Richard (Irven) Purvis (August 25, 1913 – December 25, 1994) was an American organist, composer, conductor and teacher. He is especially remembered for his expressive recordings of the organ classics and his own lighter compositions for the instrument.
He entered the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia in 1934. He was initially taught organ by Alexander McCurdy and conducting by Fritz Reiner. Further studies were with Josef Levine, Edward Bairstow and Marcel Dupré.
During World War II, while serving as a bandmaster, Purvis was captured and held as a prisoner of war for six months.
From 1947 through 1971, Purvis held the position of Organist and Master of Choristers at Grace Cathedral, where he helped to form a cathedral school for boys, ensuring the continuation of the all male choir tradition. He was also organist at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. Upon his retirement from Grace Cathedral, he continued to compose, teach and give recitals into his 70’s. He died on December 25, 1994 at the age of 81.
"Seven Folktone Poems" were published by Sacred Songs in 1968. They show the composer in mostly introspective portrayals of these folk songs and legends. In each, I'll tell what I know in the First Comment, giving texts and history if I can find them.
"Of Moor and Fen" is dedicated: "For Frank Taylor." Taylor, who died in 1986. He was a student of Melville Smith and a professor of music at LaSalle College in Newton, Massachusetts.
This work is an intoxicating, gently rocking cradle song. Like all of Purvis's works, it is conceived for the big Aeolian Skinner at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.
The layout and specification of the grand Salisbury Willis is different, and requires creativity to work this out.
These rare works were shared with me by a friend, to whom they are dedicated!
If you are interested in the scores, please contact me privately.
Photos of Richard Purvis, and of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco are attached below.