North Central: American​ ​Organ​ ​Music

Greetings from the North Central AGOYO. This month we are focusing on American Organ Music! American organ music is unique in its origin and exciting in both tone and color. The following American composers’ compositions provide excitement to American organ literature.

Nineteenth Century

  • Arthur​ ​Foote​ ​helped found The American Guild of Organists and served the AGO as its National Honorary President. The majority of his compositions are written in the chamber music genre, however organists are fortunate that Foote wrote this interesting work for the King of Instruments. ○ Recording (Oriental Sketch, Op. 41, No. 5)
  • Dudley​ ​Buck​ ​taught organ in Hartford, Connecticut with a medium sized organ and later relocated to Chicago. The great Chicago fire later burned both the church and his studio. After the fire he focused more on composing. His Concert Variations on the Star Spangled Banner provide a unique flare to an American favorite. ○ Recording ​ ​(Concert Variations on the Star Spangled Banner)

Twentieth Century to the Present

  • Leo​ ​Sowerby​ ​starting composing at the young age of ten. Later at age fifteen Sowerby developed in interest in the organ. “Comes Autumn Time” is one of Sowerby’s well known works and is based on Bliss Carman’s poem “Autumn.” This piece has also been arranged for orchestra. ○ Recording​ ​(Comes Autumn Time)
  • William​ ​Albright​ ​studied in Paris with Olivier Messiaen. This study influenced his composing and resulted in his works having both tonal and non-tonal colors. The Jig for Feet is an exciting work for pedal solo. ○ Recording (Jig for the Feet, from Organbook III)
  • Daniel​ ​E.​ ​Gawthrop​ ​is more widely known as a choral composer, however and Gawthrop’s previous organ study has helped him become a strong proponent of music for the solo organ. Each movement in Gawthrop’s O Jerusalem is based on a verse of scripture from the book of Isaiah in the Bible’s Old Testament. The first movement displays exciting rhythmic drive, the second movement is peaceful and slow. The third is humorous in nature and the Finale concludes the work with virtuosic flare. (O Jerusalem–Symphony No.1 for Organ) ○ Recording (Allegro) ○ Recording (Largo) ○ Recording (Scherzo) ○ Recording (Finale)

For more information on Nineteenth-century organ music please see the following by Barbara Owen: Nineteenth-century American concert organ music.

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