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.
"Poème Mystique" is the second of "Three Carol Preludes", published by Gentry Publications in 1985. It is dedicated: "for Charles van Bronkhorst." Von Bronkhorst (1921-2006) was organist of Bidwell Presbyterian Church in Chico, California for many years.
This work is based upon the famous American hymn/carol tune "Carol" (Willis), composed by Richard Storrs Willis (1819-1900).
Purvis the melody a sweeping flow, with a colorful harmonic palette. As with many of these pieces, there is more than a touch of the "popular style" that the composer was so famous for. :-)
Photos of Richard Purvis of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and of Bidwell Presbyterian Church, Chico, where the dedicatee had been organist, are attached below.
The full text of the hymn is given in the First Comment.
Tomorrow, the large "A Christmas Pastorale" by Betram Luard Selby. Included in many Christmas anthologies, it is largely unknown and rarely played.