Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parsons, Robert (d.1570)

PARSONS, ROBERT (d. 1570), musical composer, was born in Exeter. On 17 Oct. 1563 he was sworn gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and on 25 Jan. 1569-70 he was drowned at Newark-upon-Trent. He was a composer of church music, and he revelled in the science of part-writing. His settings of 'In Nomine' were praised by Butler (Principies of Music); and one, preserved m the Christ Church Library, Oxford, together with an Ave Maria, made an agreeable impression on Burney, who, however, singled out the song 'Enforced by love or feare' to print as an example of Parsons's rich and curious harmony (History, ii. 567, 596).

There are published in Bernard's 'Selected Church Music,' 1641, (1) A morning, Communion, and evening service, α 4, 5, 6, and 7; and (2) Full anthem, α 6, 'Deliver me from mine enemies;' (3) Madrigal, α 5, 'Enforced by love and feare' in Burney's 'History' (ii. 596) and Grove's 'Dictionary' (iii. 271). John Day ascribes a large number of psalm-tunes to a W. Parsons in the 'Whole Book of Psalms,' 1563.

In manuscript there is a copy of the anthem 'Deliver me' in Tudway's collection (Brit. Mus. Harleian MS. 7339, f. 65); a second Magnificat (ib. Addit. MS. 29289, f. 4); Ave Maria, Te Fili, and an In Nomine, α 5, copied by Burney from Christ Church MSS. (ib. 11586); Motetts and settings of 'In Nomine,' for which Parsons was famous (ib. 22597, tf. 36 b, 54 b, 29246 f. 55, in lute notation; 31390 ff. 10 b, 23 b, 24 b, 59 b, 'Delacourt,' 82 b, 96 b, 32377 ff. 5, 13, 14, 21 b, 47 b, 59 b); Sol-fa, and 'Delacorte,' α 5 (ib. 30380-4, ff. 63, 67); 'Abradad,' 'Pandulpho,' &c. (ib. 17786, ff. 7, 9).

In the library of the Royal College of Music are Parsons's First, Second, and Third Services, of which the third is published in Barnard as Parsons's First; an Anthem, 'Ah, helpless wretch;' a Motett, 'Anima Christi;' and pieces for viols. At the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, are an Anthem, 'Deliver me,' and an In Nomine (Virginal Book). At the cathedral libraries of Ely, Durham, and Gloucester are various compositions.

A son John (d. 1623) is separately noticed.

[Authorities cited.]

L. M. M.