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.
Published by H. W. Gray in 1942. Sowerby indicates that these are intended as liturgical works. The first time I ever played the tune, "St. Vincent," I thought, "What a piece of crap!" I thought it was "corny," and detested it. I now appreciate it, and it's "period-style" for what they are. This tune is generally associated with a translation of "O Salutaris Hostia" - "O saving Victim".
Sowerby gets a beautiful flow in his setting with some very sophisticated harmonic and contrapuntal touches. I think there is the influence of both Bach and Brahms in this one.
Photos of Sowerby and S. Neukomm (composer of the hymn) and scores (hymn & piece) are attached.
Don't miss the wild "La Marche des Rois" by Candlyn for Epiphany tomorrow!!!