Corrections to Richard Purvis, Organist of Grace
p. 44, caption should read “Alexander McCurdy at the organ in Casimir Hall. …”
p. 77, footnote #23: delete the parenthetical phrase “(two days before McCurdy’s death).”
p. 137, paragraph 2, should read “Duncan remained Purvis’s assistant until 1963.”
p. 153, lower caption should read “Purvis conducting the choristers in the Mural Room of the St. Francis Hotel, Christmas 1948.”
p. 155, the opening sentence of the third paragraph should read “One of Purvis’s choristers remembered than in 1953 Purvis had taken the boys of the choir to sing a Christmas program at the University Club, also not far from Grace Cathedral.”
p. 189, footnote #56 should read “After leaving Grace, Duncan moved to Chicago. He died there on June 25, 1968. Cook County Vital Statistics.”
In his published scores, Purvis spelled the tune name “Gwalchmai” incorrectly as “Gwalshmai.” References appear on pp. 243, 244, 245, and 252.
In his published scores, Purvis spelled Gifford Combs’s name incorrectly as “Gifford Coombs.” References appear on pp. 246, 255, 258.
p. 336, last sentence should read “A review of the program in the Worcester Sunday Telegram…”
p. 352, footnote #77 should read “Worcester Sunday Telegram, May 5, 1974.”
p. 435, middle paragraph, should read “summer of 1952…”
ADDITIONAL DATA AND COMMENTARY
Last Updated October 11, 2013
Page numbers are given to indicate where information would be inserted.
Chapter 2: CURTIS YEARS
pp. 42 and 44
From: Harry Spring, Kerrville, TX
February 14, 2013
“Also noted that on page 44, the organ console is unidentified, but I would surmise that it is the same one pictured on page 42. The giveaway was the location of what appears to be five indicator lights on the left side, just to the right of the tilting tabs. They certainly look identical. Both the Aeolian at Curtis?”
From: Karl Watson, Staten Island, NY
May 29, 2013
As an ex-Curtis man, I was glad to see that you got
the old AEolian console right. Of course, it
was replaced in the mid to late thirties.
One bit that I've found is not well known is that my old teacher at Curtis, Alexander McCurdy, did NOT travel East to become a student of Lynnwood Farnam, but planned to study with T. Tertius Noble. For some reason, Dr. Noble was not able to teach him and he became a pupil of Farnam, who then took him to Curtis, with five others, when he (Farnam) founded the organ dept.
Staten Island, NY
June 1, 2013
Dear Mr. Welch,
I read your book on Dr. Purvis and congratulate you on a thoroughly readable and engaging biography full of interesting information on an important figure and on the musical environments in which he worked. I very much appreciate receiving these addenda. May I make a couple of observations and inquiries?
1) As you may deduce from my email address, I have a particular interest in Leo Sowerby and I'm frankly astonished not to find him mentioned. I'm guessing that Sowerby's music did not particularly appeal Dr. Purvis--but they were both among the most important Episcopalian musicians and composers and Sowerby had several important San Francisco visits during Dr. Purvis's tenure... and, of course, Dr. Purvis was succeeded at Grace by a former Sowerby student from the College of Church Musicians. Can you shed any light on this?
2) I was fascinated to see that Dr. Purvis, presumably as a young student, attended at least a few of the gatherings at Godowsky's New York apartment at which Rachmaninoff, Lhevinne and Josef Hofmann (note--this is the correct spelling) were in attendance and sometimes played for one another. Did he shed any light on when these might have occurred or shared any specific impressions? After Godowsky suffered his disabling stroke at a 1931 London recording session, these gatherings ceased--so it would have to have been before then. A colleague, Gregor Benko and I are writing a book about the relationship of Rachmaninoff and Hofmann--and we obviously missed an opportunity in not interviewing Dr. Purvis who was both a student in the school Hofmann directed and pianist of Rachmaninoff's preferred orchestra. Would Dr. Purvis have been in that latter position in January of 1941? If so, he'd have played the fairly prominent piano part in the premier of Rachmaninoff's last orchestral composition, Symphonic Dances.
3) Rachmaninoff did not begin composing an organ concerto for Courboin or anyone else (Rachmaninoff's friend Dupre would have been a more likely recipient), nor even considered the possibility. There is an exchange of correspondence in the Rachmaninoff Archive at the Library of Congress between Courboin and Rachmaninoff's manager/publisher Charles Foley, that makes this perfectly clear. My interpretation is that Courboin and Rachmaninoff met socially and that Rachmaninoff did not explicitly say no when Courboin inquired about the possibility of SR writing for the organ, probably saying (as he did whenever importuned in this way) "talk to my manager, Charlie Foley."
Chapter 3: War Years
William Richards was a student of Purvis’s and close friend. Richards may have known Purvis during WWII. His name is not mentioned in the book, but the following Wikipedia article gives some clues regarding possible connections to Purvis.
G. William "Bill" Richards (1918-2005) was an American Latter-day Saint composer and organist. As a young man, Richards served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in the Eastern States Mission. He was transferred to the California Mission to serve as organist of the church's exhibit at the San Francisco World’s Fair. Richards served in the United States army during World War II. He was a chaplain’s assistant and carried an organ with him. He was involved in the Battle of the Bulge as well as the liberation of some German death camps. Richards then studied at the University of California, Berkeley, the Manhattan School of Music and Columbia University. He later was a faculty member at New York University as well as serving as organist for various non-denominational services.
On October 8, 2013, I spoke on the telephone with Mark Siems, who had studied previously with Purvis. Siems is now a businessman in the Seattle area. He attended my Purvis recital at Grace Cathedral on October 6, 2013, at which time he told me he had some information for me.
Between 1976-1979 he was a student at the Army and Navy Academy, a private military high school in Carlsbad, California. At that time Purvis made regular trips to Southern California, and Mark’s parents made arrangements for him to have lessons with Purvis between 1977 and 1978.
Siems said that Purvis was always a gentleman, and “like an uncle to me in ways. I was in the marching band, and the associate cadet director. I worked on band music with Richard in addition to organ. I don’t think I realized who I was studying with. For all I knew he was just a kindly retired organ teacher.”
Purvis said to Siems, “You’re my favorite student. What I love about you is how clean you are, well put together, in your uniform, your hair is cut short, and you’re courteous.”
