Theatricality in Healey Willan’s

Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue for organ (1916)




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… Willan, with a mystical touch and a polyphonic approach within the ecclesiastical boundaries of musical tradition is one of this century’s most significant composers. Like many Canadians, he was touched by several influences. He once commented, ‘I am English by birth, Irish by extraction, Canadian by adoption, and Scotch by absorption.’

-Larry Turner, Canada’s Digital Collections



James (Healey) Willan was born in Balham (Surrey, England) on October 12 1880, and was a promising musician from a young age, obtaining the prestigious diploma of Fellow from the Royal College of Organists at the age of 19.  He held several English organist positions and (significantly to his later career) was a member of the London Gregorian Association before emigrating to Canada in 1913 to assume the positions of head of the theory department of the Toronto (now Royal) Conservatory of Music and Organist/Choirmaster to St. Paul’s Anglican Church.  He left St. Paul’s in 1921 to become precentor (organist/music director) to the Anglo-Catholic Church of St. Mary Magdalene, a position he held until his death in 1968.


Willan liked to tell the story[1] of attending an organ recital with his friend Dalton Baker during which Max Reger’s Introduction and Passacaglia in D minor, op.127 was performed.  Baker remarked, jokingly, that such a work could only have been composed by a ‘German philosophical mind’: this remark spurred Willan on to write his own passacaglia, each variation of which he claimed to have written on a separate train journey between Toronto and his rented summer cottage near Jackson’s Point on Lake Simcoe.  The work, composed in the order Passacaglia, Introduction and finally Fugue, was completed on 30 July 1916, dedicated to Walter G. Alcock, Esq., Mus.Doc, M.V.O., organist of Salisbury Cathedral, and premiered by the composer at St. Paul’s on 30 November of that year.   Willan later sent Baker a photograph inscribed with the passacaglia theme and the simple dedication “To the cause, from the effect.”[2]


Parisian organist Joseph Bonnet spoke for much of the mid-20th century organ world when he remarked that Willan’s Passacaglia was one of the most significant since Bach’s, and called it a rare and admirable composition, conceived in an extraordinarily pure and lofty spirit, built up on solid architectural lines, illuminated by the light of harmonies by turns sumptuous and delicate; this work does the greatest honour to the organ literature of our time.[3]


Willan’s I, P & F carried forward a long tradition of chaconnes and passacaglias for organ defined for many by Bach’s BWV 582, but dating from considerably earlier (examples exist in the keyboard works of Buxtehude, Pachelbel, Frescobaldi and Purcell).  To this framework must be added influences such as the large Casavant Frères pipe organ installed at St. Paul’s in 1914 shortly after Willan’s arrival, at that time the eighth largest in the world[4], and the E-flat minor Organ Sonata No.6 of Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901), which Clarke speculates may have influenced Willan’s shifting the work’s key from the E-minor of his early sketches to the E-flat minor of its final form[5].  Of unquestionable import is also the ‘challenge’ aspect of the work’s composition: its level of difficulty, size, choice of key, culmination in a fugue, and overtly symphonic drama must be viewed in the context of picking up the gauntlet and responding one better than his unknowing (indeed, recently deceased[6]) competitor, Reger.[7]   


But rather than pursuing these factors, this paper will analyse the I, P & F, as it is universally known in organ circles, considering an element of the work rarely sought in Willan’s church music, or indeed in the entire organ passacaglia repertoire: drama.   References to Willan’s work as a theatre musician date from as early as 1906 in England; he served as Director of Music for the University of Toronto’s Hart House Theatre from 1919 to 1925, and throughout his career wrote some 40 dramatic works ranging in size from fragments to eight complete ballad, sacred, radio and fully-staged operas[8].  Still more poignantly, a well-known anecdote from his distinguished tenure at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Toronto recounts his stipulation that each Sunday the lights of the chancel be turned on at precisely the moment the procession of the clerics and Ritual Choir reached the steps – neither one moment earlier, nor one later.  


