Sowerby At Trinity







trumpet and flügelhorn






The Composer

Leo Sowerby was born in 1895 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and began his musical education at an early age. Later he journeyed to Chicago where he studied piano and theory at the American Conservatory of Music. After service in the Army as a bandmaster during World War I, Sowerby won the prestigious American “Prix de Rome,” and subsequently stayed at the American Academy in Rome for three years. Upon returning to the U.S. in 1924, he joined the faculty of the American Conservatory where he became Chairman of the Composition Department. Three years later Sowerby was appointed organist and choirmaster of historic St. James Episcopal Church, where he established a distinguished music program. His greatest organ music was composed there on an Austin organ that was built in the 1920s and enlarged in 1961. In 1934, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music from the Eastman School of Music, and in 1946, Dr. Sowerby received the Pulitzer Prize for his choral work, “The Canticle of the Sun.” After retiring from the American Conservatory and St. James Episcopal Church in 1962, Sowerby went to the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., to found and direct the College of Church Musicians, which was created to train outstanding young musicians. He died in 1968.

Calling himself “a musical Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde,” Sowerby wrote not only church music, but also much for concert, including two pieces for the orchestra of Paul Whiteman, the “Jazz King” of the 1920s and 30s. Because of the jazz-derived syncopation and folk-like quality found in his music and perhaps, because he gave performance and tempo directions in entertaining English, Sowerby has been called a “national” composer. He classified his pieces as either for church or concert.

Although Sowerby wrote dissonant music for his time, he did not have a “system” of composition such as that of Messiaen or Schönberg. He said that he merely set down what he felt and heard. Although traditional musical forms such as variation, sonata-allegro and song form appealed to him, he was also at home in the contrapuntal styles of canon, fugue, and passacaglia. His melodies fall into two distinct categories: those that are closely knit in form, and those that are free and are “wandering, even meandering.” He classified his compositional style into three periods: 1) an Orchestral Period (1913-1920), in which he thought of organ registration in terms of orchestral sound; 2) a Pure Organ Period, when he composed more idiomatically for the organ and used less tone-color; and 3) a Baroque Response Period (1937-1968), during which his style became more linear, a reaction to the awakening interest in music of the Baroque Era.


The Suite for Organ (1933-34) is a collection of four works unrelated in form or theme: Choral and Fugue, Fantasy for Flute Stops, Air with Variations and March. Nevertheless, Sowerby recommended that the movements not be played separately, but together, as an organic whole, as Dr. Freese has done in this recording.

The Chorale is not a German hymn, as the title would imply, but is a passacaglia, with the theme always in the bass. Sowerby introduces the melody on a solo stop in measure 33 of the Chorale, which he then uses as the subject of the Fugue, thus cleverly establishing a unifying relationship between both sections.

Fantasy for Flute Stops was inspired by a watercolor painting by the Chicago artist, Rainey Bennett, to whom the piece is dedicated. The tempo marking, “Fairly fast and whimsically” reflects the freedom and airiness of the painting. A jazz influence is manifested by the use of “blue notes” in the A theme — a place where one would least expect it since the first appearance of a theme is often less ornamented. The whimsical side of the composer is shown at the close of the piece, to be discovered by the listener!

The performance instructions for Air With Variations, “Slowly and expressively,” set the mood for a romantic melody followed by four variations. The air is announced on a Clarinet stop accompanied by soft strings. Following this, each variation goes further and further afield of the original tune, until it is no longer recognizable. The melody does not return in its original form until the last variation where it appears above a running string accompaniment. In calling for specific stops, he harkens back to his Orchestral Period.

Sowerby demonstrates his fondness for ostinato by using it in large segments of the March. One could say that it is reminiscent of an Ecclesiastic Procession, although Sowerby did not hint that it was composed specifically for that purpose. The movement begins with a theme on the manuals over a two-measure ostinato, a technique used in the first movement of the Suite. The extended B theme is announced on an unspecified solo reed. The second A section repeats some of the material from the first A section. The imposing ending, on Full Organ, is played over yet a different ostinato.

Although the composer wrote many solo organ works, he also composed pieces that combined the organ with other instruments, such as Fantasy for Trumpet and Organ (1961). Sowerby wrote these performance instructions at the head of the score: “The organ registration must be bright and carefully balanced to the trumpet; it should be very clear, avoiding too much foundation tone and, except perhaps in the closing sections, all celestes. A liberal use of 4', 2', and Mixtures is suggested in the quicker sections.” No other specific registrations are indicated, and he challenges the interpretive imagination of the performer by suggesting that it be played “Fleet and furtive!” His penchant for rhythmic variety is manifested beginning on page one where the rhythms are 4/4, 3/2, 4/4, 3/4, 3/2, 3/4, 5/4, 4/4, and 5/4, all in the first eleven measures! This requires the two performers to play the tricky rhythms with admirable precision and musicality.

