Robert Parsons


English composer. From the 1560s though 1561 assistant to Richard Bower, Master of the Children Choristers of the Chapel Royal.Parsons became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1563, the same year as William Mundy, and so was probably about the same age. it is in any case clear that he was still a fairly young man at the time of his death by drowning in the River Trent in 1572 from the little eulogy at the end of his Retribue servo tuo in one of Robert Dow's partbooks: 'Qui tantus primo, Parsone, in flore fuisti / Quantus in autumno ni morerere fores'. Today most of Parsons's Latin pieces are incomplete or fragmentary, but such works as Credo quod redemptor and Domine quis habitabit , as well as the English First Service with its eight-part Nunc dimittis and seven-part Gloria in excelsis , help us to understand something of Dow's enthusiasm.

We know that Parsons was active before 1552--his first English service follows the 1549 text--and so some of his Latin music, including the antiphons, Magnificat and Jam Christus astra, presumably dates from Mary's reign. The three responds from the Office of the Dead were clearly set after the Sarum rite was abandoned.

Parsons, like Richard Farrant, wrote tragic lute songs, evidently used in early Elizabethan plays. His Pandolpho is one of the greatest of all tragic consort songs. He has also left In nomine settings for ensemble, and a galliard.

Further reading:

Tudor Settings of the Lord's Prayer: A short essay by Ben Byram-Wigfield

Links on this site:

  A Partial Robert Parsons Discography  |   IV M: England Through 1635   |   Latin Church Music 1460-1575: The Composers