Despite its location within, and considerable debts to, the long “absolute” tradition of the organ passacaglia, I will argue that a sense of drama and depiction underlies several aspects of the conception, structure and notation of this extraordinary work, giving it a singular place in one of the organ’s most hallowed genre categories.


I.          The Organ Passacaglia at the Turn of the 20th Century


How did a Spanish renaissance dance in triple time find its way into the formal and fundamentally sacred realm of organ music?  Like the Chaconne, it came through the related and larger genre of keyboard variations: before the development of pedals as an integral feature of organ composition during the 17th century, when keyboard music migrated freely between the organ, harpsichord, clavichord and other relatives, forms more native to home and to courtly entertainments crept their way into the organ loft.  Even in a “dramatic” reading of one of these dance-derived forms it is easy to forget about the inherently visual nature of the original incarnation, as dance’s gradual entry into the north European secular keyboard repertoire (beginning in the renaissance and reaching its full flowering in the baroque) idealised and formalised (and thus, domesticated) the idiom. 


By the time of its later, and still even more unlikely, incarnation within the realm of the organ, the former dance was fully entrenched in the world of rules, treatises and conventions, to say nothing of having fully shed the inherently physical and visual world of dance for the more intellectual and exclusively auditory world of absolute music.  It was this world in which the organ passacaglia was to rest (hibernate might be a more apt description) throughout the 19th century; and protected within notoriously conservative 20th century organ composition it is in this world that it largely remains today.  One of the organ passacaglia’s principal Romantic exponents, Max Reger (1873-1916), was a devotee of Brahms who inherited the 19th century retrieval of the works of J.S. Bach including BWV 582 in full swing.  Like Willan he contributed two fine examples to the literature, and brought the full range of late 19th century harmony to bear on the form.


The Ground Bass in all its incarnations is important material to students of theory and composition throughout the English-speaking world, and it also figures into both theoretical and practical sections of examinations of the Royal College of Organists, of which Willan is laureate.  There can be no doubt that while a student in London, Willan would have studied many examples of the form in detail, and as an organist been encouraged to learn to play the great works of the literature.


II.         Willan’s Passacaglia Subject


The scope of this paper allows neither for an exhaustive analysis of the I, P & F (although a rough offering is provided as Appendix A), nor for a full comparison with the Bach and Reger works – but I will provide some depth of analysis of the Passacaglia subject and its relationship to its precursors (See Ex. 1), since as the basis for the first of the three movements to be composed it is foundational to the entire work.


Ex. 1 Passacaglia Subjects: Bach BWV 582, Reger op. 127, and Willan’s I, P & F

Willan Fugue Subject



Like Reger, Willan follows Bach’s example of doubling the traditional four-bar passacaglia period ending on the dominant into an eight-bar period, but unlike Bach and Reger, holds with the form’s earlier heritage[9] and does not ‘close’ the subject tonally: it ends as it began, on B-flat, the dominant note.  It outlines its E-flat minor tonality in its first phrase through the use of two descending fifths (perfect, then diminished) and a secondary dominant half-close which introduces three distinctive features: the colourful A-natural, the augmented second between it and G-flat/F-sharp, and the dotted quarter/eighth note rhythm as a foil to the prevailing half and quarter notes.  The opening descending fifth, also used by Reger, serves to establish tonality at the beginning of the subject, but to Willan’s unclosed subject it also has the important job of resolving the pervasive dominant note, B-flat, and propelling the work forward from variation to variation.  The second phrase establishes a secondary tonal region in the relative major, G-flat, again using a falling perfect fifth (m.5), a tonally-ambiguous echo of the dotted quarter/eighth rhythm of m.3, and then two rhythmically-ambiguous elements, the hemiola of mm.7-8 and the displaced half-close cadence which reaches its destination, the dominant note (and at that an eighth note!), on the second beat.  Because of the introduction of G-flat major the colourful A-natural functions more ambiguously in the second phrase than its more clearly secondary dominant role in the first.  


