Alec Rowley

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Alec Rowley (13 March 1892 – 12 January 1958) was an English composer, organist, pianist, lecturer and writer on music. He composed a large number of works, mainly on a small scale and often of an educational nature though with some larger-scale orchestral and choral works. He was a dedicated teacher, broadcaster and writer; after his death the Alec Rowley Memorial Prize was established at Trinity College of Music.

Life and works[edit]

Rowley was born in London on 13 March 1892. He entered the Royal Academy of Music in 1908, where he studied under Frederick Corder, H.W. Richards (organ) and Edward Morton (piano). He won several prizes, including the Mortimer and Prescott prizes for composition. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists (FRCO) in 1914, and held a succession of church organist appointments: at St John's, Richmond, 1912–21, St Alban's, Teddington 1921–32 and, during the Second World War, at St Margaret's, Westminster.[1][2] From 1920 he was a lecturer at Trinity College of Music, later a professor and Fellow of the college.[3] He became well known as a broadcaster during the 1930s, through a series of piano duets with Edgar Moy.[1] From 1939 to 1947 he served as a member of the Royal Philharmonic Society's management committee.[2] He became a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music (FRAM) in 1934.[1]

As a composer, Rowley produced a large body of works, many of which were educational pieces or were designed for amateur performers.[3] His larger-scale works include three piano concertos, an Oboe Concerto, a Rhapsody for viola and orchestra,[4] and several keyboard pieces including two piano sonatas and two symphonies for organ.[3] His Three Idylls for piano and orchestra, and Burlesque Quadrilles, were premiered at wartime Promenade concerts in the Royal Albert Hall, and his English Suite and Boyhood of Christ, both for strings, were performed by the Hallé Orchestra at the Cheltenham Festival in 1949 and 1954 respectively. Rowley wrote a large number of songs and choral pieces, both sacred and secular; these include a Nativity play On Bethlehem Hill (1958).[3] In his compositions, Rowley generally avoided modernity, although on occasion he was not afraid to experiment with more modern harmonic forms.[4]

He wrote or contributed to a number of books, mainly of an educational nature, such as Four Hands, One Piano (1940); Practical Musicianship (1941); and Extemporisation: a Treatise for Organists (1955). Among his educational piano works is the short piece "The Rambling Sailor", which was chosen as one of ten test pieces for the Daily Express national piano playing competition in 1928, and recorded as a demonstration by William Murdoch.[5][6] He also acted as musical adviser and reader to a number of publishing houses.[1]

Rowley died at his home in Shepperton while playing tennis on 12 January 1958, aged sixty-five. A memorial service was held at St Sepulchre's Church, High Holborn, on 7 March 1958.[4] After his death, Trinity College established the Alec Rowley Memorial Prize. In 1970 the Alec Rowley Pianoforte Recital Prize was established by Professor Alfred Kitchen.[1]


Recordings are available of a few of Rowley's works:


  1. ^ a b c d e Kington, Beryl (2001). "Rowley, Alec". Oxford Music Online. Grove Music Online. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.23991. ISBN 978-1-56159-263-0. Retrieved 26 May 2019. (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b Rowley, Alec. Who was Who 2019. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U242526. ISBN 978-0-19-954089-1. Retrieved 26 May 2019. (subscription required)
  3. ^ a b c d Scowcroft, Philip L. "English Composers for Amateurs: No. 1 Alec Rowley". Music Web. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Chambers, H A. (March 1958). "Obituary: Alec Rowley". The Musical Times. 99 (1381): 152. JSTOR 936438. (subscription required)
  5. ^ MusicWeb International
  6. ^ "The Rambling Sailor", played by William Murdoch, on The Complete Columbia Solo Electrical Recordings (1925-1931), APR6029 (2019)

External links[edit]