The three organ sonatas and three other organ works of American composer James H. Rogers (1857-1940) are played by Charles Echols on the 1927 Casavant, Op. 1177, 108 ranks, 4 manuals, built for the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and relocated and rebuilt in 2001 by the Schantz Organ Co. as their Op. 2177 at St. Andrew's Lutheran Church, Mahtomedi, Minnesota.
Organ Music by James H. Rogers:
Sonata No. 1 in E Minor in 4 mvts
Sonata No. 2 in D Minor in 4 mvts
Sonata No. 3 in B-flat Major in 4 mvts
Berceuse in A Major
Prelude in D Major
James Hotchkiss Rogers
by Charles L. Echols
In the early twentieth century, James Hotchkiss Rogers (1857-1940) was best known as a composer of art songs which were performed by international vocal artists such as Kirsten Flagstad and John Charles Thomas. Rogers was born in Fairhaven, Connecticut (now part of New Haven), the son of an educator and minister, Martin Lorenzo Rogers, who had graduated from General Theological Seminary, the Episcopal seminary in New York City. James’ mother, Harriet Hotchkiss Rogers, died when James was five years old. His father then married Sarah Speas, who developed a supportive relationship with her young stepson.
The Rogers family moved to Chicago in 1870, and James began instruction in music at Lake Forest Academy, a boarding school in Chicago’s North Shore suburb of Lake Forest. After graduation, he worked for a year at the Lyon and Healy Music Store in Chicago and began organ study with Clarence Eddy, later called “Dean of American Organists.” Eddy had studied with Carl August Haupt (1810-1891), possibly the greatest German organist of the nineteenth century.
In 1875, at age eighteen, James traveled to Europe and began organ study in Berlin with Haupt and piano study with Carl Albert Löschhorn (1819- 1905). After two years in Berlin, James studied in Paris for three years with Charles- Marie Widor (composition and theory) and Alexandre Guilmant (organ). James married Fernanda Tedesca, an American violinist, in 1878, in London. When he returned to the United States in 1880, his wife declined to accompany him, preferring to continue her own career in Europe.
After a few months living with his family in Chicago, he accepted a position as organist at the First Congregational Church of Burlington, Iowa, a prosperous railroad and river town on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Rogers relocated after one year in Burlington, this time to Cleveland, Ohio, where he spent the remainder of his career. For fifty years he served as organist and music director for a Jewish congregation, Anshe Chesed. He also served, successively, Euclid Avenue Baptist Church and First Unitarian Church with one year at Plymouth Community Church interrupting his tenure at First Unitarian Church. Rogers ran his own publishing company, J. H. Rogers Co., for a decade, publishing under several noms de plume. He tried his hand at concert management, taught organ, piano, theory and composition, and worked as an organist, choral director, professional accompanist, and chamber musician. Additionally, he served as music critic for the Cleveland Plain Dealer 1915-1932, and earlier for the Cleveland News.
Rogers was granted a divorce from his absent wife in 1885. In 1890, he met Alice Hall, a native of Indianapolis, and married her in 1891. The couple raised three children. Henry, the older son, served in the U. S. Army Air Service in France during World War One; he took his own life in 1918. The daughter, Marion, married Hallam Hickman and had two children. Hickman also took his own life. The younger son, Stewart, moved with his wife and his parents to California in the 1930s. Rogers’ only grandson died at age ten in Paris, France. These three tragic deaths in his family took a heavy toll on James, but did not sour his outlook on life.
As one might expect of a composer born in the late 1850s and trained in the 1870s, Rogers’ musical style is that of late Romanticism. He did not embrace the various styles which were introduced in his lifetime: Impressionism, Neo-Classicism, Twelve-Tone, Jazz, or other innovations. He was equally comfortable writing for voice, choral ensembles, violin, piano, and organ, and did not aspire to opera or orchestral writing. Melody, traditional Romantic harmonies, clear forms, and an intuitive use of rhythm are the basis of his style.
