Leo Sowerby (1895-1968), often called the "Dean of American church music," was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he began to compose at the age of ten. His interest in the organ began at the age of 15, he was self-taught at the instrument. He studied composition with Arthur Olaf Andersen at the American Conservatory of Music, Chicago. He spent time in France during World War 1 in the role of bandmaster. In 1921 he was awarded the Rome Prize, the first composer to receive this. He joined the American Conservatory of Music as faculty in 1924. In addition he received the 1946 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his cantata, the "Canticle of the Sun," written in 1944. In 1927 he became organist-choirmaster at St James’s Episcopal Church, Chicago. Previously, Sowerby was associate organist at Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago (1919).In 1962, after his retirement from St James’s, he was called to Washington National Cathedral to become the founding director of the College of Church Musicians, a position he held until his death in 1968. His substantial output includes over 500 works in every genre but opera and ballet. His later works, done at St James's, Chicago, and Washington Cathedral, are primarily church music for choir and organ.
Published by H. W. Gray in 1956, "Prelude on Song 46" is 5th in a set of "10 Preludes on Hymn-Tunes." It is dedicated: "For the Rev. Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Junior."
In his late works, Sowerby seems to have become "obsessed" with writing pieces with MASSIVE stretches in the hands, and this one is one of the "worst" in this area, although the outcome is very nice. You will have to deal with the stretches though, as there really are no work arounds to help you out..
The piece is based on Orlando Gibbons' immortal tune, which is always associated with the text, "Drop, drop slow tears."
The main "solo voices" are the exquisite Solo strings, coupled to the Pedal.
The score and photos are attached, and text given in the First Comment.