He proceeded to say, “’Now if you’re going to be a musician in the armed forces, be prepared to look out for your men and do your duty. Keep up the morale.’ He was trying to caution me, in my younger years, something that was significant to him.”
Purvis then said: “You know that I was in a prison camp during World War 2, and the problem for me was the filth. When you’re in a prison camp you can’t prepare yourself for the smell and the filth. To this day when I see a man with long hair over his ears or collar, or greasy, stringy hair, it causes me terrific physical revulsion.”
Purvis continued: “I was in a band, we were captured, put in a camp, and we were there for an extended period of time. There was food, but it was so badly contaminated, we couldn’t eat it. There was no medical equipment. We were not treated badly, but not treated well.”
Purvis also told Siems that although they didn’t have musical instruments, they continued to try to be musicians while in the camp. “’You need to continue to be ready to provide music under the most adverse conditions.’ It was like he was preparing me for prison camp.”
Chapter 4: GRACE CATHEDRAL
p. 134, Modifications to the Alexander Memorial Organ
Richard Ditewig brought my attention to the following two documents in Aeolian-Skinner Remembered: A History in Letters.
The first, on p. 296, discusses a proposed spiral trumpet in Grace Cathedral, in a letter dated April 13, 1964, from Joseph Whiteford to Mr. Wayne Dirksen, at Washington Cathedral:
“…. I think I mentioned to you the solution we have for the same problem in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco. The Trumpets there will be suspended from the ceiling of the crossing directly over the free standing altar. They will be mounted on a circular chest so that they will appear as a great spiral. The whole thing would be on a winch so that it could be lowered for tuning and servicing, much like a big chandelier. We made a model of this which was accepted. Anything can be done if all of the various interests pool their thinking. I’ll be coming back through Washington on the way to Boston and perhaps we can meet then and thrash out some new ideas. I agree that it is good to make haste slowly on something like this which, if it is not done perfectly, will be a disappointment. With all best wishes to all of you there.
Joseph S. Whiteford
Chairman of the Board”
The second, on pp. 297-299, includes a letter dated June 2, 1964, from Joseph Whiteford to Richard Purvis, regarding a proposed West End organ at Grace Cathedral, to be connected and controlled from the console of the Main Organ. It was to include four manuals and pedal, but it was never built.
I am enclosing a copy of the revised specification so that we can have it on file. Perhaps we will get a chance to talk in Philadelphia about it a little bit more too.
Looking forward to seeing you there.
With all best wishes,
Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company
Joseph S. Whiteford
Chairman of the Board
Estimated price: $125,325.00 FOB Boston”
p. 135: What Became of Grace’s Skinner Console?
Richard Ditewig wrote:
On March 7, 2013, Charles Shipley (Verger at Grace Cathedral) called to say he’d read the book. He had information about the original Aeolian-Skinner bench. He said that when Schoenstein built the new console, they did not build a bench. The plan was for the original A-S bench to be used. For some reason they (Christopher Putnam?) decided on a different, new, bench, which is in use today. The original bench is in the Choirmen’s Lounge. The backrest is taken off the bench, but the backrest is still there.
Tom Warren wrote to say that he was one of Purvis’s early assistants.
June 3, 2013
No, it was not a paying job. Yes, I was "deputy organist" and helped him with the choir for close to five years. It was a trade - my being his assistant in exchange for organ lessons.
Comments about Bill Duncan
The cause of Bill Duncan’s death is unclear, but sources have claimed variously that it was a fall in the bathtub; an electric heater falling into the bathtub; heart attack; and suicide. (See also the updated reminiscences by Balderston, Parry, and Stout in Chapter 16, below.) Whatever the cause, it was reportedly very upsetting to Purvis.
From: Richard Ditewig
March 10, 2013
I think I recall Ed saying that Duncan accidentally dropped an electric heater into a bathtub, filled with water. Of course, that would result in electric shock right away.
From: Edward Stout
March 11, 2013
Dick told me Bill was found dead in his bathtub and gave me the indication it was due to an accident where he had cracked his head open. There may have been another reason he fell, but that was not made clear. There may be some official records within the Chicago Police Department files.
Steve Cohen drew my attention to the following regarding the Mural Room at the St. Francis Hotel. The following Wikipedia article gives further information.
The St. Francis was still owned by the Crocker family until the end of middle of World War II, when the Crocker family sold it to hotel magnate Ben Swig, who then sold it to Edwin B. DeGolia. In 1954, the hotel became the twenty-third property of the Western Hotel Chain, based in the Pacific Northwest, which eventually became the Western International and then Westin Hotels.
With its acquisition by Western Hotels, the hotel was changed from a home of elderly San Francisco socialites, some of whom lived in large suites in the hotel, to a modern hotel focusing on tourism and especially conventions. The old Mural Room, decorated by Albert Herter in 1913 with seven murals comprising The Pageant of Nations, a banquet and ballroom which had hosted many of America's famous big bands, was replaced in 1970 by a six hundred room tower, designed to help the St. Francis compete with The Fairmont, its rival on nearby Nob Hill. Architect William Pereira designed the new building which was completed in 1972. The murals were rolled up and removed to storage.
p. 155 Regarding the “walkout” at the California Club
From Don Axtell
July 17, 2013
Thanks for sending your book and thanks for writing it. I am not a musician and my singing career ended in 1955, but I thoroughly enjoyed the read. Mr. Purvis had such a commanding personality that memories of incidents that occurred during his "reign" still seem fresh.
One incident that struck a chord was the Christmas Carol walkout caper you describe as having taken place in 1949 or 1950 at the California Club (page 155). I remember the incident, but since my choir tenure was from 1951 to 1955 the dates didn't jive. Also, I remember the venue being a short walking distance from the Cathedral. I posed the question to the Old Boys Network which I recently joined and the responses were immediate. George Mason and Brad Wait both remembered the incident as well and after a flurry of emails we determined that the incident had to have occurred in December 1953.
Further discussion with additional participants tackled the venue issue. After considering the California and Bohemian Clubs, both were rejected as being much too far for the short walking distance we all remembered. We then narrowed the choices down to the Pacific Union Club and the University Club with The University Club appearing to be the right distance. The clincher was provided by Brad Wait who remembered hearing that the Concert was arranged as a favor to Bishop Block who was a member of the University Club!
