Alec Rowley (1892-1958) was a pupil of Frederick Corder at the Royal Academy of Music in London. His more demanding work as a composer has been unfairly neglected. Rowleys Piano Concerto No.1, scored for piano, strings, and percussion, was first performed in 1938. He was for many years the organist of St Alban's Church, Teddington and was a contributor to 'The Rotunda', the house magazine of Henry Willis & Sons Ltd.
"Five Improvisations" were published by Novello in 1948. Each of the works deals with a particular "mood", which is inspired the verse of a specific psalm, cited at the beginning of the piece. While I was playing these works, I could not help but feel shades of Percy Whitlock's "psalm pieces", although the harmonic language is definitely that of Rowley. His use of "regular" harmonies in distincive ways is noteworthy. For instance, in the "Solemn Prelude," he shifts between the tonalities of F Minor & A Minor with great effect. There is also the blending of modal harmonies with highly chromatic ones.
The fifth of the "Five Improvisations" is "Gaudeamus." It is dedicated to Wilfrid Greenhouse Altt, who was assistant organist of Norwich Cathedral, a President Edinburgh Society of Organists, as well as President of the Incorporated Society of Musicians. He was well-known for his harpsichord playing, and was also President of Trinity College in London. The title, "Gaudeamus," translates as "Let us rejoice!," and this piece does just that! The work begins on a "dissonant" chord, which immediate grabs the attention of the listener. A swinging and joyful D major melts down to a quiet central section in the minor. The energy is maintained, and the opening material soon returns, all of this building to a glorious coda, played on the full organ.
The psalm verse quoted in this works is: "God is our hope and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46, verse 1)