Born in Neepawa, Manitoba, Russell made a living as a surgeon and was notably a medical missionary in India from 1925–1941. He pursued musical activities in his spare time. He studied the organ in Ireland and pursued studies in music composition with Godfrey Ridout and singing with Weldon Kilburn at the Toronto Conservatory of Music. He published a Stabat mater and eight individual choral pieces, of which his part-song Who Is at My Window Who? has been widely performed. The song was also recorded by the Festival Singers of Canada. He also produced a number of anthems and motets which remain unpublished. He wrote a number of art songs, two of which, The Conqueror and Farewell to Arms, were premiered by bass David Mills. Lois Marshall recorded several of his songs for CBC/Radio Canada in 1969 (RCI 333/SM 101).
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