Thanks again for pulling together the biography and providing us the opportunity to reminisce on times past!
Olive Borgsteadt of Palo Alto gave me a copy of a wedding program that Purvis played at Grace Cathedral on April 15, 1961. This is the only wedding program that has come to my attention to date. The program lists the music he played.
Preludes: Bach, Sheep May Safely Graze, Stay Thou Near, Symphonia; Peeters, Aria; Davies, Solemn Melody.
Hymns: Come, Down, O Love Divine; O Perfect Love; Praise to the Lord
Processional: Purcell, Trumpet Tune
Retiring Procession: Martin Shaw, “Allegro Marziale”
From: Michael Lampen
June 19, 2013
Did you know that RIP was an accomplished square dancer and folk dancer?
I found a reference in the “Chimes” (Sunday program) Cathedral Notes page, October 28, 1956, in an article announcing Carillon Club (young adults) holding an upcoming Halloween party in the crypt. “The feature of the affair will be square dancing under the leadership of Mr. Purvis who, in addition to his musical abilities, is an accomplished folk and square dancer.”
From: Ron Burmeister
May 29, 2013
James: I found the book fascinating and the attachments helpful. I have played “Greensleeves” several times for quiet Christmas Day services; the next time I program it, I will mention the foxhole connection. I was a medical intern at Highland Alameda County Hospital in Oakland in 1962-63 and frequented Mr. Purvis’ recitals on Sunday afternoon at the museum. He was brusque and short with his introductory commentaries, played beautifully, and left after a short bow in the company of a woman, presumably the one you mentioned in the book. She also turned pages. I always thought he was in a hurry, and now I know why.
Our Savior’s Lutheran Church
Chapter 5: LATER YEARS
Below is correspondence from Bernard Johnson, who has found the gravesites for several people mentioned in this book.
From: Bernard Johnson
June 15, 2013
James, I wanted to tell you that I've located the other organists I asked you about.
On my trip last week to the Bay Area, where I am a native, I located Harrold Hawley, who has a particularly lovely niche at Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland. Richard Purvis's parents are also there. I found Uda Waldrop and tracked down Iris Vining Wilkins who is unfortunately in permanent storage at a cemetery in San Diego. I also made a special trip during the week to visit Richard Purvis. I am in the process of creating memorials for all of them at , where I have a "virtual cemetery" of organists and organ builders, and growing. I also tracked down and visited the graves of the Schoenstein family, bought the $65.00 memoir of Louis Schoenstein which I am presently reading and is most interesting, although I do not understand the 'organ talk', about the constructing and maintenance, etc. I'm learning I guess. I also tracked down Thomas Whalley and Joseph Mayer, two very early organ builders of San Francisco and they will be added as well. Then to top it all off, I located the out of print copy of 'Historic Organs of San Francisco' on Amazon or eBay and bought that, it hasn't even arrived yet, and next Saturday I am attending a Wurlitzer concert at the Nethercutt Museum in here southern California. Oh yes, I also visited the grave of Murray Harris this morning.
Might sound strange to you, but this kind of thing is like a hobby to me, gives me good exercise and teaches me history and heritage of a special kind.
Chapter 7: THE ORGAN WORKS OF RICHARD PURVIS
From: Jonas Nordwall
April 22, 2013
“Wedding March” was written for Gifford Combs’s wedding in 1989. [See also updates to “Dedicatees” below.] Originally for brass and organ, it was transcribed for solo organ by Jonas Nordwall and first published in The Organ Music of Richard Purvis, Vol. 2. (FitzSimons) in 2004.
Chapter 8: DEDICATEES OF PURVIS’S ORGAN WORKS
Regarding David Laukkanen
From: Petri Vähätalo
March 16, 2013
I had a friend here in Lahti, Finland. He was David Laukkanen, originally from Modesto, CA. He was of Finnish origin, his grandparents (or something like that) having immigrated to the U.S. David had studied organ with Richard Purvis in San Francisco, but then he left for Europe, spent some time in Germany and studied in Holland with Chris Boss (if I remember correctly) and then he came to Helsinki. I think he did something at the Sibelius Academy but never finished his studies there.
David moved to Lahti (my hometown) with his wife. The marriage was not a happy one, David sought for consolation in many things, music of course but unfortunately also in alcohol. He did play a few recitals, giving us some insight into the American way of looking at organ music. But more important for me were the many, many discussions we had (too many in restaurants with his consuming alcohol) where David played for us music (other than strict JS Bach, which we were more used to) and told us about Aeolian Skinner instruments and so many times about his friend and teacher Richard Purvis. You must understand, at that time (early 1980s) not much, if any, U.S. organ world known here.
Alcohol became David's destiny, he passed on soon after he turned 40 years. His memory lives with us, and the things he taught us. I still think of him every now and then, if not any more daily.
When David moved to Finland, he still had active connections with Richard Purvis. They telephoned each other every week or so (there was no internet, facebook, e-mail then...). I always wanted to meet this great musician of whom David always talked about so admiringly. So I have a sort of almost personal connection Purvis, and I'm looking forward to reading the "full story".
Best wishes from Lahti,
From: Petri Vähätalo
March 20, 2013
About Kalevala Mists: did you find the original manuscript? I have a photocopy of the original, which (the original, that is) I may have seen at David's, but I do not remember exactly. The photocopy I have may have been given to me by David's mother, but I'm not sure about this either. I do know, however, that the piece was performed (possibly for the first and only time?) by Kalevi Kiviniemi at the Church of the Cross in Lahti at David's "memorial service" (it was more of a memorial concert). I think I remember David's being very enthusiastic about this piece, but I don't think he ever had the time to learn the piece for performance. -- I have to find my copy!
About David Laukkanen's death year: I have to try to find some document ---- stop: I do know where "a document is! ---- Found it! Please see the attached scan of the "Memorial service program." "Memorial service for David Laukkanen, who dedicated his life for organ music" (I know it should be: dedicated to...)
pp. 246, 255, 258
Regarding “Wedding March”
From: Gifford Combs
April 22, 2013
You are correct---he wrote it for my wedding which was 19 August 1989. It was on 19 August 1989 at a little church northwest of Baltimore in the Green Spring Valley so we didn't have the benefit of 100 ranks of G. Donald Harrison. It was a very humble instrument in fact but supplemented with brass and a choir of eight, which wasn't bad. Exeunt was seven verses of Sine Nomine and that got the congregation primed for the dinner that followed!
