An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Purcell, Henry

(1659-Nov. 21, 1695). Outstanding English composer. He was born in London. At age eight Purcell was a chorister in the Chapel Royal. He was appointed an unpaid assistant to the Keeper of the King's Instruments in 1673, after his voice changed. From 1674 to 1678 he tuned the organ of Westminster Abbey. In 1677 Purcell was appointed composer-in-ordinary of the royal violins, and in 1679 he became organist of Westminster Abbey. In 1682 he was made one of the organists of the Chapel Royal. Purcell was appointed Keeper of the King's Instruments in 1685 by Charles II, and he was reappointed to the position in the same year by James II. A most prolific composer for both voices and instruments, Purcell composed primarily for the theater in the later years of his life. His sacred compositions include about seventy anthems and forty-six other sacred vocal works of various kinds. The hymn tune, Westminster Abbey, is derived from the concluding Alleluias of his verse anthem, “O God, Thou art my God.” It is used in The Hymnal 1982 with the text “Christ is made the sure foundation” (Hymn 518). The Hymnal 1982 also contains one Anglican chant credited to Purcell (S 221). He died in Westminster, London.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.