Forty organ works by Rogers were published in the period 1905 to 1929: character pieces, a concert overture, two sonatinas, two suites, a “miniature” suite, and three sonatas. Typical of most American organ composers of his day, he did not write organ music based on hymn tunes. He did not use opus numbers to identify his compositions, but published his organ works individually or in sets ranging from three to seven compositions. He used several systems to indicate registration: specifying stops and pitches, listing general types of stops (flutes, strings, light reed, etc.), or suggesting dynamic indications without designating any stops. He edited music of other composers and, in the spirit of his age, arranged their music for organ.
Scherzoso, published in 1907, was dedicated to one of Rogers’ former students, Albert Riemenschneider, best known for The Liturgical Year, a popular edition of J. S. Bach’s Orgelbüchlein. The title, Scherzoso, means “playful.” A gently melodic middle section offers contrast before the return of the energetic opening section.
Sonata No. 1 in E Minor
The first sonata, published in 1910, is dedicated to Rogers’ former organ teacher, Alexandre Guilmant. Few organ composers, especially Americans, were writing organ sonatas in the early 1900s. Rogers recounted the impetus for writing his first sonata in an article in The American Organist, 1920, “Said Harvey [Bartlett Gaul, a fellow Cleveland organist at the time] to me, one day: ‘Why don’t you write a sonata?’ ‘Why not?’ quoth I. Suiting the action to the word, I proceeded to do so.”
Allegro con brio The first movement is marked by frequent changes of tempo. The strong theme of the opening measures gives way to a tranquil second theme. A transition leads to a third theme which has the character of a fanfare. The development section begins quietly and transforms previous themes into a powerful climax. The three themes of the first section return, with a brief coda ending the movement in triumph.
Adagio This movement has proven to be a popular piece of service music. Rogers calls for use of the Vox Humana stop and Tremolo, a combination stereotyped in theatre organ usage. The Vox Humana at St. Andrew’s is a particularly fine example of this stop, reminding one of its appeal for generations of French organ composers.
Scherzo This playful movement was often used as an encore in concerts by Rogers and other organists. It is a model of concision and admirably written for the instrument.
Interludio This movement is an introduction to the fugue which follows. Rogers here reprises material, gently transformed, from the Adagio movement.
Fuga As in the music of Liszt and Reubke, academic fugal writing is eschewed. After the requisite exposition of the theme in four voices, Rogers abandons any pretense of polyphonic writing, and writes more in the manner of a fantasia, using fragments of the theme. A secondary theme, first heard immediately after the pedal entry of the fugue theme, is transformed into a majestic statement accompanied by sixteenth-note figuration in the left hand. The short coda is based on the opening fragment of the fugue theme.
Berceuse The Berceuse was published as a separate piece in 1911. Its appealing qualities kept it in performance after most of Rogers’ music had gathered dust as “old-fashioned.” It is in three sections with a short coda.
Sonata No. 2 in D Minor
The second sonata was published in 1921 and dedicated to the Belgian-American organ virtuoso, Charles M. Courboin.
Chorale Composers such as Mendelssohn had introduced German chorales into organ sonatas. Like Franck, Rogers apparently composed his own chorale melody, which is used as the basis of the entire movement. The chorale is also used in the concluding section of the fourth movement of this sonata.
Adagio Non troppo lento. The first section of this movement is in the style of a song. An agitated middle section subsides into tranquility before the restatement of the first material. The coda ends quietly and implies a segue into the next movement.
Scherzo in modo pastorale Vivace, ma non troppo. Rogers combines elements of a pastoral movement with those of a scherzo. The restatement of the first section follows a contrasting middle section. Material from both sections is in the coda.
Toccata Moderato/Allegro. The very brief introduction to the main toccata section is constructed from two elements: three chords followed by brilliant figuration. The Allegro begins with broken chords over longer pedal notes. This movement includes Rogers’ most virtuosic writing for pedals. The tumult subsides, the main Allegro theme is reprised and leads to the “Intermezzo,” a quiet middle section frequently found in toccatas of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. After the recapitulation of the opening section, the chorale theme (from the first movement) is presented in octaves in the pedals and used as the basis for a strong coda.
