Alec Rowley was born in London on 13 March 1892, teacher, composer, organist, pianist, lecturer and writer, who studied at the RAM with Frederick Corder and where he won sundry scholarships and prizes. He was an organist at several London churches including, during the Second World War, St Margaret's, Westminster. As a pianist he often broadcast duets with Edgar Moy. He died on 11 January 1958. Many of his organ solos are brief and simple: chorale preludes, genre pieces, toccatas, marches and voluntaries suitable for the small organ and less experienced player. Sometimes he brought out more ambitious recital pieces, like the Heroic Suite of 1921, the Sonata in A minor and two symphonies in B minor and F major published late in his life, but we do not encounter these nowadays.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.
Rowley composed several sets of Chorale Preludes based on Famous Hymn Tunes. The first volume deals with "Lent," and it is from this collection that these preludes are taken.
The second work in the collection is "Chorale Prelude on 'St. Mary'". The opening is an exact version of the hymn harmonization, but played upon the Swell strings an octave higher. The work is highly chromatic, and alternates between the strings of the Swell and the soft Great. Althought it's very "different," I could not help but find some affinity with "Es ist ein Ros entprungen" from Brahms' Opus 122. The work is dedicated: "To Frank Ashdown."
The tune comes from "Psalms" (1621), collected by Edmund Prys, and the text is by John Marckant, fl. 1562, who was one of contributors to the Sternhold & Hopkins metrical psalter of 1562.
The text of the first verse is as follows:
O Lord, turn not thy face from me,
Who lie in awful state,
Lamenting all my sinful life
Before thy mercy gate:
The score is attached below, as well as a photo of Alec Rowley.