My subjective, but I think defensible “dramatic reading” ascribes a forward-moving, narrative character to Willan’s variations for precisely the reason that the subject is tonally and rhythmically open, requiring each successive variation to commence in order for the B-flat to resolve. Not only does the subject conclude on the dominant, leaving it tonally open, but it does so on a weak beat in a metrical framework obscured by hemiola, and on merely a brief eighth note leaving it rhythmically open as well (compare with the full bar downbeat ending-notes of the Bach and Reger subjects).  The third-beat anacrusic note native to the passacaglia form is important to all three subjects, but in particular to Willan’s, as it causes each tonally and rhythmically open variation to ‘topple forwards’ into the next (see Ex. 2).  This effect is amplified by the rhythmic and tonal ambiguity built into the second phrase – the resolution is all the more needed to clarify matters.   By comparison the Bach and Reger subjects which more typify the ‘modern’ eight-bar organ passacaglia subject generate variations that are tonally and rhythmically closed, making every variation finish tidily before the next begins, filling the intervening space with the new figurative material of the next variation prior to subject’s re-entry.

Ex. 2 Passacaglia, mm.52-62 (end of theme to start of variation 2)


IV.       Willan’s Variation Treatment


The eighteen continuous Passacaglia variations (a nineteenth, disjoined variation follows the Fugue) divide readily into three successively longer groups of four, six and seven (see Appendix A), each effecting rhythmic crescendo, and being followed by some form of relief from the heightened level of movement attained thereby[10].  Unlike those of Bach’s BWV 582, which like his later Goldberg Variations divide into somewhat equal groupings, the increasing size of the groups lend Willan’s work a certain “plot thickening” effect as the piece unfolds.  Carrying on this narrative, Willan one-ups Reger by culminating in a fugue, and then one-ups Bach by adding the symphonic fanfare-like transition in E-flat major and lastly a recapitulative 19th Passacaglia variation[11].  


In contrast to most works in the organ passacaglia genre (and in particular those of Bach and Reger discussed previously), two variations in Variation group 3 of the I, P & F bear characteristic descriptions (16 “quasi Marcia funebre” and 18 “quasi Chorale”), and many more may be seen within the same context of extra-musical (or at least über-musical) reference[12].  To Clarke’s three “characteristic variations”[13] which close the Passacaglia (16-18), I add three more: 13, which refers to the French organ toccata; 14, to the French orchestral ouverture; and 15, to what I call the Danse Macabre, a devilish compositional genre known best perhaps in the piece of the same name by Camille Saint-Saëns, op.40.  This variation, which leads into the quasi Marcia funebre, employs jagged dotted rhythms (perhaps twisted from those of the French ouverture of Var. 14) and mocking trumpets and the fastest metronome marking of the Passacaglia (quarter note at 116).  This sequence of significations is strongly evocative of theatrical narrative, recalling Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique’s character moving through turmoil, delusion, perversion and conflict, death and perhaps salvation in the “quasi-Chorale” which might evoke the singing of angelic choirs at the character’s heavenly reward.


While the first variation group is acceptably formulaic passacaglia material, (i.e. following the standard rhythmic crescendo) and the last can be seen as a resumption of this pattern leading into the characteristic variations discussed above, Variation Group 2 takes a slightly different approach.  Bending the usual model by rhythmically decrescendoing from the level of activity reached by the first group and then passing through two more characteristic variations (6 and 7, calling for solo stops evocative of dramatic interjections) and the echo division located at the rear of St. Paul’s Church) before embarking on a new rhythmic crescendo, this group also displays Willan’s flair for the dramatic, and willingness to disturb more formal conventions of the genre.  The soliloquy-cum-duet of Variation 6 (Ex. 3) at the centre of this group is particularly interesting in this reading, emulating as it does a dialogue between two characters (played simultaneously by the right hand on the solo stops of different manuals) and carving out a unique sonic space for itself through the distinctions of being the only variation in which the subject does not appear in some facsimile in the pedals, and the only one which modulates to and concludes in the relative major key.