Leo Sowerby's Symphony No. 4 in B was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Serge Koussevitzky on January 7, 1949. The composer was so impressed with the artistry of English hornist Louis Speyer, that he wrote Ballade, H.300 for Speyer on May 6, 1949. Subsequently, Speyer and legendary organist, E. Power Biggs gave the first performance on June 12, 1949, on a CBS radio program originating from the Germanic Museum at Harvard University. Biggs soon requested that Sowerby score the work for viola and violin and in 1950, H.W. Gray published the work. Gray requested that a clarinet version also be written, much to the distaste of Sowerby. When Sowerby moved from Chicago to Washington, D.C. in 1962, Lon Schreiber of National City Christian Church in Washington, D.C. organized the first concert to welcome him. For this concert, Sowerby asked Raymond Mantoni, of Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh to premier the jazz-infused Ballade because by then, Sowerby realized that the clarinet imparted a special jazz flavor. Much later, Ron Stalford, the executor of the Sowerby estate, sanctioned an arrangement of a soprano saxophone part. In 1983, Tom Stacey, the English horn player for the New York Philharmonic and organist Calvin Hampton, recorded the original Ballade version. Other premier recordings include violist, Paul Doktor and organist, Marilyn Mason and violinist Arduith Lohuis and organist, Robert Murray. Stalford has sanctioned this premier recording of flügelhorn and organ.

Ballade, written in sonata form, begins with the organ stating a lyrically haunting theme in e minor. The flügelhorn enters with the theme in measure 17 and the two instruments chase and play off of each other throughout the work. The organ registrations, selected in accordance with Sowerby's indications, were chosen judiciously so as not to cover the mellow flügelhorn tone.

Rhapsody was published in 1949 in The Modern Anthology edited by David McKay Williams, a compilation of works by contemporary composers. Its rhapsodic aspects are expressed by the dotted rhythm that permeates the entire work. Dr. Freese makes a major contribution to the recorded repertoire by performing this seldom-heard major work of heroic proportions. There are no indicated registrations except the use of the Crescendo Pedal from time to time and Sowerby wanted it played “with agitated urge, yet with broad sweep. Freely.” This piece, with its huge block chords, seems to lie a little outside the mainstream of his typical style.

During his Prix de Rome stay, Sowerby was impressed by the playing of the young Italian virtuoso, Fernando Germani, organist at the Vatican in Rome. When Sowerby returned to the U.S., he wrote Pageant, a pedal extravaganza, as a challenge to this sure-footed performer — throwing down the musical gauntlet, as it were. Germani accepted the challenge and replied, “Now write me something really difficult!” The form consists of an introduction, theme and four variations, and a coda. The theme has a delightful folk-dance quality while the variations are connected by interludes giving a sense of continuity to this fragmented form.

—Notes by Robert Rayfield


Faythe Freese, a native of Sterling, Illinois, pursued the study of music and organ throughout her high school studies and later, during her undergraduate career at Valparaiso University. As a 1988-89 Fulbright scholar and an Indiana University/Kiel Ausstausch Programme participant, she studied the works of Jean Langlais with the composer in France, and the works of Max Reger with his former student Heinz Wunderlich in Germany. Performance venues have included cities such as East Berlin; Frankfurt; Kiel; Washington, DC; Buffalo, NY; and Toledo, OH. Ms. Freese completed the Doctor of Organ and Church music degree at Indiana University. Her organ teachers have included Marilyn Keiser, Robert Rayfield, William Eifrig and Phillip Gehring. Dr. Freese has appeared as a recitalist and lecturer throughout North America and has held faculty positions at Indiana University, University of North Dakota-Williston, and Andrew College. She has held church music and symphony orchestra positions in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, North Dakota and Ohio. Presently, Dr. Freese is the Assistant Professor of Organ and the Artistic Director of the Austin Children's Choir at Concordia University in Austin, Texas.


Robert (Bobby) Lewis born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, began his musical studies at age ten. He was awarded a “First Place” at the State Solo and Ensemble festival (University of Wisconsin, Madison) as a soloist at age eleven. He received his Bachelors Degree in Music Education in 1957 and Masters Degree in Music Performance in 1958 from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. On his graduate recital, Mr. Lewis performed the Haydn Trumpet Concerto, Hindemith Sonata for Trumpet and the Martinu Sonatine for Trumpet, and conducted his symphonic band transcriptions with the University of Wisconsin Concert Band. He has performed with the orchestras of The University of Wisconsin (Madison), Seventh Army Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the Saint Louis Symphony, the Milwaukee Symphony and the New American Orchestra.

