(May 1 1895
–July 7 1968
), American composer
and church musician, was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1946, and was often called the “Dean of American church music” in the early to mid 20th century.
Sowerby was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan
, where he began to compose at the age of ten. His violin concerto
was premiered in 1913 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
. In 1921 he was awarded the Rome Prize (from the American Academy in Rome
), the first composer to receive this. 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, which was consecrated as a cathedral while he was there (1955). It was during his time there that he did most of his work and gained his international reputation.
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. He died in Port Clinton, Ohio, while at Camp Wa-Li-Ro, in Put-in-Bay, Ohio, the summer choir camp where he had taught for many years.
His substantial output includes over 500 works in every genre but opera. Early in his career, he was widely known for his orchestral and chamber works, but his later works, done at St James's, Chicago, and Washington Cathedral, are primarily church music for choir and organ. As a teacher Sowerby's pupils included Robert Stewart, David Van Vactor, Gail Kubik, William Ferris, Florence Price, Ned Rorem, Norman Luboff, Milan Kaderavek, Maylon Merrill (Jack Benny's longtime music director) and Gerald Near.
- "Ad te levavi animam meam"
- "Behold, O God our Defender"
- "Christians, to the Paschal Victim"
- "Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire"
- "I was glad when they said unto me"
- "I will lift up mine eyes"
- "Love came down at Christmas"
- "Thy Word is a lantern" (in memory of President John F. Kennedy)
- Organ solo
- Comes Autumn Time (1916)
- Carillon (1917)
- Symphony in G (1930)
- Pageant (1931)
- Prelude on "The King's Majesty" (1945)
- Canon, Chacony, & Fugue (1948)
- Ten hymn preludes (published separately; 1950s)
- Sinfonia Brevis (1965)
- Passacaglia (1967)
- Organ with other instruments
- Toccata on 'A.G.O.' for organ, brass and timpani
- Festival Musick for organ, brass and timpani
- Mediæval Poem for organ, vocalist and orchestra
- Concertpiece for organ and orchestra, (1951)
- Orchestra & other instruments
- Prairie for orchestra
- From the Northland for orchestra
- Violin concerto, premiered 1913, revised 1924
- A Set of Four: A Suite of Ironics, published in 1931
- Five symphonies
- Concert overture for orchestra
- Classic Concerto for organ and orchestra (1944)
- Concerto in C for organ and orchestra
- Harp concerto
- Chamber music