Ex. 3 Passacaglia Variation 6, mm.92-102


IV.       Connections and Conclusions


On the 19th century’s absolute/programmatic- and the 20th century’s Apollonian/Dionysian musical continua, the organ and its passacaglia genre are normally located firmly in the realm of the absolute and the Apollonian, and one might particularly expect this of an English academic like Willan.  Though he was an impeccable formalist, and composer of many works which could only be described as absolute in the concept of the 19th century, in the I, P & F Willan may owe the greater debt to the drama of Strauss and Wagner than to the era’s main German-canonical organ composers, Brahms, Bruckner and Reger, or to his countrymen, Stanford and Parry. 

Looking to the second and third movements to be composed, the Introduction and Fugue, we see varying degrees of dramatic reference to the previously-composed Passacaglia variations as outlined in Appendix A, with organ registration being one of the principal signifiers.  The opening measures (Sw. pianissimo) of the Introduction (mm.1-3) evoke several spots with the same marking within the Passacaglia, including Variations 7 and 18.  The heroic B major “character” introduced in my section V of the Introduction (see Appendix A) seems to re-emerge idiomatically in passages of Variation 15 and the transitional coda connecting Variations 17 and 18 (see Ex.4 and Appendix B, mm. 161-3, 189-191).  St. Paul’s magnificent Tuba stops, introduced with this “character” in the L.H. of mm 28-29, reappear only during Variations 15-17 (see Appendix B) as the “story” of that character unfolds, and in the E-flat major transition and final variation 19 which follow the Fugue.

Ex.4  Introduction, mm.23-29

The thematic connection of the Fugue subject to that of the Passacaglia (see Ex.1) is echoed by both the latter’s own rhythmic crescendo (see Appendix A) and the tonality of the similarly Passacaglia subject based E-flat major transition episode (Appendix C, mm. 280-304) leading into Variation 19, which can refer only to the singular other E-flat major passage in the work, the “quasi-Chorale” Variation 18 (Appendix B, mm.198-210).   If my proposed ‘salvation’ reading of Variation 18 within a Berliozian mini-narrative described by the preceding five variations is entertained, this ‘fulfilment’ through the use of major tonality at the conclusion of the work becomes especially poignant to the depicted life of the character – perhaps an exultant heavenly heavenly triumph, as compared with the peace and serenity of the quasi-Chorale.


One notes also that Willan’s own stylistic markings (Animato, Maestoso, Nobilmente) at crucial points seem to displace such neutral, absolute designations such as Allegro (a term never used in the work, despite consistent metronome markings usually accorded this title), Meno mosso, etc.  Though the musical effect on the performance may be hard to distinguish from that of using more conventional terminology referencing principally tempo rather than style, the suggestion of actual dramatic characters and scenes through these more evocative terms is intriguing.


John S. MacIntosh, former professor of organ at the University of Western Ontario, contributed a personal account to Oxford’s 1990 edition of the I, P & F which is, I think, telling of the spirit with which Willan may have sought to imbue this work:


I learned the Introduction, Passacaglia & Fugue with his successor at St. Paul’s, Bloor Street, Charles Peaker, where I had lessons with him on the instrument for which he had conceived the work.  The closest I came to getting any advice from Dr. Willan was one day when I was in the middle of a lesson on the I, P & F.  Willan came in just as I was getting to the “Marcia funebre”. 
He came up behind me and said ‘My boy, make it sound like a brass band.’  I nearly went through the roof![14]


Willan’s remark, somewhat like that quoted by Larry Turner at the outset of this paper, could be seen as theatrical in the context of his larger-than-life wit and elevated position in relation to MacIntosh – but it needn’t be read as encouraging any theatrical treatment of his piece.  At least, though, it seems to encourage the young performer to think outside of the more studied conception of “organ passacaglia” proposed by the broader literature, as I maintain did Willan himself in creating this extraordinary work.