I believe the original music is in the archives at Grace Cathedral with his other papers. I hope so, because I have been trying to locate my own copy, so far without success, and I would like to have the music again.
I was a chorister at Grace from late 1967 through June of 1972-- the last year was under John Fenstermaker, but the first four were under Purvis. He was, as you no doubt know, a powerful personality, and was an important influence on my early life. I'm still in touch with a few members of the Grace Cathedral Choir from those years and before. And I also keep in touch irregularly with Steve Loher, who was Richard's deputy in those years. I assume that you have been in contact with him.
Chapter 9: CHORAL AND OTHER VOCAL WORKS
Purvis did not write any hymns, but he did compose chromatic alternate last verse harmonizations to two hymns. These are found in Hymns for the Family of God (Nashville, Tennessee: Paragon Associates, Inc., 1976).
No. 6, This Is My Father’s World
No. 169, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
From: Thomas Strickland
May 30, 2013
The update brought to mind some other hymn harmonizations by Purvis that I don't think you have catalogued. There are three in Free Harmonizations of Hymn Tunes by Fifty American Composers, edited by D. DeWitt Wasson (Chapel Hill, NC: Hinshaw, 1984). The tunes are:
Graefenberg, also known as Nun Danket All und Bringet Ehr
Schumann, also known as Heath
Chapter 11: PURVIS AS RECITALIST
pp. 317 and 328
Purvis played two recitals at Fortuna Methodist Church, Fortuna, California: one on September 18, 1956, and the other on October 24, 1967.
From: Cactus Samuel T. Harris
April 11, 2013
St. James Episcopal in Paso Robles, California, has an 1860's William Stevens organ where I started playing. Purvis gave a concert there once. The story goes that before the concert a tracker broke and a congregation member ran home and fixed it with bailing wire and duct tape (as a Paso Roblan would do!).
I don't have an exact date, but here is a quote from the church’s history book concerning the matter.
"In 1963 when the Stevens
celebrated its one hundredth birthday, Mr. Richard Purvis, Canon Organist of
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, came to present a concert. On the day of the
concert, there was a knock on parish organist Mrs. J.J. Yeats' door, and Mr.
Purvis told the astonished Mrs. Yeats that the concert was off. A tracker had
broken during practice, and one of the most important pipes would not play.
Mrs. Yeats assured Mr. Purvis that all would be well and told the world famous
organist to return to the church where help would arrive momentarily. Mrs. Yeats telephoned Ed Galba who came
at once and, assessing the damage, sent Mrs. Yeats for a wooden roofing
shingle, and with some toothpicks, tape and bailing wire, he repaired the
tracker. The concert took place as scheduled and received wonderful reviews in
the San Francisco Chronicle."
(James Holloway, Celebrate the Journey 1891-1991. The Episcopal Church of Saint James the Apostle, Paso Robles, California. Fithian Press, 1992.)
Funny little story!
Purvis played one of the dedicatory recitals of the Abbott and Sieker organ at Trinity Episcopal Church, Santa Barbara, on November 4, 1965. (The other two recitals were played by Mahlon Balderston and Roger Nyquist.)
Two Psalm paraphrases Benedetto Marcello
Concerto V Georg Friedrich Handel
Passacaglia and Fugue Johann Sebastian Bach
Prelude, Fugue, and Variations Cesar Franck
Intermezzo (Symphony III) Louis Vierne
Partita “Christ ist Erstanden” Richard Purvis
David Christensen, organist of Eden Lutheran Church, Riverside, California, shared a copy of the dedication program of the Moller Opus 10116 organ. Dale Wood, then the church’s organist, played for the dedicatory service on May 8, 1966. Recitalists for the dedicatory series included W. Paul Stroud (then faculty member at Cal State, Long Beach, and organist of Angelica Lutheran Church, Los Angeles), May 15, 1966; John H. Schneider (then organist and choirmaster of Calvary Presbyterian Church, Riverside), May 22, 1966; and Richard Purvis, May 29, 1966.
Purvis’s program on that occasion:
Prelude and Fugue in E-flat J. S. Bach
Lento (Symphony 1) Charles Marie Widor
Intermezzo (Symphony 6) Charles Marie Widor
Three English Baroquisms
Trumpet Tune John Stanley
Air for Flute Stops Thomas Arne
Capriccio Maurice Green
Piece Heroique César Franck
Two Sketches Robert Schumann
Maestoso in f minor
Scherzo in D-flat major
Ye Saints, Forever Blessed Johannes Brahms
Four Pieces Richard Purvis (birthdate listed as 1917 [!])
David Worth (no relation to the David Worth who was Purvis’s assistant at Grace Cathedral) wrote to me on September 1, 2013, telling me that Purvis had played a recital at the Crystal Cathedral around 1989. Worth recalls that the recital received a negative review: “I don't think Richard ever got over the scathing comments—but the audience (and I) loved him. I was a Rodgers dealer in Newport Beach and he graciously came to the store and autographed records and played for us (everybody loved it) and then we went out for a sailboat cruise (he hated it).” Manuel Rosales wrote on September 7, 2013: “Regarding the Richard Purvis recital at the CC it was one that I attended and agreed with the poor review. It seemed that Purvis was out of his league with that huge organ. It could have been lack of proper practice time, the inability to hear it from the poor choice of console location or simply a recital too late in his career. In any case, the glorious event we hoped for did not happen.” A person named Matthew Morrison created and maintains the Hazel Wright Organ Society on Facebook. I was told that he may have in his files a copy of the recital program and/or review, but to date none has surfaced.
12: PURVIS AND THE THEATRE ORGAN
From Theatre Organ Bombarde, Journal of the American Theatre Organ Enthusiasts
"Restoration 'Payoff': Purvis! Wright!
Richard Purvis Plays Rededication Concert on Elks' Morton Restored by Chapter Members"
by Peg Nielsen
Los Angeles.—There were two reasons for rejoicing on December 5, for ATOE'rs: completion of the restoration project started during the summer of 1967 on the either 58 or 61-rank Robert Morton concert organ in the Los Angeles Elks Temple, and choice of the right artist to play the rededication concert—Richard Purvis.