Prelude in D Major The third of Four Organ Pieces, published in 1908, this little prelude makes an ideal piece for a religious service. Graceful melody is the strength of the first and third sections. A faster middle section provides contrast.
Sonata No. 3 in B Flat Major
The Sonata No. 3 was published in 1923 without a dedication.
Allegro con brio The movement begins with a strong theme, which ends in dissolution. The second theme is accompanied with figurations of scale passages and broken chords, ultimately thinning out until a single note sounds in the pedal. Rogers adds a new theme in the developmental section, which includes fragments of the first theme. The recapitulation of the first section’s themes is followed by a deceptive cadence and a stirring ending.
Capriccio Rogers wrote some very fine scherzos, but none more delightful than this movement, with its scampering figurations. The Trio section has a contrasting expressive quality, incorporating fragments of the quick figurations.
Cantabile “Cantabile” means “in a singing style,” and describes this movement perfectly. There are three statements of the opening section, with interludes between each restatement. The second interlude and the coda feature trills over chromatic thirds.
Passacaglia In avoiding the model of J. S. Bach, Rogers leaves his unique imprint on the traditional form. There are changes of tempo and tonality, in addition to the expected changes of dynamics and texture. The theme is subjected to fragmentation, sometimes being rendered unrecognizable in its extreme augmentation. Among the variations are a scherzo, a slow and tender variation, and a march-character variation in triple meter. This final movement of Rogers’ organ sonatas ends with a grandiose statement of the first half of the theme.
Charles Lowry Echols has degrees from Belhaven University (bachelor’s, 1959), The University of Texas at Austin (master’s, 1961), and the University of Southern California (doctoral, 1969). His teachers include E. W. Doty and Irene Robertson. He also studied with Harald Vogel at the North German Organ Academy. He has held church positions in Mississippi, Texas, California, and Minnesota. Charles Echols retired in 2005 from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, where he taught organ, piano, and music history beginning in 1972. An active recitalist, he plays organ concerts in central Minnesota and the Twin Cities. He is the editor of a four-volume publication of the organ works of James Rogers in progress from Wayne Leupold Editions, and the author of a monograph on the composer for WLE.
Installed in 2001 in the then-new 1,800-seat sanctuary of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, Minnesota, the 1927 Casavant organ, op. 1177 of four manuals and 108 ranks, was adapted to its new home by the Schantz Organ Company of Orrville, Ohio, as that firm‘s Op. 2177, restoring all of the original 7,310 pipes except those few which had been damaged beyond repair or lost.
The loss or damage of critical components led to construction of entirely new electropneumatic pitman windchests, a new console using the original ivory-covered keyboards salvaged from the Casavant, and a new wind system. The new mechanism and console permitted the addition of some newer features, such as a 99-level combination action, and the addition of a few stops derived from existing original ranks as well as two ranks of celeste pipes salvaged from another 1920s Casavant organ. The Schantz firm installed in 1999 a new case to house the organ in the new church building. The building was designed by the Danish firm Friis & Moltke with acoustical consultants Kirkegaard & Associates.
The Casavant organ was built in 1927 for the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and initially located in George Washington Hall. It was moved in 1932 to the then-new Cochran Chapel on campus, the financial effects of the Great Depression having prevented purchase of a new organ for the chapel. The large Casavant organ did not adapt well to the smaller space provided for its situation in the chapel and thus suffered poor tonal egress, the pipes‘ sounds trapped in deep chambers, behind walls and woodwork. Nonetheless, it was used until the school replaced it with an appropriately deployed organ built in 1981 with two manuals, pedal, and 27 stops, 37 ranks, by the Andover Organ Company.
The Casavant organ was sold for relocation to a performing arts center in Traverse City, Michigan, but the project did not materialize and the organ was poorly stored for 15 years. It was purchased in 1996 by a St. Andrew’s family and moved to safe storage in late 1997, in preparation for its renovation and placement in the new sanctuary.
