I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes: Music of Leo Sowerby





I Will Lift Up


Mine Eyes




Music of


Leo Sowerby




The Roberts






























Leo Sowerby (b. Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1 May 1895; d. Fort Clinton, Ohio, 7 July 1968) was the leading composer of American church music and many virtuoso organ works during the first half of the twentieth century and, at the same time, the most distinguished Anglican musician to be produced by the Protestant Episcopal Church in North America. During his career he would compose music in all genres, with the exception of opera, but it is in the field of church music that his life's major work was accomplished.




He was a largely self-taught musician, beginning his study of harmony and music theory from a textbook at age eleven and composing his first works shortly thereafter. His interest in choral music and the pipe organ date from as early as 1910, when he began to study the works of César Franck and Max Reger. By 1913 the eighteen-year old composer received his first major public recognition when the Chicago Symphony premièred his Violin Concerto. Three years later the Symphony would give an unprecedented all-Sowerby concert, beginning his relationship as resident composer which would last into the 1940's.




Sowerby served as bandmaster for the 332nd Field Artillery in the U. S. Army during the Great War, during which time he completed his graduate work through the American Conservatory in Chicago and prepared several earlier works, including A Liturgy of Hope of 1917, for publication.




Between his discharge from the Army and his appointment in 1927 as organist/choirmaster at St. James Episcopal Church (later Cathedral) in Chicago, Sowerby held a number of church jobs. Among these was Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, where he served as associate organist/choirmaster during this time and where he conducted the first performance of the Liturgy.




A Liturgy of Hope is one of the composer's major choral works, scored for high voice (in this recording, a soprano), four-part men's chorus and organ. It is the earliest composition heard on this recording and reflects Sowerby's early, and lifelong, interest in the Psalms as inspiration for composition. Here, the text is Sowerby's own conflation and paraphrase of selected Psalm verses which reflected the turbulent war years. "Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves." Throughout the cantata, a recurring refrain expresses the hope for peace and salvation: "Turn us again, O God of hosts. Cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved."




The vocal solo is both lengthy and demanding, as is the writing for the organ, which has a major concertante role of great drama throughout the work, demonstrating Sowerby's virtuosity on the instrument and his talent for writing idiomatically for it. The choral writing alternates passages of lyric homophony with extended sections of Sowerby's already highly developed counterpoint, including a powerful treatment of the phrase "...and our enemies laugh among themselves," which builds to a ferocious climax on the word "laugh," and a grand fugue on "As for man, his days are as grass."




Upon its publication in 1928, Liturgy was dedicated to Sowerby's first tenor soloist at St. James Episcopal, Clyde Keutzer, who later became the director of the Hartford Conservatory.




Along with Liturgy, this compact disc presents two other early works, dating from 1919 and, like the Liturgy, first heard at Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian Church:




The Risen Lord was composed February to mid-April of that year and premièred during Eastertide, 1919. It was originally scored for a cappella SATB chorus and antiphonal solo quartet; for this recording, an antiphonal double chorus is used, displayed to great advantage in the ample acoustic of First Lutheran Church, Lyons, New York. The text is adopted from the German Lutheran hymn, Christus ist erstanden


of 1531, and Charles Wesley's Hymn to the Trinity of 1740.




I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes, for mezzo-soprano soloist, chorus and organ, is, without a doubt, Sowerby's most popular work of all, a masterful expression of genuine religious faith. Taking Psalm 121 as his text, the composer eschews counterpoint for a simple, unaffected musical means, including a gentle whiff of blues-tinged harmony, to produce a work that has remained a repertory staple of church choirs for over 75 years. Early on, a publisher had purchased the anthem outright for a one-time payment of $10. Much to the composer's great regret after the fact, he would receive no royalties on what was destined to become a "best seller."




While attending the American Academy in Rome from 1921 to 1924, Sowerby joined his fellow student Howard Hanson in becoming the first American musicians to be awarded the Prix de Rome. Sowerby's award was based on the reputation his music had already achieved, while Hanson was the winner of the first competition.