The evening concert was introduced by Chapter Chairman Bob Carson who provided some background on the organ and the time invested in restoring it—1,500 man-hours!
Mr. Purvis is a very "hip" classical organist who doesn't demean the theatre organ or its music. He brings a light touch to the classics and manages to inject good humor into his introductions. For example, one of his Bach selections was entitled, "I Stand on the Threshold of Immortality," which in German, he stated, comes out, "I'm at Death's Door." It turned out to be rather jolly Bach for such a somber occasion. Another selection was from Henry Purcell's "Westminster Abbey Royalty Suite"—"The Trumpet Tune," for which Mr. Purvis managed to produce a sharp "trumpet" voice from the great selection available—music fit for a king. Next, several centuries were spanned for a tune by the very modern-sounding Karg Elert, his rarely heard "Claire de Lune," an approach quite different from the familiar Debussy brand of moonlight but no less intriguing. There is a mystic quality in all of Karg Elert's music and his moody description of moonlight was done in delicate pastels.
"Caprice on the Notes of the Cuckoo" called for some skillful weaving of musical structure or "body" around the oft-repeated cuckoo call, which varied between a minor and major third, a bit of whimsy written by the organist. Then came "Greensleeves" in an Elmore setting of quiet grandeur which made use of many of the theatrical voices of the Morton.
As is usual of a Purvis concert, the post-intermission period consisted of the organist's compositions. First was his slightly irreverent tone-picture of a pompous but portly bishop, puffing while marching in a church procession, aptly named "March Grotesque." One of his tunes which gets through to the T.O. crowd is "Night in Monterey," an atmospheric and ethereal wisp of music, this time dedicated to Ruth Carson. Other Purvis compositions heard were "Idyll," "Les Petites Cloches" ("Li'l Bells") and "Toccata Festiva." An appreciative audience wanted more.
Purvis' encore included a confession; he admitted that he had once played theatre organ on the radio under the name "Don Irvine [sic]." He then proceeded to play Mr. Irvine's radio signature, an up-tempo "I'll Take An Option On You," which gave the until then suppressed Kinura a chance to cackle atop a theatrical combination. This one taste of theatrical fare left no doubt that Dick Purvis can cut the T.O. mustard with ease.
The maintenance crew stood by with "cipher eradicators" at ready during the entire evening but only one cipher started up (in the Echo chamber) and that took care of itself in a few seconds, without any assistance from the crew. In general, it can be said of the instrument that it leans more to the concert tonalities than theatrical sounds, despite the presence of percussions and a full "toy counter." And unification is sparse. Yet, it's a welcome addition to the realm of playable organs in the California southland.
If the ability to attract other organists to his concerts is indicative of an organist's appeal, Purvis sure rates with his colleagues; Ann Leaf, Gordon Kibbee, Gaylord Carter and Dick Schrum were in his audience. Mr. Schrum, ATOE National's hard-working prexy, flew in from Seattle to attend the rededication concert.
Tom DeLay furnished the following review:
December 1967, Volume 5, No. 12 (pages 21-22)
PURVIS OPENS ELKS MORTON
Richard Purvis, world renowned concert organist of San Francisco, played the rededication concert on the huge 4m/61r Robert Morton pipe organ in the Elks Temple, 406 South Parkview, Los Angeles, Tuesday evening December 5th. It was the first concert to be played on the instrument since its restoration by members of the Los Angeles Chapter ATOE. Purvis told his audience that to him the Morton was a warm and intimate instrument. His concert brought out all the stops on the organ to show the tonal variety and he also made good use of the echo division which had not been heard for several years due to lack of proper maintenance. This division has many beautiful stops.
During the playing of "Thanksgiving," a heavy classic, a cipher developed in the echo chamber but cleared itself before a member of the maintenance crew could get to the chamber to take care of it.
Patronage for the concert was disappointing. Only 450 tickets were sold in place of the expected sell out. Reactions to this concert were rather surprising; members of the audience were either lavish in their praise of the artist or very disappointed in the selections that were played. Many expected a program of light classics and musical comedy numbers, with a fair sprinkling of heavy classics. Conversely, those who expected an evening of heavy classics were the ones most pleased. To this reviewer, the music heard was pleasant and in its own way satisfying, but it was not the type of music that was expected to be heard at a concert of dedication. Those who heard Richard Ellsasser play the same organ in 1962 at the ATOE Convention were well aware what the instrument could do as a show piece, so to speak. Purvis did not apparently choose to show it off in such a manner. His concert at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco for the ATOE Hi-Jinks meeting several years ago was far more elaborate and crammed with showmanship.
He did tell the audience that during his early years he played popular organ over radio and then sat down at the console to play his only popular selection of the evening,
his theme song at the time, "I'll Take An Option On You."
The hall was crowded with organ celebrities who turned out to hear the artist. Among them were Gaylord Carter, Gordon Kibbee, Del Castillo, Ann Leaf, and from his headquarters in Seattle, ATOE's national President Dick Schrum flew in to catch the show.
Typical of those who were well satisfied with the pre sentation was David Schutt, who flew in from San Jose in Northern California. Upon returning home, he wrote The
Console the following note: "Richard Purvis' concert was great. You couldn't have picked a better artist to show off the rebuilding efforts. Please add my name to your
list to receive further notices of events that are open to the public."
Lyn Larsen, just home from his own successful eastern tour was the assistant who turned pages for Purvis.
("B" probably means Tom B'hend who was the editor, publisher, chief bottle washer etc., for The Console. Where B'hend was concerned, I strongly suspect this concert was a case of casting pearls before swine where he was concerned. He was not musically sophisticated and generally bitched and carped about everything that he did not like in his "Console." The Console was a bit of a renegade, reprisal sort of publication of the day stemming from a spiteful, localized war between the Los Angeles ATOE and the National ATOE. The console was published from 1960-1975. –Tom DeLay)
Tom DeLay transcribed from a recording the following verbal program notes given by Tom Hazleton at the Episcopal Church of the Savior, Hanford, California, on October 20, 1990, during the Regional Convention in Fresno and Hanford. These were Tom’s introductory comments to Purvis’s “Brigg Fayre”:
“My teacher was, is, a great man by the name of Richard Purvis and I would be remiss if I didn't play one of pieces on a Murray Harris organ. One of the reasons I want to do this is, Richard too learned on and played on a Murray Harris organ in First Baptist in Oakland, California, about a 35-stop 3 manual Murray Harris, still there to this day. And many of his ideas about tone and color, his beautiful tone painting came from that wonderful organ that is right behind the Oakland Paramount Theatre. And if you ever get a chance to peek in that building, if you are in Oakland, it is a beautiful, beautiful building and a wonderful organ.
