Percival J. Illsley

Percival J. (John) Illsley. Organist, choir conductor, teacher, b Cheddleton, Staffordshire, England, 1865, d Montreal 13 Oct 1924; ARCO 1887, B MUS (Trinity, Toronto) 1893, B MUS (Bishop's) 1894, D MUS (Bishop's) 1913, FRCO 1901, D MUS (Cantuar) 1912. He was a pupil and then the assistant of J.B.

Illsley, Percival J.

Percival J. (John) Illsley. Organist, choir conductor, teacher, b Cheddleton, Staffordshire, England, 1865, d Montreal 13 Oct 1924; ARCO 1887, B MUS (Trinity, Toronto) 1893, B MUS (Bishop's) 1894, D MUS (Bishop's) 1913, FRCO 1901, D MUS (Cantuar) 1912. He was a pupil and then the assistant of J.B. Lott, who was the organist at the cathedral of Lichfield, England. He was organist at Grendon, Warwickshire, for the Marchioness of Hastings, and then organist at Holy Trinity Church, Queensbury, near Bradford, Yorkshire; he also directed the Queensbury Vocal Union and the Arion Glee Club of Bradford. Women were not allowed in any church choirs under his responsibility.

In Canada, Illsley was organist-choirmaster 1891-1924 at St George's Anglican Church, Montreal, and he presented there the Canadian premiere of Stainer's cantata The Crucifixion and organized several series of organ recitals 1899-1904 and 1906-7. He directed the Montreal Zingari Club 1898-1900 and the Montreal Athletic Association Glee Club in 1906. He was secretary and examiner 1895-9 at the Dominion College of Music, was responsible in 1903 for courses at the Montreal Diocesan College, and was teacher of organ, piano, and theory 1904-8 at the McGill Cons. Among his pupils were George M. Brewer, Orpha-F. Deveaux, and Arthur Egerton. He served 1920-2 as president of the CCO (RCCO).

Illsley's most important composition, the cantata Ruth (1894, text by Archbishop Carmichael) was published in 1894 by Whaley Royce and was performed successfully twice in 1896 at St George's Church by a 62-voice choir with Ella Walker, Ada Moylan, and James Johnson as soloists. Illsley also wrote hymns and anthems ('There is Joy,' G. Schirmer, before 1910; 'Angels from the Realms of Glory'), part songs ('Ye Mariners of England,' Whaley Royce 1895), and works for organ. He set to music some of William Henry Drummond's poems, including 'The Grand Seigneur' (Whaley Royce 1896; CMH, vol 3; sung by Emma Albani) and 'The Last Portage'. Several of his manuscripts have been deposited with the National Library of Canada.


Further Reading

  • S.M.P. 'Death of Dr. P.J. Illsley,' MCan, Nov 1924

    Musical Red Book