In 1925 Sowerby returned to Chicago to teach at the American Conservatory, and in 1927 he began his lengthy tenure as organist/choirmaster at Saint James Episcopal Church. He would retain both positions until 1962. Also during this time, Sowerby's growing catalog of orchestral works would be championed by such diverse musicians as Howard Hanson, Eugene Ormandy, Serge Koussevitsky and Frederick Stock.




In 1934 Sowerby was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree by the Eastman School of Music. In 1946 he received the Pulitzer Prize for his symphonic cantata, Canticle of the Sun.




The Three Fanfares (for 3 trumpets, trombone, cymbal and side drum) were composed in September, 1955, for the service of consecration of St. James Church as the Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, attended the consecration, and Sowerby's brilliant brass flourishes heralded the Archbishop's festive procession. In this recording, the Fanfares are used individually to introduce three of Sowerby's other compositions using brass instruments.




The Ark of the Covenant is a major choral work dating from July, 1960, scored for tenor (narrator), baritone (King Solomon), four-part mixed chorus and organ. It was dedicated to the choir of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in San Francisco, which premiered it on 29 June 1961 at the Festival Service of the American Guild of Organists convention in San Francisco. In subsequent years it has been performed in both churches and synagogues around the country.




The text is taken from the Old Testament book of Second Chronicles, chapters 5 and 6, a narrative describing the dedication of the First Temple in Jerusalem by King Solomon.




As in A Liturgy of Hope, Sowerby here provides an organ accompaniment that is noteworthy for its virtuoso, even aggressive, demands on the player. In both cantatas, the organ is a major protagonist in the musical "drama." An extensive organ solo introduces the work, with shofar-like fanfares setting the atmosphere for the narrator's description of the gathering of the elders of Israel and temple musicians to welcome the procession of the Ark into its resting place in the Temple.




Counterpoint plays a major role in the choral writing, with two fugues central to the narrative: the vigorous second chorus on the words, "For the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God" and the magnificent final chorus-surely one of Sowerby's finest inspirations-on the words, "Now therefore arise, O Lord God." A stretto leads to the grand fortissimo climax, followed by a dramatic choral decrescendo to pianissimo as the cantata fades away on the words, "O Lord God, let thy saints rejoice in goodness."




The Fantasy for Trumpet and Organ was composed in August, 1961, shortly after the successful première of The Ark of the Covenant. It is rightfully considered to be one of the major concert works for this felicitous combination of instruments.




Performed without pause, the Fantasy is a single-movement work in fast-slow-fast-slow form that shares some of the characteristics of a sonata da chiesa. In it, Sowerby alternates speedy passages of intricate polyphony ("fleet and furtive") with slower sections of cantabile warmth. At times, the trumpet functions as one voice within the polyphonic texture of the organ part; at other times, it comes to the fore in its more traditional role as a singing voice with accompaniment. The work concludes with muted trumpet supported by the softest stops of the organ-a typical Sowerby denouement of peace and calm serenity, quite similar to the ending of The Ark of the Covenant in its effect.




Although the circumstances of its first performance are not known with certainty, the Fantasy was probably intended for the fall concert season at St. James Cathedral, the last prior to Sowerby's moving to Washington. It was dedicated to his student, composer Kevin Norris.




From 1962 until his death in 1968, Sowerby served as founding director of the College of Church Musicians at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. This was a fellowship program for advanced training in all aspects of church music, the realization of Sowerby's belief that church music was best learned as it was in the middle ages: masters and apprentices working together within the hallowed walls of a great cathedral.




Sowerby's status as Dean of American Church Composers was affirmed in May,1963, when he was presented to Queen Elizabeth II upon his election as the first American Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music.




