Soli Deo gloria


Soli Deo gloria - (2010)    

for organ

for Manuel Rosales


Manuel Rosales, a friend from my undergraduate days at Immaculate Heart College [ 1 ], has garnered a worldwide reputation as organ builder. This art and craft has been his passion as long as I can remember. In the summer of 2009 while sitting in the backyard enjoying dinner, we spoke about a work I might compose for him. A wide ranging conversation drifted to the phrase, "soli Deo gloria," or "for the glory of God" which Bach and Handel associated (often in abbreviation) with their scores. The phrase has been associated with many causes, movements and organizations throughout the last centuries, as well as serving today as the motto of the American Guild of Organists. As Manuel is currently dean of the Los Angeles chapter and for its place in our musings of last summer, I title this piece specifically for its association with music and musicians, as for Manuel and his art.


The key theme is the rhythmic back and forth between major and minor chords. the fifth and third of the major chord acting as common tones between them. This gesture is used in many ways in music, and its development into a motive for this work extends the simple back-and-forth into a chromatic, moving set of gestures above the pedal tonic of the work. It opens in 9/8 at a moderate "toccata-like" tempo.


The suggested registration for organ is a set of various foundations joined to reeds, mutations and mixtures, much in the manner of a "dialogue for mixtures" in which the softer sections retain the complex sounds behind closed swell shutters, in what we used to call "caged rage" for the lovely snarl of bright stops muted, as opposed to the brilliant éclat of the louder registrations.


The rhythmic impetus slows as a countersubject for this section lessens the drive and intensity. The 9/8 section comes to a partial cadence in the simplified texture awaiting the next musical gambit, as the meter changes to 4/4.



The tempo notches up as the second section to this fantasia takes up the motive in the lowest register at first, rising quickly to the upper register. A moving pedal line now adds to the texture.

A contrasting theme sings out over a held trill, at first rooted on A, and in a later appearance on E. This moment of bright tonality gives way to another statement of the central theme, returning to the tonic C major.

The work finishes in a secure return to the tonic and an elongation of the rhythmic structure as its last gambit.


Here is a "Skizze" for how I imagine the registration changes, though each organist will have his own artistic thoughts.


Manuel Rosales

Manuel J. Rosales is President and Tonal Director of Rosales Pipe Organ Services, Inc, and among his many responsibilities he is Curator of the Walt Disney Concert Hall Organ in Los Angeles (its unusual and innovative façade was designed jointly with architect Frank O. Gehry) as well as a leader in the preservation of historic organs, particularly the instruments of pioneer Los Angeles organ builder Murray M. Harris. . He is a member of the International Society of Organbuilders (ISO) and the American Institute of Organbuilders (AIO). He is also a founding member of the Pacific Southwest Chapter of the Organ Historical Society (OHS), a past national councilor for the Organ Historical Society, and served as a member of the executive committee of the former Pasadena Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Rosales has taught courses in the "Art of Voicing String Pipes" sponsored by the International Society of Organbuilders in Strasbourg, France, and subsequently by the American Institute of Organbuilders in Chicago, Illinois. His website is


Manuel and Gary at the Walt Disney Concert Hall Organ

The score for Soli Deo gloria is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this score.


Soli Deo gloria




[ 1 ]   Manuel and I played in the Renaissance consort at Immaculate Heart College so many years ago. I came across this photo in a box of items thought long forgotten, in which -- in this photo -- he played the tenor recorder and sang in madrigals as well, as I struggled with the viola da gamba.  The college had a decent collection of Renaissance instruments in that time, including recorders, crumhorns, shawns, and a family of viola da gambas.

        After so many years, I find it lovely that I may honor his career in music with this dedication. (Click on the picture for a larger view.)

         In a similar vein, I composed an organ work, Prelude, Air and Fugue in C sharp minor, for Bill Beck, another of our classmates at Immaculate Heart College in the 1960s.