John Ellis (1943-2010) was an English physician, composer, and organist. Though medicine was his career until retirement in 2002, Ellis held several organist positions throughout his life, and in his final years began composing music (organ solos, choral pieces, and art songs). All the works on this CD ( the first of two volumes of his organ music) were composed in the 1990s. The disc was originally released in 2000 on the Dunelm label, and has now been rereleased by Divine Art/Diversions. This first disc largely contains works of approachable character and suitable difficulty for church use. The second volume (recorded newly for divine Art/Diversions), performed by Robin Walker, contains larger-scale pieces including his magnus opus, an organ symphony. The composer died very shortly after the release of the second volume; he had supervised both recordings.
Ellis’s music is tonal and falls firmly into a conservative English 20th-century “cathedral” idiom. Though it is all well made and inoffensive, its primary interest will be to organists seeking new service repertoire, for which it is very suitable. The most substantial piece on the CD is Allegro and Passacaglia (1995), which is the one most likely to be useful in a recital context. Probably the most enjoyable piece is the Concert Waltz (1999), which blends the Victorian English waltz idiom and aspects of the French organ style.
The noted English organist Ronald Frost performs well on the 1996 Sixsmith organ of his own parish at St. Ann’s Church, Manchester. Recorded sound is fine.