I am going to play a piece that Richard wrote for me in 1967. It is based on a Scottish folk song that is entitled “Brigg Fayre.”
(The set up for these remarks was that Tom had also learned as a kid on a 2/15 Murray Harris in Pacific Grove Methodist Church.)
Chapter 13: PURVIS AS RECORDING ARTIST
From: Harry Srping
February 14, 2013
“Purvis as Recording Artist," I discovered the following
corrections/additions. Sitting in
front of me are my own personal LP's of his. An additional one not listed
"Richard Purvis at the Pipe Organ"
#W-4004 LP (mono)
This was recorded on the E. M. Skinner, Opus 243, at First Congregational Church of Montclair, New Jersey. Program notes by R.I.P. list his compositions of "Communion, Greensleeves, Repentance, Thanksgiving, Supplication, and Divinum Mysterium." This appears to have been recorded prior to 1954 since the program notes state that the organ had not been "modernized.” Moller rebuilt the organ in 1954 and added 25 ranks and a new 4-manual console. Possibly this is his first commercial release?
I also have a STEREO copy by HI-FI "SR-705 of "Music for Christmas" at Grace Cathedral, so evidently there were at least two Stereo discs of him released. I also have the two Volumes of "A Richard Purvis Organ Recital in Grace Cathedral." Mine both appear to be Mono R-703 and R-704.
In 1989 Gothic Records released a recording entitled “Sing We Now of Christmas,” made at the Crystal Cathedral. There are 19 tracks, mostly of familiar carol arrangements, performed by the Crystal Cathedral Choir, various solo singers, instrumentalists, and organists. Also included is Purvis’s “Greensleeves.” The notes on the website indicate that Purvis was one of the organists on this recording. However, Fred Swann wrote on September 2, 2013, “On the CD I directed the choir, and also played on all but two of the accompanied pieces; Mark Thallender accompanied on those. Obviously whoever put participants on that website has practically everything wrong.”
Chapter 14: PURVIS AS TEACHER
Vaughn Jones raised a question about Don Sears' statement that Courboin had studied with a student of Franck. I called Don Sears on February 25, 2013, and he said that Purvis had told him that Courboin had studied with the Belgian Alphonse Mailly (1833-1918).
From: Vaughn Jones
February 25, 2013
I hope Mailly was a better teacher than he was a composer! But it establishes another Purvis Belgian connection. Purvis did love the Belgians, and that was one of the things that we had in common, because my mother was of Belgian descent, her people having come from a small village in the Ardennes Forest, close to Luxembourg and Germany. Like Purvis, I loved the music of Flor Peeters and Jongen. Purvis used to tell me that the Belgians were warmer and more direct with Americans, whereas the French were more sly, political and devious. (Not his exact words, but that was the gist of his feelings.)
Purvis also told me that in the popular public view, Beethoven was a German composer and Franck was a French composer, although in reality both composers had exactly the same parentage, but in reverse: Beethoven had a German father and a Belgian mother; Franck had a Belgian father and a German mother.
Chapter 16: ANECDOTES AND REMINISCENCES
On April 2, 2013, I played a recital at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara, where I was organist from 1982 to 1984. David Gell, currently organist there, told me that long-time Santa Barbara resident and organist Mahlon Balderston was organist at Trinity in the 1960’s, and that Mahlon had invited Purvis to play there.
I called Mahlon on April 5, 2013, and he told me that he had invited Purvis to play one of the dedicatory recitals on the new Abbott & Sieker organ (on November 4, 1965). He also provided the following reminiscences:
Balderston was most impressed by Purvis’s pedaling, which was “amazing. He was a master of tonal manipulation.” He remembers Purvis playing a Vierne Scherzo. I asked Balderston how he knew Purvis. He said that he (Balderston) and Bill Duncan had been in the army together, so he probably met Purvis through Bill Duncan. I mentioned the subject of Duncan’s death, and Mahlon said that Duncan had “committed suicide in the shower.” The reason? “Sexual orientation, perhaps.”
Mahlon said that he and Purvis were “drinking buddies” and that they’d go out drinking when Mahlon visited him in San Francisco. He also said that Purvis was a great walker and enjoyed walking.
Mahlon said that Purvis had told him about playing a recital on the organ in the Santa Barbara Art Museum. When Mahlon arrived in Santa Barbara in 1953, the organ had already been removed, so it would have been prior to 1953.
From: Steve Cohen
February 18, 2013
As I read the book in detail there are bells going off in my head regarding experiences that I had not thought about for years.
1. RIP’s usage of the celesta in many of his compositions and orchestrations; especially for the annual Christmas concert. The celesta belonged to Phoebe Cole. My father and I would load the celeste into the family car and transport it to and from “The Cathedral.” Phoebe Cole was the Dean of Girls at Aptos Junior High School in San Francisco. Phoebe was responsible for the installation of a 2-manual Baldwin electronic in the auditorium at Aptos JHS. My first practice organ. She was also my first Organ teacher and organist at St. John’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco (15th Street & Julian). Thanks to Phoebe I was able to utilize the organ for practice. The current organ is a 2-manual Möller/DeCamp Organ. When I was using the organ it was a Möller. Apparently it has been rebuilt.
2. When reading about RIP’s “Afternoon’s” with Josef Levine, Rachmaninoff and Godowsky, I could not help but remember being invited to RIP’s Filbert Street flat once a month when in high school to listen to a musical program designed by RIP from his extensive record collection on then state of the art hi-fi system which consisted of a pair of EV Electro Voice Centurion Georgian 3-Way, cornerhorn, horn loaded bass reflex design speakers, Leak power amplifiers, etc., etc. Phoebe and I would arrive in the early evening and find a place on the floor, in the optimum place for sound and the evening would begin. RIP would tell us about the performers, the place of recording, what made the music so special, etc. Dick would offer everyone that was invited a glass of sherry after about an hour into the musical celebration. I always thought that being invited to an evening with RIP was a very special event and learning experience.
