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5 Things you (probably) didn’t know about Henry Purcell

Tue Sep 9 2014

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The Night Shift

In honour of the upcoming Night Shift featuring the music of Henry Purcell, we present you with some little known facts about the composer and the future musicians he inspired.

1. Purcell’s interest in music began when he was a young child.  It’s said that he began composing at the age of 9. His earliest work was an ode for King Charles’ birthday in 1670.  (And for those of you who have written birthday songs for your dogs, you’ll know how hard they are to please).

2. He landed the impressive job as organist for Westminster Abbey at the age of 20.  His final resting place is next to that organ.

3. The cause of Purcell’s untimely death at the age of 36 is unclear.  One theory is that he caught a chill after returning home late from the theatre to find that his wife had locked him out.  Another is that he died from chocolate poisoning.  Both are pretty unusual.

4. His music heavily influenced the work of Benjamin Britten, whose famous piece The Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra is based on a theme from Purcell’s Abelazar.  The piece by Britten is featured in the recent movie, Moonrise Kingdom, directed by Wes Anderson.  Check out the trailer here and pay attention to the music that begins at 1.24.

5. Pete Townshend of The Who claimed that Purcell’s harmonies influenced many of thier most popular songs, including ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ (1971), and ‘I Can See For Miles’ (1967). The 1969 classic ‘Pinball Wizard’ also features a very Purcellian intro.  Watch Sir Elton John perform ‘Pinball Wizard’ from the rock opera Tommy and marvel at the amazing 70s fashion.


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