Leo Sowerby

Biography

Born: May 1, 1895; Grand Rapids, MI   Died: July 7, 1968; Port Clinton, OH  
Sowerby began piano lessons when he was seven and was teaching himself theory from a textbook at 11. He moved to Chicago in 1909 and continued his music studies while at Englewood High School. At age 15, Sowerby received some cursory instruction on the organ, but from then on would be self-taught.

Sowerby's debut as a composer came in 1913 when the Chicago Symphony at an all-America concert performed his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra.
Read more Four years later, Sowerby gave his first public performance on the piano at the Norfolk, Connecticut, Festival.

His first pair of published compositions was a Woodwind Quintet (1916) and Serenade for string quartet (1917), which was a birthday present to Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. In December 1917, Sowerby went into the U.S. Army and served for 15 months in England and France as a clarinetist and bandmaster. Sowerby remained in Europe after his discharge from the army and began composing a series of works including his First Symphony, which led to him being awarded the first American Prix de Rome in 1921. For the next three years Sowerby resided at the American Academy in Rome, writing among others From the Northland a composition that would win the Society for the Publication of American Music Award.

Sowerby returned to the U.S. in 1924 and began writing music embracing American idioms including two pieces for jazz band, Syncopata and Monotony. Sowerby even adapted the popular folk tune "Pop Goes the Weasel" and arranged it for flute, oboe, clarinet, and oboe.

In 1932, Sowerby joined the faculty of the American Conservatory in its composition department and remained there until 1962. He also served as choirmaster and organist of St. James Episcopal Cathedral in Chicago from 1927 to 1961, where he wrote a large body of music for chorus and organ. His love of religious music led to his founding of the College of Church Musicians in Washington D.C., which he served as director until 1968.