Internationally known as a recording studio musician and jazz artist, Bobby has performed on 7000 recording sessions for television and radio commercials, records and films; on trumpets (in all keys), flügelhorn, cornet, piccolo trumpet, bugle and garden hose. He has produced five recordings with his groups, “Ears-Jazz of all Eras,” “The Forefront,” “The Rhythmakers,” and three recordings as a soloist, “Inside This Song,” “Passion Flower,” and “Here I Go Again.” (Southport Records)

Mr. Lewis resides in the Chicago area and continues to work in all fields of music—performance, composition, arranging and teaching.

The E.M. Skinner Opus 165 Organ, 1909-1910 at Trinity Episcopal Church, Toledo, Ohio

Rebuilt 1960-63 (), with additions, 1969 (σ), 1973 (), 1982 (),

by Muller Pipe Organ Company

4 Manuals, 77 Ranks

Great Organ

1. 16' Bourdon

2. 16' Quintaton σ

3. 8' Second Diapason

4. 8' Erzahler

5. 8' Gedeckt σ

6. 8' Gamba (enclosed)

7. 8' Dulciana (enclosed)

8. 8' Rohrflute (enclosed)

9. 4' Octave

10. 4' Flute Harmonic

11. 2' Super Octave 

12. IV Fourniture  19-22-26-29

13. III Cymbale  29-33-36

14. 16'+8' Bombardes  (#50)

Swell Organ (expressive)

15. 16' Bourdon

16. 16' Dulciana

17. 8' Diapason

18. 8' Gedeckt

19. 8' Clarabella

20. 8' Viole 

21. 8' Viole Celeste 

22. 8' Aeoline

23. 8' Unda Maris

24. 4' Octave

25. 4' Flute

26. 4' Violin

27. 2' Fifteenth

28. IV Cymbale  22-26-29-33

29. 16' Contre Fagotto 

30. 8' Trumpet 

31. 8' Oboe 

32. 4' Clarion 

33. Tremolo

Choir Organ (expressive)

34. 8' Diapason

35. 8' Concert Flute

36. 8' Kleine Erzahler (II Rks.)

37. 8' Quintadena

38. 4' Flauto Traverso

39. 2 2/3' Nazard 

40. 2' Piccolo

41. 1 3/5' Tierce 

42. III Plein Jeu σ 15-19-22

43. 8' Clarinet  (revoiced)

44. 4' Schalmey σ

45. Tremolo

Solo Organ

46. 8' Stentorphone (Rear Gallery)

47. 8' Philomela

48. 8' Gamba Celeste (II Rks.)

49. 4' Hohl Flute (#47)

50. 16' Bombarde 

51. 8' Tuba Mirabilis (Rear Gallery)

52. 8' Trompette en

Chamade  (West End)

53. 8' Trompette  (#50)

54. 8' French Horn (Rear Gallery)

55. 4' Clarion  (#50)

56. Chimes  (Rear Gallery)

57. Harp (Rear Gallery)

Echo Organ(Rear Gallery, expressive)

58. 8' Viola

59. 8' Spitzfloete

60. 8' Flute Celeste

61. 4' Flute D'Amour

62. 8' Trompette en

Chamade  (West End)

63. 8' English Horn 

64. 8' Vox Humana

65. Tremolo

Pedal Organ

66. 32' Contra Bourdon (#68 ext.)

67. 16' Open Diapason 

68. 16' First Bourdon (#1)

69. 16' Second Bourdon (#15)

70. 16' Gamba

71. 16' Dulciana (#16)

72. 10 2/3' Quinte (#1)

73. 8' Diapason 

74. 8' Gedeckt (#1)

75. 8' Cello

76. 8' Still Gedeckt (#15)

77. 4' Octave  (#73)

78. 4' Flute (#1)

79. IV Mixture σ 15-19-22-26

80. 32' Bombarde (#50 ext.)

81. 16' Bombarde  (#50)

82. 8' Trompette  (#50)

83. 4' Clarion  (#50)

Cover Art: watercolor by Rainey Bennett, dedicatee of Sowerby's Fantasy for Flute Stops

Dedication: Sowerby at Trinity is dedicated to my dear friend, teacher and mentor, Robert Rayfield.—Faythe Freese

Leo Sowerby

Faythe Freese, organ

Bobby Lewis, trumpet and flügelhorn

Suite for Organ

1 Chorale and Fugue [9:40)

2 Fantasy for Flute Stops [7:05]

3 Air with Variations [6:26]

4 March [8:16]

5 Fantasy for Trumpet and Organ [9:27]

6 Ballade [10:43]

7 Rhapsody [10:51]

8 Pageant [10:34]


The E.M. Skinner Opus 165 Organ, 1909-1910 at Trinity Episcopal Church, Toledo, Ohio

Total Time = 73:00