3. James, you mentioned the carillon and that Dick composed the “change” that was rung. Do you happen to have the notation for the “change.” If so, would you kindly forward it to me?
4. Several of the choir boys would meet before the Thursday night rehearsal and explore the crypts and the ceilings of The Cathedral and of course… the Bell Tower. There was only one at that time, the North Tower. One time we decided to climb to the Carillon and we misjudged the time. The Carillion started ringing the hour. When the Bourdon bell started to ring the hour we very quickly descended to the level below the Carillon.
5. My family spent the summers in the High Sierra. One summer during the late ‘40s we asked if RIP would be interested in coming up to Huntington Lake for some High Sierra camping. He quickly accepted and spent a week with us exploring the high country and sailing on the lake.
6. The Christmas Concert always commenced with the choir in the “Chapel of Grace” singing carols. The carols were prefaced by someone playing fanfares during the 15 minutes of carols on the chancel organ. I dreamt of being asked to do the playing for several years when RIP asked me to do so. He wrote out three fanfares to learn. I practiced and practiced those three fanfares as I knew that with full reeds and mixtures I did not dare make a mistake!
Jim, I am thoroughly enjoying the book. I am attempting to decide if, when by the time I finish, I should confer upon you the RIP PHD.
From: Richard Cummins
February 26, 2013
I did hear Richard Purvis play years ago in Richmond, Virginia, on the new Aeolian-Skinner at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. That organ has since been replaced with a tracker instrument.
Purvis ended the recital with his Toccata Festiva and about midway in the piece, the organ's electric actions suddenly cut out. Purvis got up and explained what had happened and after an unsuccessful attempt to get the organ going again, someone in charge got up and said "Mr. Purvis will continue the recital at the Church of St. James." As I recall that recital was either in 1952 or '53.
Richard Cummins, Organist, Director of Music & Fine Arts
Greene Memorial United Methodist Church
Roanoke, VA 24011-1504
From: Nat Greer
Tan Valley, AZ
May 30, 2013
Thank you for writing Purvis' biography. I have had nothing but the warmest regards and memories of my study with Mr. Purvis. I was privileged to study with him from 1975 to 1980 at the home of Robert Tall. Dr. Tall had a cool, enclosed gazebo in his backyard where he had a 3-manual Rodgers with pipes, which Mr. Purvis always complained about because the pipes were never quite finished. He had me get the Hilty organ method book, which I think was excellent. One day Mr. Purvis told us that the airline fares had gone up again and he didn't want to raise his price, so he was discontinuing out-of-town lessons. He referred me to Lloyd Holzgraf at First Congregational Church in Los Angeles, where I studied for the rest of the year until my mission.
If you'll indulge me a little, I have a few interesting memories:
I knew Mr. Purvis after he had mellowed. I never saw the brusque side of him and was in fact surprised to read about it. He was very kind to me and my folks. When my dad would take me to my lessons, Mr. Purvis would ask him tenderly, "How is your dear wife?" I was one of his younger students, starting at 13, and he would often make little quips, such as "You make a lot of noise for a man of 103!" and always ended the lesson with "OK, young man..."
Mr. Purvis had attended a piano recital for young kids. He said that one young boy said to him after playing a duet, "You know why I am better than the other guy? Because I finished first." Mr. Purvis got the biggest kick out of that. Another recollection I have is when someone had recently heard him play and described his music as "kaleidoscopic." Mr. Purvis said, "Kaleidoscopic--what does that mean???"
- Commenting on the interpretation of Bach, Mr. Purvis said that Bach regarded his printed music as "merely his notepad."
- Whenever I would show up to my lesson with a new book of his music, he would say, "Why did you get this trash? Why don't you get something good?" but I could tell he was flattered. He would then proceed to correct the mistakes in the book.
He gave a recital at First Congregational Church in Los Angeles in 1980. I have the program somewhere, but I remember him playing Bach's G-minor Fantasy and Fugue, Capriccio on the notes of the Cuckoo, and Toccata Festiva. At the end, he did an improvisation on 3 notes, each note provided by a different prominent musician in the area. In this case the notes were B-flat, F, and A. His harmony fit perfectly, and the middle section was a series of lovely passages.
- He gave a recital at the Colton Piano and Organ showroom "Shafer Hall" around the same time. In was on the Royal V, twin to the Carnegie Hall organ. At playing Franck's Chorale #3, he had finished playing at tutti and was beginning the soft A-Major section, but forgot to take off the tutti, making for a brief but loud A-Major chord.
Thank you for indulging me a little, but these are some very fond memories for me, and I thought you might like to read them.
From: Vaughn Jones
February 25, 2013
I asked Purvis once if the tune in his "Communion" was original or based on a plainsong, and he said the latter but he could no longer remember the name of the chant, but that he had heard the chant at Quarr Abbey when he was in England. At that time I was organist at St. John the Evangelist and they owned a copy of the Liber Usualis, and I went through that book one page at a time during the sermon for the next month trying to find that chant, but it never turned up. I told this to Purvis and he said, "Well, remember that the Liber Usualis was mostly a French and Continental collection of chants and many of the old English Sarum Chants probably were not included." I had completely forgotten this conversation, and I would never have remembered the name Quarr Abbey if you hadn't mentioned it in the book.
May 29, 2013
Phoebe Cole: she was a longtime organist at St. John the Evangelist (1920s to early 1960s perhaps?). When Hugh MacKinnon had to leave Grace Cathedral to go into the service at beginning of World War II, phoebe took a long leave of absence from St. John's to go to Grace Cathedral for the duration of the war, and so today she is regarded as the first female American Cathedral organist. Purvis thought very highly of her and he always mentioned her when I brought him to St. John's. I never met her.
From: George Mason
February 2, 2013
I'm part of the "old choristers" group that includes Bob Loshuertos, et al., and Bob recently forwarded your email exchange about your book. I was fascinated to read just the blurb on your website, as I had NO idea about Purvis's life prior to or outside his role at Grace Cathedral. (I sang there as a pre-teen for only two years--1953-54--and all I knew of him was that he was a stern taskmaster!)
