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.
In addition to a wild and crazy Epiphany work by Candlyn (coming Sunday), I wanted to something dark and mysterious, and this CERTAINLY hits that mark!
Published by H. W. Gray in 1942. Sowerby indicates that these are intended as liturgical works. This one would certainly fit into a solemn and lengthy "cathedral communion."
The textures and colors of this piece are really quite fascinating. The build-up and come-down are both long and intense. I could not help but see and feel the presence of a "great open expanse" in this piece. A prayer to the Christian God and to the Great Spirit blending into one.
My wife was moved deeply by this work.
MUCH of this is VERY soft, so, manage/adjust your volume.
Photos & score are attached.