Willan, James Healey, Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue, ed. David Sanger. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 1990

Willan, James Healey, Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue.  John Tuttle at the organ of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Toronto.  Gothic compact disc 48629

Bryant, Giles, Healey Willan Catalogue. National Library of Canada/Bibliothèque Nationale du Canada, 1972

Clarke, Frederick Robert Charles Healey Willan: Life and Music. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984





APPENDIX A: Tonal, Stylistic, Registrational and Structuro-Functional Analysis


Tonal Material

Tempo, Dynamic & Stylistic Markings

Registration Markings

Structure and Function: Observations and Remarks






     Section I, mm.1-3


Adagio ¹

“Sw. to Ped. with 32”

“mystic chords” over a bass line descending by 3rds filled in with intervening semitones: +3, -3, +3 and ending with a final falling semitone

     Section II, mm.4-10

to half-close in D-flat-


m.6: “Reduce Gt.”

m.7: “Reeds”

- Extends opening tonality, establishes falling 5th in pedal (c.f. Passacaglia);

- Then a virtuosic flourish ushers in a chromatic modulation (mm.7-10), setting the harmonic tone for the movement

     Section III, mm. 11-16

half-closes in E, C-, G-flat, D-, and finally A-flat-

Animato F


- Sequential chord figurations between a soprano founded mainly on rising semitones and a bass founded entirely on falling semitones (contiguous or separated by 3rds)

     Section IV, mm.18 -23

to half-close in A-flat-



- Brief imitative extension of  final half-close

     Section V, mm.24-32

B+ to

Maestoso Ä

-Tubas introduced in m.28-29

- Surprise shift to a heroic section in B+

     Section VI, mm.33-42

D-flat+ to half-close in E-flat-, extended by a sequence of  inverted half-closes in B-flat+, G+, and E+ 

(F implied)

-Tubas used as a striking reprisal of the previously pianissimo “mystic chords” – this sonority foreshadows Var. XVI.

- Reprisals of earlier material:
     - “mystic chords” and bass line of Sec.I in a modulation from D-flat+ back to E-flat-;
     - contrary chromatic motion of Sec.III;
     - virtuosic “toccata” manual passage of Sec.II
      - the sequential material of Sec. III over the familiar descending chromatic bass

     Section VII, mm.43-45

E-flat-, ending on half-close

(Adagio implied) ¹


- E-flat- (2nd inv.) to one final half-close, preparing the Passacaglia (first return of E-flat- since Sec.II)






  Variation Group 1

   (Theme to Var. 4)




Traditional rhythmic crescendo
(theme alone in pedal, then adding quarter – eighth – triplet – sixteenth note movement)

     Theme mm.46-53


Andante moderato

q=66 p

“Ch. To Ped. w/32”

-Two-phrase theme based on
     - two consecutive falling 5ths a 2nd apart and a secondary dominant half-close in B-flat;
     - prolongation of B-flat quoting one more falling fifth.

-the colour note A natural is crucial to harmonic development of the Theme

     Variation I, mm.54-61



“Ch. 8”

- R.H. plays theme in canon at the 6th above, L.H. plays a free harmonic/rhythmic part

     Variation II, mm.62-69



“Sw. 8 Lieblich” – flute colour

“add Céleste” warms the tone colour half-way through phrase

- based on eighth note “weeping motif” in 3rds

     Variation III, mm.70-77


L.H. Solo F

L.H. “Solo”

- Free countermelody in L.H.

     Variation IV, mm.78-85



“Ch. 8 & 4”

- Extension of Var.II into 16th note movement, also adding parameter of dialogue between R.H. and L.H.

