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Introduction To The Composer | Henry Purcell

Henry Purcell was born on September 10th, 1659 in London, England.

Purcell came from a family of musicians and began as a chorister in the Chapel Royal at the age of 10.

The musical world during Purcell’s time was centered mostly in Italy, France, and Germany. That is, until, Purcell’s career began to flourish. His work thrust England into the musical spotlight.
He became the composer to the king’s string orchestra in 1677, the organist of Westminster Abbey in 1679, organist of the Chapel in 1682, and organ-maker and keeper of the king’s wind instruments in 1683.

Purcell composed several pieces for the Court, including “welcome” songs and odes, which were used in celebrations of Royal birthdays, marriages, and holidays. The most beloved piece was the 1692 Ode for St. Cecelia’s Day, “Hail, Bright Cecelia”.

In addition to his court compositions, Purcell began to write music for stage productions including anthems and operas. His most famous was Dido and Aeneas in 1689.

Purcell and his wife Frances had six children. However, four died in infancy. Only son, Edward, and daughter, Frances survived to adulthood.

One of his last works was the funeral music for Queen Mary in 1695. Ironically, he passed away shortly thereafter the Queen’s death and the piece written for her was also played at this own funeral.  

Henry Purcell’s cause of death was unclear, some attribute it to “catching a chill” after attending a performance and being locked out of his house, others say tuberculosis. He passed away on November 21th, 1695 in London, England at the age of 36.

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