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 age of 81.
"Five Folk Hymn Orisons" were published in 1966. To be clear, these are NOT "folk hymns" in the common use of the word! They are what I'd call, "19th century Gospel hymns," except of the final one of the set.
In all of these works, Purvis is targeting a "different audience" and not the congregation of an Episcopal cathedral. They are interesting, fun to play, and could make excellent recital material, but except for the final one, are things I would never use liturgically.
"A Prayer of Patriotism" is one that could be useful to many American organists. It sets the well known hymn/national song, "America, the Beautiful" in ways that are typical of Purvis's splashy style. It could be effective, if brought off well!
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 Purvis and of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco are attached below.