Magazine article The American Organist


Magazine article The American Organist


Article excerpt

Opinions expressed in this column are those of the correspondents, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the AGO, APOBA, or the editors of this journal. Letters accepted by the editor may be published whole or in part. Please send letters to Todd Sisley (


It was good to be reminded of organ recital favorites from the earlier part of the now-historic 20th century (Jan., p. 80). However, ibelieve there may be incorrect information in the citation for Leo Sowerby's Comes Autumn Time.

According to extensive notes by Francis Crociata (a president of the Leo Sowerby Foundation) written to accompany the 1997 CD Symphonic Poems by Leo Sowerby (Cedille CDR 90000 033), the organ version of this piece was composed first; an orchestral version followed.

As Crociata tells it, the genesis of this often-played work remains one of the best Sowerby anecdotes: Fourth Presbyterian Church organist Eric DeLamarter announced in the Chicago Tribune (Sunday, October 22, 1916) that he would premiere a new composition by his friend Sowerby on the following Thursday. Unfortunately, the organist had forgotten to relay a request for the requisite piece to the composer. Nevertheless Sowerby wrote the new composition on Tuesday afternoon; DeLamarter learned it (more or less) on Wednesday; and the premiere occurred on the specified Thursday, under the title From the Southland, a random selection made by the organist. In that same Sunday edition of the newspaper, Bliss Carman's evocative poem Autumn was published. A line from Carman's poem supplied the title under which the work was played on an all-Sowerby program presented by the Chicago Symphony in its orchestral guise, requested by the conductor of that January 1917 program, none other than Eric DeLamarter.

Sowerby's vibrant work has resonated in my own professional life: the original organ version of Comes Autumn Time was the closing work for the first organ recital I actually sat through (and enjoyed), played by Pittsburgh organist John R. …

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