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. He died on 11 January 1958 while playing tennis.
This work is taken from the composer's "Chorale Preludes on Famous Hymn Tunes, Volume Three." Since today is Pentecost Sunday, it's time for his setting of Samuel Webbe's, "Veni, Sancte Spiritus."
Born in Minorca in 1740, Webbe was brought up in London. At the age of 11 he was apprenticed to a cabinet maker, but soon discovered his aptitude for music when called on to repair the case of a harpsichord. During the course of the repair work he taught himself to play the instrument. Near the end of the job he was overheard playing it. As a result of this incident he turned to the study of music under Carl Barbandt.
A Roman Catholic, in 1776 Webbe succeeded George Paxton as organist of the Sardinian Embassy Chapel, a position which he held until 1795: he was also organist and choirmaster of chapel of the Portuguese Embassy in Lincoln's Inn Fields, the only place in London where the Catholic liturgy could be publicly celebrated.
When we think of a "Pentecost-type" piece, we usually picture fire and feel wind! However, this is a calm and gentle piece, perhaps depicting the mystical workings of the Spirit.
The tune is played in a chorale-like fashion, and these phrases are interspersed with even "quieter" decorative passages.
The effect is satisfying, despite the fact that we usually expect "loud and fast" at Pentecost!
The score is attached below, as well as the famous Rowley photo, as well of some of Samuel Webbe.
More "Rowley Riot" to come!