Purcell J. Mansfield, organist, composer and choirmaster.

Purcell James Mansfield was born in Torquay on the 24th May 1889. His Father, Dr Orlando A. Mansfield, was already an accomplished organist at Belgrave Church in the town, and his Mother, Louise Christine Jutz had studied violin and viola at the Geneva Conservatoire in her native Switzerland. Purcell was named after his fathers hero, the great English composer, Henry Purcell (1659-1695) who was the organist at the Chapel Royal and Westminster Abbey in London.

With two distinguished musical parents, it was not surprising that the young Purcell excelled at piano and organ. Tutored entirely by his Father he wrote his first composition at the age of Eleven, and on the 30th March 1904 and at only 14 years of age, he passed the examination for admission as a student in music at the University of Durham, England. The same year, he won both a gold and bronze medal for organ and pianoforte playing at the Bristol Eisteddfod.

When he reached 16, he was appointed Organist and Choirmaster of the Wesleyan Church in Paignton, Devon, (now the Palace Avenue Methodist Church) and at 20 had moved to Bideford Wesleyan Church, also in Devon. January, 1906 saw Purcell passing examinations in organ playing, harmony, counterpoint etc. required for the diploma of Associate of the Royal College of Organists, and was the youngest ever candidate. By eighteen years of age, he had added the following degrees: F.R.C.O, A.R.C.M, L.L.C.M. and L.Mus.T.C.L.

In 1910 upon the recommendation of Dr Peace of St. George's Hall, Liverpool, Purcell accepted the post as organist and choirmaster of the Park Parish Church in Glasgow at a stipend of 105 per annum. The church had just installed a three manual organ by Willis at a cost of 2,000, a substantial amount of money then. The choir consisted of mixed voices, all paid, with a quartet of professional soloists and was considered to be one of the most desirable posts in Great Britain at the time. His term there was interrupted by the Great War when he joined the 10th Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders.

On his return from active service in 1916, he continued at Park Church and married his first wife Marie. In March 1919 he was appointed organist and choirmaster of Paisley Abbey and the Clark Town Hall. He was also the singing master at the John Neilson Institute in the same town, a post he held for 27 years. Now living in a house in Mosspark, conveniently situated near the tram routes for both Paisley and Glasgow, he was able to take in music students for piano lessons. 1923 brought another new appointment, this time at Pollokshields Parish Church in the South Side of Glasgow which was specially wired by the BBC to enable live and recorded radio broadcasts. Purcell performed guest organ recitals all over Britain including Westminster Cathedral in London.

PJM was a powerful supporter and Vice President of the Incorporated Association of Organists, a member of the Glasgow Organ Society for over 50 years and its President in 1921. In his middle thirties, he began to give recitals for the Organist's Benevolent League, which over the years brought in over 1000. In 1956, he was paid a special tribute from the I.A.O. when they appointed him President for a period in August when over 200 delegates converged on Glasgow for their annual conference.

In his life Purcell published many works including six concert overtures, over 60 scherzos and miscellaneous pieces for the organ and countless choral arrangements, many of which were sung by The Glasgow Phoenix Choir and his own Purcell Mansfield Ladies Choir.

His sixth and final move in 1949 was to Hyndland Parish church in the West End of the City, a post he held for 19 years. He had many musical interests - teacher, adjudicator, examiner, recitalist, composer and conductor, but his first and all consuming interest was Church music. He continued playing and adjudicating and was at the organ on the Sunday before his death on the 24th September 1968, aged 79 years. His work lives on however with many of his compositions and arrangements still available. Only recently the Canadian Celtic Choir recorded a CD 'Here's to Song' with an arrangement by Purcell: 3. Scots Wha Ha'e, Robert Burns, Scottish Air.


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