Purcell, Henry


b Westminster, London (Middx) 1659, d Westminster 1695. One of a musical family active through 4 generations; the most notable being Henry who at the age of 6 joined the choir of the Chapel Royal where his father was a ‘Gentleman’. At 17 he became a copyist at Westminster Abbey, and at 18 he was appointed a ‘Composer in Ordinary with fee, for the Violins’ (the Chapel orchestra). At 21 he became the Abbey organist at an annual salary of £10, and two years later also at the Chapel Royal. From 1680 to 1685 he was the Court Composer, writing for many royal events; and although James II proved less friendly, he was in great demand in the 1690s as a music teacher. He composed one opera, Dido and Aeneas, chamber music, odes etc, and canticles and much more music for church services. Many count him as England’s finest composer; certainly he was pre-eminent in his generation. But much of his work was published and became known only after his sudden death (seemingly due to a severe cold) at the age of 36; see also Grove for a full account of his work. No.338=567.

Tunes and arrangements by Purcell, Henry

Tune Name
Westminster Abbey