & Harrison organ of Durham Cathedral by Daniel Cook, Master of the Choristers and Organist of the same cathedral.