  Variation Group 2





Rhythmic decrescendo-crescendo
first reduces movement of Var. IV to triplets (V, VI) and then eighths (VII), but then increases tempo in each succeeding variation, and eventually returns to 16th movement

     Variation V, mm.86-93



“both hands on Ch. with Sw. coupled”

- Melodic variation over colourful, dreamy reharmonization

     Variation VI,



“Sw. Vox humana with Sub-coupler” – an unusual solo colour playing in two octaves above and below countermelody on a softer stop.

- Theme varied in R.H., accompanied by repeated chords in L.H.; stepwise countermelody thumbed on an adjacent manual.

- Note: only variation not having any trace of the theme in pedals.

     Variation VII,



“Echo or Swell”

- Brief echo of main melodic variation device in L.H. on “Ch. 8’ Reed”

- Melodic variation in R.H., brief echo of melody on a L.H. solo stop.

     Variation VIII,


q=72 p

R.H. Ch.
L.H. Sw.

- Lower auxiliary ornamentation in a canonic treatment between R.H. and L.H.

     Variation IX,



“Sw. or Ch. 16,8,2”

- Extension of lower auxiliary ornamentation, divided between R.H. and L.H.

     Variation X,



The “Harp”, a rare percussion stop, called for in offbeat chords

- Staccato sixteenth note figurations in right hand punctuated by offbeat percussion chords in left.

  Variation Group 3





A third rhythmic crescendo, again using both note values and tempo changes.  Vars. XIII-XVIII are characteristic variations: arguably this feature is more definitive of the 3rd group than the now-familiar rhythmic crescendo.

     Variation XI,


9/8 time sig, “legato” q.=58 (F implied)

“Great Diaps.”
- First use in passacaglia of the main colour family of the organ)

- Theme passed between all four voices with scalar counterpoint in triplet rhythm

     Variation XII,


return to 3/4 time


“Great principal” (main diapason chorus of the organ)

-Theme ornamented slightly in pedal, scalar counterpoint continues in upper voices, now in sixteenth notes

     Variation XIII,


q=88 f

Full Sw. added to Man., Reed added to Pedal

- Theme in pedal with French toccata-style
re-harmonization in manuals

     Variation XIV,



“Add to Gt.”

- Theme continues in pedal; manuals adopt a French Overture form of overdotted rhythm

     Variation XV


q=116 Ä

- L.H. Tuba fanfares (rising 5th) introduced in mm.167, recalling earlier uses in same register

- Theme transformed into straight quarter notes under a brilliant scherzo or ‘Danse macabre’ character, preparing the “Marcia funebre” of Var.XVI

     Variation XVI,


“quasi Marcia funebre”


- Hands entirely on the tubas

- Theme in the pedal in broken rhythm – reminiscent of one treatment heard in Beethoven’s Eroica (although there quietly)

- Clarke suggests influence of Liszt

     Variation XVII,
     Episode, mm.190-198


q=69 ì-p

- Tubas continue material from XVI in L.H. while R.H. punctuates with virtuosic, rhythmic, and imitative material

- Tubas added to Gt. at the climax point

- Ornamented form of Var. XVI extended by an Episode (mm. 190-198) which completes the climax (mm.192), then decrescendos and modulates to E-flat+ to prepare Var. XVIII

     Variation XVIII,
          mm. 199-210


“quasi Chorale”

q=60 ¹

“Sw. or Echo”

- Theme divided into small sections and used in imitation between the soprano and the pedal






     Section I, mm.211-243


4/4 time, Moderato ma energico

q=104 (F implied)

“Great Diaps. 8; Sw. coupled”

- Fugue subject derived from first six notes of Passacaglia theme

     Section II, mm.244-255




- Stretti, first at bar’s distance, then at half-bar

     Section III, mm.256-270




- Stretto at half-bar continues while Pedals drop out and a sixteenth-note counter-subject in invertible counterpoint with subject

     Section IV, mm.271-279


Maestoso Ä

“Full Pedal”

- Tempo broadens as pedal returns with principal theme beneath mainly free three-voice counterpoint in upper voices.

