WILLIAM NEIL, Organist of the National Symphony Orchestra, is well known for his performances of traditional and contemporary organ music. Prior to his appointment in 2001 as Organist of The National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC he served as Organist of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago. He has performed with ensembles like the New York Trumpet Ensemble, Millar Brass Ensemble and Washington Symphonic Brass, and with the National Symphony under the baton of Slatkin, Rostropovich, Siciliani, Hogwood and others. Mr. Neil is the first Washington organist invited to perform on the Charles Fisk Organ at the Meyerson Center in Dallas, Texas. In 2001, he was a featured soloist in the inaugural concerts of the new Casavant Organ at Robert Jacoby Hall with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. Inspired by the teaching of organists Leonard Raver, Arthur Poister and Will Headlee, and harpsichordist Anthony Newman, Mr. Neil has enjoyed a career! both onstage and in the classroom, serving on the faculties of George Mason University and The Catholic University of America as organ instructor. Many of his former students hold prominent academic and church music positions in the United States and around the world, and he is featured in recordings on the MSR Classics, Philips Classics, Sony Classical, Naxos, Summit and Newport Classics labels. William Neil was born and raised in Central Pennsylvania and attended Penn State University and Syracuse University.
This exhilarating disc is arguably the most important record Paul McCreesh has made. Praetorius, the first great composer of Lutheran church music, wrote countless pieces based on popular Lutheran chorale tunes, ranging from simple harmonizations to flamboyant fantasias for multiple choirs with instruments. He also provided detailed instructions regarding various performance options--including ways to involve the congregation. Here, for the first time, McCreesh puts these instructions into practice, reconstructing an extravagant Christmas service. We hear elaborately scored Mass movements, simple harmonizations, the Creed (with Luther's own music), lusty congregational singing, and spirited organ improvisations. Many of the Christmas chorales Praetorius used are still well-known today, including Wachet auf (Sleepers wake) and In dulci jubilo, which gets a magnificent setting with trumpet-and-drum fanfares. --Matthew Westphal