The hymn Come, Risen Lord (No. 305 in The Hymnal 1982) was composed on 3 September 1963. The hymn-tune is named after Sowerby's cottage on the grounds of the National Cathedral, known as Rosedale. It was sung at the dedication of the Cathedral's Gloria in Excelsis Tower on Ascension Day, 7 May 1964, with Paul Callaway conducing. For this recording, American composer Stephen Shewan has given Sowerby's great hymn a musical framework, consisting of an introduction, interlude and extended postlude for brass, chorus and organ.




The anthem Behold, O God Our Defender, with text from Psalm 84, was written in November, 1964, for the installation of the Most Rev. John E. Hines as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. It was first performed at the Installation Service at the National Cathedral on 27 January 1965 by the combined choirs of the National Cathedral and St. John the Divine Cathedral, New York, with Alec Wyton conducting and Paul Callaway at the organ.




The latest work to be heard on this compact disc is If the Lord Himself Had Not Been On Our Side, a setting of Psalm 124 for four-part men's chorus and organ dating from September, 1966, and first performed that fall in Washington's National Cathedral. It is dedicated to John Fenstermaker, then a student at the College of Church Musicians and as of this writing organist/choirmaster of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.




Shortly before Christmas, 1966, Sowerby completed his Emily Dickinson songs. Thereafter, he suffered the first of a series of strokes which caused him to stop composing for the first time since his World War I service. By summer, 1968, his health had improved somewhat, so that he was able to make his customary trip to the Episcopal Church "Wa-Li-Ro" choir camp in Ohio. On 7 July, however, he suffered a massive final stroke and passed from this life in Port Clinton, Ohio. Sowerby's ashes were interred in the columbarium of the National Cathedral in a niche adjacent to that of Helen Keller, who had died less than a month earlier.




-Notes by John Proffitt,


with assistance from Francis Crociata.






About the Artists




The Roberts Wesleyan College Chorale, an ensemble noted for its unique choral sound, is the cultural ambassador of Roberts Wesleyan College, the distinguished liberal arts institution in the Christian tradition located in Rochester, New York. The Chorale performs regularly with the Rochester Philharmonic under such conductors as David Zinman, Isaiah Jackson, Enrique Diemecke, Darryl One, Mark Elder and David Effron.




In 1986 the Chorale made its Carnegie Hall debut in a concert performance of Beethoven's Fidelio. Other major Chorale presentations include Puccini's Tosca (1993), Walton's Henry V (1994) and Verdi's Requiem (1995), all with the Rochester Philharmonic.




Ever mindful of the need to present choral music as a living, growing tradition, the Chorale maintains an active program of commissioning, performing and recording new music. In 1980, in the presence of the composer, the Chorale performed Psalm settings by Howard Hanson, which were later committed to compact disc (Albany TROY129). With the Rochester Chamber Orchestra under David Fetler, the Chorale presented the world première of John LaMontaine's The Marshes of Glynn. In 1992, under the direction of the composer, the Chorale premièred Ever Since Babylon, Samuel Adler's cantata commemorating the 500th anniversary of Columbus's voyage to the New World and the simultaneous expulsion of the Jews from Spain. During their 1993 spring tour, the Chorale gave the first public performances of 1 Corinthians 13, written for the Chorale by Christopher Theofanidis (Albany TROY158).




Other Chorale recordings include Mozart's Coronation Mass (Vox CD 8164) with the Rochester Philharmonic under David Zinman; Choral Music of Anton Bruckner (Albany TROY063); Music of Stephen Shewan (Albany TROY149); I Hear America Singing!, featuring choral works of Roy Harris (Albany TROY164) and Sing Unto the Lord, featuring hymn-anthems, psalms and spirituals (Gasparo GS 250C). In addition, the Chorale has been featured in nationwide broadcasts over National Public Radio.




Conductor Robert Shewan is chairman of the Fine Arts Division at Roberts Wesleyan College and has directed the Chorale since 1969. He has degrees from Mansfield State College, Ithaca College and the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He is the author of several texts, including Singing and the Brain: a Handbook for Voice Teachers; is well known as a guest conductor at various choral festivals; and serves as a clinician and adjudicator.




