Biography and Key Works
Dr. ARTHUR WILLS was Director of Music at Ely Cathedral from 1958 to 1990, and also held a Professorship at the Royal Academy of Music in London from 1964 until 1992. He has toured extensively as a recitalist in Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong, and has broadcast, appeared on TV and made many recordings, both as a soloist and with the Ely Choir.
His secular music includes seven song cycles, and an opera, “Winston and Julia”, based on the Orwell novel.
He has composed prolifically for the organ, and his ensemble works include a Concerto with Strings and Timpani, a Concerto for Guitar and Organ, and a Symphonic Suite: “The Fenlands” for Brass Band and Organ.
His Choral Concerto, “The Gods of Music” for Organ, Chorus and Brass with Percussion Ensemble was commissioned for the Biannual Keyboard Festival of the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia in 1992.
His book, “ORGAN”, appeared in the Menuhin Music Guide Series in 1984, with a second edition in 1993 and a third reprint in 1997.
The Ely Choir has recorded a CD of his choral and organ music from 1955 to 1990 on HERALD HAVPCD 197.
In May 1999 Hyperion Reecords reissued two recordings from the early 80’s on one CD – his Symphonic Suite: “The Fenlands” for Organ and Brass Band, including also music by Elgar and Walton, together with Dr. Wills’ transcription of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” for solo Organ (CDH55003).
His recording entitled “Full Stops” first issued in 1978, which includes his Variations on “Amazing Grace” was issued on CD 84305 in 1995 by Meridian.
In celebration of Dr. Wills’ 75th birthday in 2001, Jeremy Filsell recorded for Guild a CD of his organ music on the organ of Tonbridge School Chapel, Dr. Wills being heard as narrator in his Variations on a Theme of Henry Purcell – “Wondrous Machine” (Guild GMCD 7225).
Novello have recently published his transcription for organ of three movements from Holst’s PLANETS Suite – Mars, Venus and Jupiter, and these have now been recorded by Joseph Nolan at the organ of Ripon Cathedral on Herald (HAVPCD 274).
Robert Crowley studied with Dr. Wills at the RAM and has recorded a second CD, “Icons” of Dr. Wills’ organ music on the recently rebuilt organ of Ely Cathedral for Lammas (LAMM168D). Lammas is headed by Lance Andrews who was a chorister at Ely Cathedral in the early 1950’s when Dr. Wills was Assistant Organist.
Arthur Wills was appointed OBE in 1990.
Arthur Wills’ memoirs, “Full with Wills” was published by Pen Press in the spring of 2007.