The deluxe features of a large, 1920s Casavant are included in op. 1177 and its new mechanism: 73-note manual windchests for most stops, including the mixtures and Cornets, three 32’ ranks, principal choruses in all divisions, independent 16’-8’-4’ chorus reeds in each manual division, three well-scaled Cornets, nine 16’ manual stops with only one originally borrowed to the Pedal (though the new mechanism now permits availability of more manual stops in the Pedal), and 14 independent ranks in the Pedal.
1927 Casavant Frères, St-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada, Op. 1177
2001 Schantz Organ Company, Orrville, Ohio, Op. 2177
108 ranks, 4 manuals, 7310 pipes, 61 manual notes (73-note chests), 32 pedal notes
Great 1,801 pipes
16' Double Open Diapason
8' 1st Open Diapason
8' 2nd Open Diapason
8' 3rd Open Diapason
8' Hohl Flute
4' Principal (fr Cornet)
4' Harmonic Flute
V Cornet 1-8-12-15-17
IV Fourniture 15-17-19-22†
16' Contra Tromba
16' Trompette en chamade TC
8' Trompette en chamade
Solo Flutes on Great
MIDI on Great
Great 16 8 4
Swell to Great 16 8 4
Choir to Great 16 8 4
Solo to Great 16 8 4
Swell enclosed, 1,959 pipes
8' Open Diapason
8' Geigen Principal
8' Flute Traverse
8' Cor de Nuit
8' Viola da Gamba
8' Voix Celeste
8' Dolcissimo Celeste*
4' Flute Octaviante
V Cornet 1-8-12-15-17
IV Plein jeu 15-17-19-22†
16' Double Trumpet
8' Vox Humana
8' Trompette en chamade (Gt)
MIDI on Swell
Swell 16 8 4
Solo to Swell 16 8 4
Choir enclosed, 1,546 pipes
8' Open Diapason
8' Rohr Flute
8' Viole d’Orchestra
8' Viole Celeste
8' Unda Maris*
4' Flute d’Amour
1-1/3' Petite Quint
VIII Cornet (collective)
8' Orchestral Oboe
8' Trompette en chamade (Gt)
MIDI on Choir
Choir 16 8 4
Solo to Choir 16 8 4
Swell to Choir 16 8 4
Solo enclosed, 1,460 pipes
16' Contra Gamba
8' Grosse Flute
8' Gamba Celeste
4' Flute Octaviante
2' Flute (fr Grand Cornet)
VII Grand Cornet 8-10-12-15-17-19-22
8' French Horn
8' Cor Anglais
16' Tuba Magna
8' Tuba Mirabilis
4' Tuba Clarion
16' Trompette en chamade (Gt)
8' Trompette en chamade (Gt)
Midi on Solo
Solo 16 8 4
Great to Solo
Swell to Solo
Choir to Solo
Pedal 544 pipes
64' Gravissima (derived from 32' ranks)
32' Double Open Diapason
16' Open Diapason (ext. 32' Dbl. Op. Diap.)
16' Bourdon (ext. 32' Soubasse)
16' Gedeckt (Sw Bourdon)
10-2/3' Quint (independent)
8' Octave (ext. 32' Dbl. Op. Diap.)
8' Gedeckt (Sw Bourdon)
8' Dulciana (ext. 16' Dulciana)
4' Super Octave (ext. 32' Dbl. Open Diap.)
4' Gedeckt (Sw Bour.)
4’ Dulciana (ext. 16’ Dul.)
32' Contra Trombone
16' Trombone (ext. 32')
2' Octave Clarion
16' Tuba Magna (So)
16' Double Trumpet (Sw)
8' Trumpet (Sw 16' Dbl. Trumpet)
8' Trompette en chamade (Gt)
Midi on Pedal
Great to Pedal 8 4
Swell to Pedal 8 4
Choir to Pedal 8 4
Solo to Pedal 8 4
Crescendo (programmable, 4 levels)
3 Expression Pedals: Sw Ch So
All Swells to Swell
All Reeds Silent
Great & Pedal Reeds Silent
General Pistons: 10 thumb & toe
Manual Pistons: 10 thumb per division
Pedal Pistons: 8 toe, 6 thumb
*celeste ranks added, from a 1920s Casavant
† tierce ranks in mixtures may be silenced via a keycheek switch