Texts of the Works




Come Risen Lord




Come risen Lord, and deign to be our guest; Nay, let us be thy guests; the feast is thine;


Thyself at thine own board make manifest in thine own Sacrament of Bread and Wine.




We meet as in that upper room they met; Thou at the table, blessing, yet dost stand;


"This is my Body" so thou givest yet; Faith still receives the cup as from thy hand.




One body we, one Body who partake, One Church united in communion blest;


One Name we bear, one Bread of life we break, with all thy saints on earth and saints at rest.




One with each other, Lord, for one in thee, Who art one Saviour and one living Head;


Then open thou our eyes, that we may see; Be known to us in breaking of the bread.




Come risen Lord.






Psalm 84




Behold, O God our defender, and look upon the face of thine anointed.


O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; hearken, O God of Jacob.


I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God,


Than to dwell in the tents of ungodliness.


For one day in thy courts is better than a thousand.


For the Lord God is a light and defence_


The Lord will give grace and worship;


And no good thing shall he withhold from them that live a godly life.


Behold, O God our defender, and look upon the face of thine anointed.


O Lord God of hosts, blessed is the man that putteth his trust in thee.






The Ark of the Covenant




Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel unto Jerusalem,


to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David,


which is Zion.


And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place:


Also the Levites which were the singers having cymbals and psalteries and harps,


stood at the east end of the altar,


and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets:


It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one;


and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals


and instruments of musick, and praised the Lord, saying,




For he is good, for his mercy endureth forever.




Then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord;


So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud:




For the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God.




And the king turned his face, and blessed the whole congregation of Israel: and he said,




Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who hath with his hands fulfilled


that which he spake with his mouth to my father David.


O Lord God of Israel, there is no God like thee in the heav'n nor in the earth; which keepest covenant, and showest mercy unto thy servants, that walk before thee with all their hearts.


Have respect therefore to the prayer of thy servant, O Lord my God,


to hearken unto the cry and the prayer which thy servant prayeth before thee:




Hear thou from thy dwelling place, even from heav'n; And when thou hearest, forgive.


Render unto ev'ry man according unto all his ways,


For thou only know'st the hearts of the children of men:


That they may fear thee, to walk in thy ways, so long as they live.




Then hear thou from the heav'ns their prayers and their supplications, and maintain their cause.




Now therefore arise, O Lord God, into thy resting place, Thou, and the ark of thy strength;


Arise, O Lord God, into thy resting place.


O Lord God, let thy priests be clothed with salvation,


And let thy saints rejoice in goodness.






A Liturgy of Hope




Give ear, O shepherd of Israel, Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock,


Thou that dwellest between the Cherubim, shine forth!


Stir up thy strength and save us.


Turn us again, O God, cause thy face to shine, and save us, and we shall be saved.


O Jehovah, God of hosts, How long will thou be angry against the prayer of thy people?


Thou has fed them with the bread of tears,


And given them tears to drink in large measure.


Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves.


He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us after our iniquities.


For as the heavens are high above the earth,


so great is his loving kindness for them that fear him.


As far as the east is from the west,


so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.


Like as a father pitieth his children, so Jehovah pitieth them that fear him.


As for man, his days are as grass, as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth:


for the wind passeth over it and it is gone.


Save us, O God! Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.


I am a stranger in the earth, hide not thy commandments from me.


My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times.


Turn us again, O God, cause thy face to shine, and save us.


And we shall be saved.


The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting, upon them that fear him,


And his righteousness unto children's children.


Turn us again, O God of hosts, cause thy face to shine,


And we shall be saved. Amen.




Psalm 124




If the Lord himself had not been on our side, now may Israel say;


If the Lord himself had not been on our side, when men rose up against us;


They had swallowed us up alive, when they were so wrathfully displeased at us.


Yea, the waters had drowned us, and the stream had gone over our soul.


The deep waters of the proud had gone even over our soul.