Prior to World War II, Sowerby was one of the most frequently performed American composers and by 1943, had received the Society for the Publication of American Music Award four times. He received the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1946 for his The Canticle of the Sun, a cantata for chorus and orchestra, which employed Matthew Arnold's English translation of the canticle of St. Francis of Assisi. Later awards include an honorary fellowship at Trinity College in London and the Royal School of Church Music in Croydon, England (1963). In the same year, Sowerby was presented to Queen Elizabeth II. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 84 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Organo Plano
    Label: Raven Recordings   Catalog: 944 Release Date: 04/09/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Conrad Susa,  Jean-Adam Guilain,  Nicolaus Bruhns,  Eugene Gigout  ... 
    Performer:  Scott Montgomery
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  • 2.
    Label: Pro Organo   Catalog: 7254 Release Date: 02/12/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Percy Whitlock,  Eugene Gigout,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Gerald Near  ... 
    Performer:  Eric Plutz
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  • 3.
    Walt Disney Concert Hall Organ
    Label: Kultur Video   Catalog: 4789 Release Date: 01/29/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Nicolaus Bruhns,  Dietrich Buxtehude,  Antonio Soler,  Henri Mulet  ... 
    On sale! $29.99
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  • 4.
    Americana
    Label: Raven Recordings   Catalog: 942 Release Date: 12/11/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Raymond Weidner,  Gerre Hancock,  Nancy Plummer Faxon,  Gerald Near  ... 
    Performer:  Jeremy Filsell
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  • 5.
    I Wonder As I Wander Out Under The Sky / Jones, The Copley Singers
    Label: Gothic Records   Catalog: 49283 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Francis Wade,  Carl Rütti,  Hugh Martin,  Richard Storrs Willis  ... 
    Conductor:  Brian Jones
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Copley Singers
    CD: $18.99
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  • 6.
    Auckland Town Hall / John Wells
    Label: Atoll Records (New Zealand)   Catalog: 641 Release Date: 10/09/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Villiers Stanford,  Louis Vierne,  Antoine Edouard Batiste,  Dietrich Buxtehude  ... 
    Performer:  John [classical organ] Wells
    On sale! $21.98
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  • 7.
    The Spirit Of Christmas Present
    Label: Nimbus   Catalog: 7034 Release Date: 10/09/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ned Rorem,  John Francis Wade,  Traditional,  Henry John Gauntlett  ... 
    Performer:  Kevin Bowyer,  Huw Tregelles Williams
    Conductor:  William Boughton,  Charles Bruffy,  John Hugh Thomas,  Michel Swierczewski  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English String Orchestra,  Kansas City Chorale,  Fanfare Trumpeters of the Welsh Guard  ... 
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  • 8.
    Joy To The Heart / Bachmann, Grace Cathedral Choir
    Label: Pro Organo   Catalog: 7249 Release Date: 04/10/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George S. Talbot,  Claude Goudimel,  David Hurd,  Leo Sowerby  ... 
    Performer:  Benjamin Bachmann
    Conductor:  Benjamin Bachmann
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Grace Cathedral Choir San Francisco
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  • 9.
    Legendes
    Label: Centaur Classics   Catalog: 98213153 Release Date: 12/01/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Marcel Grandjany,  Reinhold Gliere,  Rudolf Ewald Zingel,  Alfred Holy  ... 
    Performer:  Matthew Larkin,  Caroline Léonardelli
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  • 10.
    The Pulitzer Project - Pulitzer Prize-Winning Works
    Label: Cedille Records   Catalog: 125 Release Date: 06/28/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Schuman,  Aaron Copland,  Leo Sowerby
    Conductor:  Carlos Kalmar
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Grant Park Orchestra,  Grant Park Chorus
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  • 11.
    We Sing Of God
    Label: Pro Organo   Catalog: 7238 Release Date: 10/12/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sidney Campbell,  McNeil Robinson,  Herbert Howells,  John E. West  ... 
    Performer:  Naomi Devires Pomerantz,  Robert McCormick
    Conductor:  Robert McCormick
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  • 12.
    Centennial Celebration: Washington National Cathedral
    Label: Washington National Cathedral   Catalog: 702 Release Date: 09/28/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Douglas Major,  Richard Dirksen,  Paul Callaway  ... 
    Performer:  Scott Hanoian,  Erik William Suter
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Washington Symphonic Brass
    CD: $17.99
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  • 13.
    Methuen Century
    Label: Pro Organo   Catalog: 7234 Release Date: 08/10/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Nicholas de Grigny,  Robert Schumann,  Johannes Brahms,  César Franck  ... 
    Performer:  Frederick Hohman
    On sale! $33.98
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  • 14.
    Sextuor A Vent / Harvey Pittel, Westwood Quintet
    Label: Crystal   Catalog: 353 Release Date: 05/11/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Darius Milhaud,  Bernhard Heiden,  Paul Hindemith,  Pierre Max Dubois  ... 
    Performer:  Harvey Pittel,  Sunil Gadgil
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Westwood Wind Quintet
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  • 15.
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 165 Release Date: 05/01/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry Cowell,  Robert Ward,  Leo Sowerby
    Performer:  Rolf Karlsen
    Conductor:  William Strickland
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Norwegian Choir of Solo Singers,  Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
    CD: $13.99
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  • 16.
    Historic Organs Of Seattle: A Young Yet Vibrant History
    Label: Raven Recordings   Catalog: 8 Release Date: 03/09/2010   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Craig Phillips,  Anonymous,  Georg Böhm,  Felix Mendelssohn  ... 
    Performer:  Craig Phillips,  Sharon Porter Shull,  Derek Nickels,  Christopher Marks  ... 
    Conductor:  Tom Foster
    On sale! $51.98
    CD: $39.99
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  • 17.
    Eternal Light
    Label: Gothic Records   Catalog: 49272 Release Date: 02/09/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Rutter,  Anthony J. Maglione,  Mark Sirett,  Cary Boyce  ... 
    Performer:  Christopher Grymes,  Christine Gustafson,  Christopher Ulffers
    Conductor:  Daniel Bara
    CD: $17.99
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  • 18.
    Touch - The Toccata Project / Rorem, Sowerby, Amalong
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 1142 Release Date: 11/10/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Vincent Persichetti,  Wallingford Riegger,  Raymond Lewenthal,  Emma Lou Diemer  ... 
    Performer:  Philip Amalong
    Recommendation
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  • 19.
    Music From America's First & Second Cities - Muczynski, Gershwin, Sowerby, Del Tredici
    Label: Centaur Records   Catalog: 2997 Release Date: 10/27/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John La Montaine,  David Del Tredici,  Leo Sowerby,  George Gershwin  ... 
    Performer:  Steven Graff
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  • 20.
    American In Rome - Beaser, Barber, Thompson, Etc / Six For Five Wind Quintet
    Label: Bridge   Catalog: 9271 Release Date: 10/14/2008   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Elliott Carter,  Roger Sessions,  Scott Lindroth,  Vittorio Giannini  ... 
    Performer:  Tony Arnold,  Susan Narucki,  Christopher Trakas,  Donald Berman  ... 
    Conductor:  Scott Yoo,  Jeffrey Milarsky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Colorado College Festival Orchestra,  Chamber Ensemble
    Recommendation
    On sale! $79.98
    CD: $65.99
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  • 21.
    Gargoyles & Chimeras / David Britton
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 3077 Release Date: 07/17/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Louis J.A. Lefébure-Wely,  Marcel Dupré,  Leo Sowerby,  Camille Saint-Saëns  ... 
    Performer:  David Britton
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  • 22.
    Sowerby: Organ Music / Catharine Crozier
    Label: Delos   Catalog: 3075 Release Date: 07/17/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Leo Sowerby
    Performer:  Catharine Crozier
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  • 23.
    Pageant: A Pipe Organ Spectacular
    Label: Raven Recordings   Catalog: 940 Release Date: 02/19/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Herbert Brewer,  Herbert Howells,  Louis Vierne,  Charles-Marie Widor  ... 
    Performer:  Thomas Bara
    On sale! $20.98
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  • 24.
    Kaleidoscope - America's Faith In Song / Patterson, Et Al
    Label: Gloriae Dei Cantores   Catalog: 118 Release Date: 01/01/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Aaron Copland,  Jean Berger,  Leo Sowerby
    Performer:  David Chalmers,  James E. Jordan Jr.,  Luke Norman
    Conductor:  Elizabeth C. Patterson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gloriae Dei Cantores
    CD: $19.99
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  • 25.
    How Brightly Shines The Morning Star - Music For Epiphany
    Label: Gothic Records   Catalog: 49258 Release Date: 11/13/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Dietrich Buxtehude,  Leo Sowerby
    Performer:  Thomas Joyce
    Conductor:  J. Melvin Butler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle St Mark's Cathedral Choir
    CD: $17.99
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