Music Notes for Fourth Sunday of Easter — April 21, 2024

Rise up, my Love, my Fair One – Healey Willan (1880-1968)

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Songs of love have been written from the earliest records of human existence. None are more passionately ecstatic than the Song of Solomon, which occupies a unique place in holy scripture in both style and content. It contains lyric poems of love and courtship, as might have been sung at Jewish weddings. For Christians, these poems may speak to the beauty of the union of Christ and his ‘bride’, the Church, and have also been allegorized to illustrate other facets of Christian belief.

Healey Willan (1880–1968) was a prolific British composer and organist, spending most of his career in Toronto. “English by birth, Irish by extraction, Canadian by adoption, and Scotch by absorption” was Willan’s witty summary of his ancestry and taste. He has over 800 works in all genres to his credit. Like his British counterparts Stanford, Parry and Finzi, Willan admired and parodied the music of the Tudors. Rise up my love, this morning’s communion motet dates from 1929. Willan was devoted to the Gregorian tradition, as can be heard in this simple but effective piece. With the text’s references to rising and new life after the passing of winter, it is highly appropriate for Eastertide.

Gerald Harder