But praised be the Lord, but praised be the Lord,


Who hath not given us over for a prey unto their teeth.


Our soul is escaped even as a bird out of the snare of the fowler;


The snare is broken, and we are delivered.


Our help standeth in the Name of the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth.






Psalm 121




I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.


My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.


He will not suffer thy foot to be moved; he that keepeth thee will not slumber.


Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.


The Lord is thy keeper, thy shade upon they right hand.


The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.


The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil, he shall preserve thy soul.


The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore. Amen.




The Risen Lord




Christ the Lord is risen again; Christ hath broken every chain; Alleluia.


Hark, angelic voices cry, Singing evermore on high, Alleluia.


Hymns of praise then let us sing, unto Christ our Heavenly King. Alleluia.


Who endured the cross and grave, sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia.


He who bore all pain and loss, comfortless upon the cross,


Lives in glory now on high, pleads for us and hears our cry. Alleluia.


Sing we to our God above praise eternal as His love.


Praise Him, all ye heav'nly host, Alleluia,


Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Alleluia.






For further information on the music of Leo Sowerby, you are invited to contact the Leo Sowerby Foundation, 135 Wintergreen Way, Rochester, New York 14618 (716.461.2331)




The artists would like to thank the Rev. Arthur Sziemeister of First Lutheran Church, Lyons, New York for his kind support of this project.




Front cover: Portrait of Leo Sowerby, by Mary Andersen Clark, c. 1927. Reproduced with permission of the Leo Sowerby Estate, Ronald Stalford, executor.




Back cover: Photo by Deanna Joy Shewan.








Three Fanfares: Theodore Presser (1955); Fantasy for Trumpet and Organ: Theodore Presser (1961); Come, Risen Lord; Theodore Presser (1963); Behold, O god Our


Defender: Randall Egan and Associates (1964); The Ark of the Covenant: Randall Egan and Associates (1960); A Liturgy of Hope: Randall Egan and Associates (1917); If the Lord Himself: Randall Egan and Associates (1966); I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes: Boston Music Company (1919); The Risen Lord: Randall Egan and Assoociates (1919)








I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes · Music of Leo Sowerby






Fanfare, H. 335/I (1955) (2:23)


Roberts Wesleyan Brass Ensemble




Fantasy for Trumpet and Organ, H. 380 (1961) (9:35)


Paul Shewan, trumpet; James Bobb, organ




Fanfare, H. 335/III (:21)




Come, Risen Lord ("Rosedale"), H. 398b (1963) (5:42)


arr. Stephen Shewan (1995)


with Brass Ensemble; James Bobb, organ




Fanfare, H. 335/II (:41)




Psalm 84, Behold, O god, Our Defender, H. 412 (1964) (5:14)


with Brass Ensemble; James Bobb, organ




The Ark of the Covenant, H. 374 (1960) (21:16)


Brian Clickner, tenor; Theodore Sipes, baritone; James Bobb, organ




A Liturgy of Hope, H. 135 (1917) (11:56)


with the Men of the Chorale


Judith Coen, soprano; Barbara Harbach, organ




Psalm 124, If the Lord Himself, H. 463 (1966) (2:34)


with the Men of the Chorale; James Bobb, organ




Psalm 121, I will Lift Up Mine Eyes, H. 147 (1919) (4:00)


with Susan Collins, mezzo-soprano; Kevin Clarke, organ




The Risen Lord, H. 144 (1919) (5:38)






The Roberts Wesleyan


College Chorale




Roberts Wesleyan


Brass Ensemble




Paul Shewan, Daniel Herman, Michael Parisi, trumpets




Rebekah Weber, French horn; Gregory Ott, trombone




Andrew Tucker, tuba & timpani; Matthew Trost, snare drum




Robert Shewan, conductor






Produced & Engineered by




John Gladney Proffitt




Selection 8 is ADD; all other selections are DDD.




Recorded in First Lutheran Church, Lyons, New York




(Schlicker tracker-action organ)




Total Time, with pauses: 69:20