     Episode, mm.280-304

E-flat+, ending half-close

“non legato”
3/4 time


- Major key transformation into duple metre of Passacaglia Theme, juxtaposed with ¾ B-flat pedal-point.  Tuba appears as L.H. solo.

     Variation XIX

(ending with tièrce di piccardi)



“Full Gt. & Sw. Tubas to Ped.”

“Full organ” mm.315-end

- Harmonized reprise of canon from Var.I.

- Tubas appear as L.H. solo melody in octaves, recalling first appearance in m.28 in Introduction.  Last four measures recall Section II of Introduction (preoccupation with the B-flat/E-flat perfect 5th in Pedal and E-flat- tonality in manuals.



APPENDIX B: Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue: Passacaglia, mm. 146-210 Variations 13 to 18




APPENDIX C: Fugue: Transitional episode and Passacaglia Variation 19 (mm. 280-317)


APPENDIX D: The 1914 Blackstock Memorial Organ of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Toronto


Casavant Frères Ltée, op. 550 (1914), rebuild op. 2350 (1956)

IV/119, Electropneumatic key and stop action, 9 divisions, 112 stops (94 speaking), 7,459 pipes



4" pressure (reeds 10")

    16 Gross Geigen

     8 Diapason I

     8 Diapason II

     8 Geigen principal

     8 Waldf1öte

     8 Spitzflöte

     8 Rohrf1öte

 5-1/3 Quintflöte

     4 Octave

     4 Geigen Octave

     4 Flute Triangulaire

     4 Flute Couverte

 2-2/3 Octave Quint

     2 Super Octave

 1-1/3 Fourniture IV

   1/2 Cymbal III

    16 Contra Tromba

     8 Tromba

     4 Octave Tromba


4" pressure (reeds 8")

    16 Dbl. Stopped Diapason

     8 Horn Diapason

     8 Viola da Gamba

     8 Voix Celeste

     8 Erzähler

     8 Stopped Diapason

     4 Octave Gamba

     4 Lieblichflöte

     2 Flautina

     2 Plein Jeu V

     8 Oboe

    16 Double Trumpet

     8 Trumpet

     4 Clarion



TUBA (floating)

16" pressure

     4 Principal

     2 Grande Fourniture V

    16 Trombone

     8 Tuba Sonora

     8 Trompette Harmonique

 5-1/3 Quint Horn

     4 Clairon Harmonique

     8 Tuba Mirabilis

     4 Tuba Clarion


CHOIR (I) 3½" pressure

    16 Quintaton

     8 Spitz Principal

     8 Viola da Garnba

     8 Salicional

     8 Vox Angelica

     8 Cor de Nuit

     4 Spitzflöte

     4 Zauberflöte

 2-2/3 Nazard

     2 Blockflöte

 1-3/5 Tierce

 1-1/3 Larigot

     1 Sifflöte

     1 Zimbel IV

    16 Contra Fagotto

     8 Clarinet





8" pressure

    16 Contra Viola

     8 Flute Harmonique

     8 Quintaton

     8 Viole d'Orchestre

     8 Viole Celeste

     4 Concert Flute

     4 Viole Octaviante

     2 Piccolo Harmonique

 2-2/3 Cornet de Violes III

    16 Corno di Bassetto

     8 Hautbois d'Orchestre

     8 Cor Anglais



ECHO GREAT (floating)

4" pressure

    l6 Contra Gamba

     8 Open Diapason

     8 Salicional

     4 Harmonic Flute

     8 Horn


ECHO SWELL (floating)

4" pressure

     8 Viola da Gamba

     8 Voix Celeste

     8 Unda Maris

     8 Gedeckt

     4 Lieblichflöte

     8 Dolce Cornet V

    16 Contra Oboe

     8 Vox Humana




3½" pressure (reeds 8")