Some years later--in my 20s, I believe--my mother found out Purvis was scheduled to perform at a church (in Santa Cruz, as I recall) and we went together, to hear him and to say hello (my mom had been the one to prompt me to audition for the choir, in the first place). After the concert, we waited our turn in line to greet him; when we finally introduced ourselves (I had grown quite tall and had a moustache, by then, so I knew he wouldn't recognize me on sight), before he said Hello or anything else, he leaned in toward me, peering to get a good look, and in a loud, heavily accented voice demanded to know "What's that THING growing on your FACE?!?" Funny, I recall nothing else of our conversation that day, but I remember THAT!
Thought you'd appreciate the anecdote...
Mountain View, CA
From: Chris Nichols
February 18, 2013
One story I heard Purvis tell at the social hour after an AGO gathering was that when he returned from Europe he had a trunk full of sheet music. Some of it was marked up by a major French composer, it may have been Dupre. The trunk was lost in shipment and he never saw it again.
I heard him play a concert on the Kimball at First Christian Science in San Francisco. I think Wallace Sabin played there. Dick Clay has a copy of the concert.
From: Bede Parry
April 29, 2013
James, I am reading through your wonderful book very carefully. Because of Richard's tendency to color his past, I was never quite sure what transpired between his last years at Curtis and the war years. He claims Barstow as a mentor, but not Dupre. Purvis said all Dupre did was say "bon" and take his money. Also, his claim that he and Callaway were in the same band is true, and, Purvis used to mumble that Callaway didn't have the distinction of being a German POW.
After leaving San Francisco in 1963, I would see Richard only on vacation and we would always have lunch. The last time I saw him was the summer of 1994. It is interesting about John Shields. To be very honest with you, I think a better term would be "companion" because that's what John was. John never liked me very much, nor I him, but Richard and I were great friends during the years I was there. I remember Richard bragging about his new Hyde Street apartment, saying it had once belonged to Mary Garden of opera fame. When I first met Richard with Charles Agneau he was living in the apartment on Filbert. We all got drunk on Martinis (except Charles always drank cream sherry). I am sorry that more mention was not made of Charles W. Agneau, Jr. He was a very good friend of Purvis, and was the Chief Bottle Washer at the Cathedral. If you wanted to play the organ, you had to see Charlie (this was done after hours before all of the security). So many of the stories by Steve Loher and David Worth had Charlie in the midst of them. Charles came to the Cathedral in the early 50s and retired in the early 80s. He was known throughout the Anglican Cathedral world, and had Vergers from English Cathedrals visiting all the time, as he did them when he was in England. And those Cathedral cats, Magnificat and Catechism were CHARLES' pets - not Cathedral property - and you could only see them in Charles' apartment in the Cathedral House.
After the Cathedral was completed is when the Purvis Golden years started coming to an end. It probably would have been better if he had retired at 20 years. The only deputies I knew were Bill Duncan, who actually had been transferred by Burlington to Chicago the spring of 1963. He was found dead in his bathtub in his Chicago apartment--apparent heart attack. By the time I was there, Bob was no longer there. It was just Bill. Stephen came after I left, but we (and Ted Alan Worth, Paul Fitzgerald, Garnell Stuart Copeland) were very good friends. Ed Stout and Tom Hazelton were always together, and I don't think Ed trusted the rest of us to be alone with Tom!! I will say, that of all Richard's students, Tom played the best and had the Purvis style down pat. Some other students, such as Keith Chapman, Rodney Hanson (who was Purvis' choice for his successor) and Lewis Bruun were all brilliant players. Keith went to Wanamaker to be with Mary Vogt and succeeded her and then was killed in an airplane crash. Rodney went east and was at St. John's, Stamford, Connecticut, for many years. It is really sad that you did not have Tom for this book. He used to give the best Purvis workshops and would always have all the Old Aunties in the audience squealing with delight, as he roared through the Purvis repertory.
The reason I sent you the music for Sunday is because I don't play services very often any more, but thought you would enjoy the selections. BTW the Campra "Rigaudon" was the theme song for both Purvis and Bill Duncan - got played by one of them every month. LOL.
From: Quentin Smith
February 1, 2013
We met you some time ago. Karen, my wife, spent ten years studying with Richard. We had him to our home for dinner many times along with his secretary [see below] who loved to fish trout in the mountains. At the time Karen had a Rodgers 330 E organ, the same that Richard had at the time. We now have a number of concert organs in the house, a Rodgers three manual 967, a Johannus 4-manual and a concert Bosendorfer grand piano. A house of music. Thanks for writing this book. We will let you know how we like it. Our other friends were Virgil Fox, Ted Alan Worth, Robert Tall and Hector Olivera. Good company to be with.
February 3, 2013
The secretary was John Shields.
When we would visit Richard for dinner or have him come to dinner here in Rohnert Park we would always supply the champagne. Richard loved Great Western Champagne from New York from the area where he went to college. It was not available in California. When we would travel to Michigan, where we were from, we would pick up as many bottles as our luggage would allow. Richard loved this treat and so did we. Richard was an accomplished cook. We loved going to his parties at Christmas time.
John had a tendency to have his champagne and then get argumentative over some subject and Richard would have to quiet him down. Funny. John normally was a very cordial gentleman.
Additional details from Ed Stout
February 14, 2013
When I met with Ed Stout on February 14, 2013, he took the occasion to talk about a few details about Purvis that he hadn’t mentioned previously.
1. It was Wallace Sabin who “brought him out.”
2. Purvis had two great loves. The first was a man he met in the service during WWII. This man was killed. Stout didn’t know if they had met in the States or in Europe. The second was Bill Duncan. Bill worked for the railroad, was transferred to Chicago. Purvis would take the train out to see him. Purvis arrived in Chicago to find that Bill had died of a fall in the bathroom.
Regarding John Shields and Purvis, Stout said that Purvis did not say that he and John were lovers. They had maintained separate residences. John Shields was in some financial need, so when Purvis left the Cathedral, he invested in the house where John was living. Stout said that Purvis was somewhat “Victorian,” and he didn’t get from Purvis that Purvis and John were lovers. Stout believes that John Shields may have embellished the story somewhat to give the impression that he and Purvis were lovers.