William Walond Organ Voluntary VI (Op. 1)

William Walond Organ Voluntary VI (Op. 1)

The William Walond Organ Voluntary VI from his Opus 1 set is without question the most original in the collection. William Walond (1719 – 1768) was an organist who lived and died in Oxford. (See William Walond for a more complete biography.) In 1752 he published a set of six voluntaries for organ or harpsichord, generally designated Opus 1 to distinguish them from the second set published in 1758. The first set was printed for Walond by John Johnson, a music publisher, instrument maker and seller whose business was based in the Harp and Crown, Cheapside, directly opposite Bow Church. Despite careful attention to detail, the edition is not without its errors, several of which concern Voluntary VI.

Voluntary VI is one of two in the set written in D minor (the other being Voluntary III) while Voluntary IV has its first movement in D minor but the second movement is in D major.

Of the set, Voluntary VI is by far the most interesting and contains a number of particular features worth noticing.

You can download a PDF file of the score of the William Walond Organ Voluntary VI HERE together with his other voluntaries. And you can listen to a recording and follow the music here:

All the voluntaries in the set consist of two movements, the first always slow, and the second faster. Each slow movement ends with a short bridging passage of two, three or four bars. Most movements are in 4/4 or 2/2 time, the exceptions being Voluntary III, which opens with a 6/8 Siciliana, and Voluntary VI, with its opening Largo movement in 3/4 time.

Four of the second movements in the set are for cornet, cornet and ecco (echo), or cornet and flute (see William Walond to listen to these other voluntaries). The second movement of the William Walond Organ Voluntary VI is a double fugue.

First Movement

Voluntary VI is by far the most extensive in terms of manuals required. The first movement consists of a solemn and thought-provoking Largo, almost a funeral march, despite its triple time. For the opening, Walond has specified “Full Organ”. This becomes essentially a contemplative dialogue between the Great organ and the Swell organ, the Swell clearly enclosed with Walond providing careful directions for the opening and closing of the box. While the Swell is specified in the Siciliana movement of Voluntary III, and for the closing four notes of Voluntary V, only Voluntary VI has any indication of expression.

In the first and second passages where the Swell is specified, the right hand plays the Swell manual but Walond calls for the left hand to accompany it with a stopped diapason on the Choir organ. The third and subsequent passages are for both hands on the Swell alone. The final time starts out with both hands on the Swell, but half way through Walond specifies that the left hand should switch to the Choir again (presumably to use the stopped diapason, but this is not actually specified here).

This last Swell passage also features directions for expression without the Swell pedal markings, though these probably are intended for the Swell pedal. Walond marks the opening of the passage “Piano“, and when the left hand switches to the Choir it becomes “mezzo“, then closes “Piano“. These are the only such markings in the entire set.

Ad libitum

Another unique feature of this movement within the set is the direction “ad Lib.” and “Adagio ad Libitum” at two different points, allowing the player to input his own moments of creativity while (hopefully) respecting the style of the piece. Walond himself has thoughtfully provided three such “ad libitum” examples of his own earlier in the movement, three places where runs of 32nd and even 64th notes appear for a bar or two.

This movement also features the fullest chords in the set, mostly containing four, five, or six notes. (The second movement ends with chords containing seven and eight.)


There is more ornamentation in the first movement than in any other in the set. Four turns are specified in this movement and in the recording that accompanies this article these have been realised according to the method set out by James Hook in his Guida di Musica of 1785.

Finally, for this movement, it is worth noticing the compass. The left hand of the Full Organ passage has its lowest note as A1 – the 3rd A below middle C – while one of the Swell passages hits the D three octaves above Middle C. Again, these are the lowest and highest notes in the whole set.

The first movement of Voluntary VI is without question the most complex of all the movements in the set.

Second Movement

Written A Tempo Ordinario in alla breve or cut common time (2/2) metre, the second movement is a double fugue consisting of a confident first phrase of 3½ bars (measures) and a second tune of a descending chromatic scale, also of 3½ bars.

While this movement is essentially a dialogue between Great organ and “Chear Organ Full”, the manual used for the opening is not specified but is most likely to be understood as the Great.

Chear organ

The two “Chear” organ passages serve to divide the fugal part of the voluntary into three. They both stand outside the fugue itself acting rather as interludes comprising faster moving sequential patterns based on quavers or 8th notes. However, Walond cleverly brings all together in the closing bars when he combines the two fugal themes with a running bass figure that recalls the interludes.

Of particular interest is the beginning of each of the “Chear” interludes. They both overlap with the closing chords of the Great organ in a way that are impossible for one player to perform if required to switch manuals. While holding down a minim (half note) chord with both hands on the Great, the score starts a running quaver (quarter note) scale on the “Chear” after just a quaver’s rest into the chord. Might the intention have been for a second player to perform these passages on a smaller, portable “Chair” organ of the type that are known to have existed in Oxford colleges and cathedral establishments, for use in choir practices?


The style of the second movement, while conforming to Walond’s practice of contrasting a slow movement with a faster one, nevertheless matches the gravitas of the opening movement’s mood and is more stately than the other second movements in the set.

An example of one of John Johnson’s errors in the William Walond Organ Voluntary VI can be found in the tenth bar, first note, of this movement where he has printed a B sharp instead what is clearly meant to be a B natural.

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We would be interested to read any comments or views you may have on the William Walond Organ Voluntary VI – either the work itself, or the analysis, or the performance. Please regard this article as a springboard for interesting discussion (below).

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