    32 Double Diapason

    16 Diapason

    16 Contrabass

    16 Subbass

    16 Geigen (Great)

    16 Viole (Orchestral)

    l6 Gedeckt (Swell)

    16 Quintaton (Choir)

10-2/3 Gemshorn Quint

     8 Octave

     8 Principal

     8 Stopped Flute

     8 Viole Octave (Orchestral)

     8 Still Gedeckt (Swell)

 5-1/3 Octave Quint

     4 Super Octave

     4 Chorallbass

     2 Blockflöte

     2 Fourniture III

 3-1/5 Harmonics II

    32 Bombardon

    16 Ophicleide

    16 Trombone (Tuba)

     8 Posaune

     4 Clarion



    16 Diapason

    l6 Bourdon

    l6 Gamba (Echo Gt.)




       Great to Pedal 8, 4

       Swell to Pedal 8, 4

       Choir to Pedal 8, 4

       Orch. to Pedal 8, 4

       Tuba  to Pedal 8


       Swell to Great 16, 8, 4

       Choir to Great 16, 8, 4

       Orch. to Great 16, 8, 4

       Tuba to Great 8

       Echo Great to Great 8

       Echo Swell to Great 8, 4

       Swell to Choir 16, 8, 4

       Orch. to Choir 16, 8, 4

       Tuba to Choir 8

       Echo Great to Choir 8



       General pistons - l2

            (1-10 thumb and toe)

       Orchestral - 6

       Swell - 6

       Great - 6

       Choir - 6

       Pedal - 6

       Tuba - 4

       Echo Great - 2

       Echo Swell - 2


       General Release




       Great to Pedal
             (thumb and toe))

       Swell to Pedal

       Choir to Pedal

       Orchestral to Pedal

       Tuba to Pedal

       Echo on - Main off

       Swell to Great

       Choir to Great

       Orchestral to Great

       Tuba to Great

       Orcbestral to Swell

       Swell to Choir

       Choir to Orchestral

       Full Organ (thumb and toe)



      Choir to Swell 8

      Orch. to Swell 8

      Tuba to Swell 8

      Echo Swell to Swell 8

      Choir to Orch. 8

      Tuba to Orch. 8

      Echo to Orch. 8


      Orchestral 16, Unison, 44

      Swell 16, Unison, 4

      Great Unison, 4

      Choir 16, Unison, 4

      Echo Swell 16, Unison, 4

      Echo Great 16, Unison, 4

      Echo On



[1] Clarke, Frederick Robert Charles. Healey Willan: Life and Music, p.180.

[2] Clarke, p.180.

[3] Oxford University Press Music Bulletin of February 1941, quoted in Willan, James Healey, Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue, ed. David Sanger, p.iii.

[4] For complete specifications, see Appendix D.

[5] Clarke, p.180

[6] He died of a heart attack on 11 May 1916, aged 43, during the spring Willan was writing the I, P & F.

[7] Interestingly, the genre-definitive Bach BWV 582 has a similar, if perhaps apocryphal, tradition: it is believed to have been devised by Bach for a 1717 improvisation contest at the court of Dresden between Bach and Parisian organist Louis Marchand.  On the eve of the contest Marchand is said to have snuck into the church where Bach was preparing, heard BWV 582, and promptly fled back to Paris!

[8] Bryant, Giles. Healey Willan Catalogue, pp.29-35.

[9] For example in those of Handel, Buxtehude, Pachelbel, Purcell, etc.

[10] Like Clarke (p.181) I exclude Variation 18 from membership in any group.

[11] In a gesture to musical unity, this disjoined 19th variation retrieves the canon at the sixth above used in the first variation (See Ex. 2 and Appendix C, mm.305-312).

[12] This entire sequence, variations 13-18, is included as Appendix B to this paper.

[13] Clarke, p.182.

[14] Quoted in Willan, ed. Sanger, p.iii.