Alec Rowley (1892-1958) was a pupil of Frederick Corder at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He was a composer, organist and pianist, who taught composition at Trinity College in London.
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.
If you've listened to any of my recent Rowley uploads, you will have noticed that he had a rather distinctive "modern style," with an unusual and highly personal harmonic language.
Well, FORGET EVERYTHING because this (and probably some others that I'll do over the next few days) will COMPLETELY change your mind!
I guess that this isn't really a fair thing to say, as this is very early Rowley, written when he was still much influenced by the music of Elgar, Ireland, and composers who were the big names of the day.
"Sursum corda" (Lift up your hears) comes from a collection, "An Album of Organ Pieces," published by Paxton (Mills in the USA) in 1912. So, this would have made Rowley only 20 at the time he wrote these!
This piece is the third in the collection, and is what I would call a "profound utterance." It starts off quietly with a little "syncopation" that immediately speaks of Elgar. There is some expressive writing as the piece comes to the central section. It builds up, literally taking off like a rocket, as if the trumpets were sounding in the "Sanctus" - heaven and earth are full of thy glory. The piece gradually melts away, leaving a hushed conclusion with the Swell strings and 32' Open Wood in the Pedal.
I think if someone were to play this for me, and asked me to identify the composer, a name the would come immediately to mind, in addition to Elgar, would be that of Hugh Blair, friend of Elgar and organist of Worcester Cathedral.
The score is attached below, as well as a photo of Rowley.
MORE "early" Rowley coming ASAP.
THANKS to all my loyal listeners and subscribers!