Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parry, John Orlando

PARRY, JOHN ORLANDO (1810–1879), actor and entertainer, only son of John Parry (1776–1851) [q. v.], musician, was born in London on 3 Jan. 1810, and at an early age was taught by his father to sing and to play the harp and the piano. He also studied the harp under Robert Bochsa. As Master Parry in May 1825 he appeared as a performer on the harp. As a vocalist he made his début on 7 May 1830 at the Hanover Square Rooms, London, on the occasion of Franz Cramer's concert, when he sang Handel's ‘Arm, arm, ye brave!’ with great success. His voice was a baritone of fine and rich, though not powerful, quality. After receiving lessons from Sir George Smart in sacred and classical music, he was in great request at the Antient and Philharmonic concerts, and also at musical festivals in town and country. For him Sigismund Neukomm composed ‘Napoleon's Midnight Review,’ and several other songs, but his best efforts were in simple ballads. In 1833 he visited Italy, and received instruction from Luigi Lablache at Naples, where he resided some time. At Posilippo he gave a concert in a theatre belonging to Domenico Barbaja, the impresario, the second part of which comprised a burlesque on ‘Othello,’ Lablache sustaining the part of Brabantio, Calvarola, the Liston of Naples, taking the Moor, and Parry Desdemona, dressed à la Madame Vestris, and singing ‘Cherry Ripe.’ He also appeared before the king and queen of the Two Sicilies, and gave imitations of Lablache, Rubini, and Malibran in a mock Italian trio.

He returned to England in 1834, after making himself a perfect master of the Italian language. In July 1836 he gave his first benefit concert at the Hanover Square Rooms, when Malibran sang for him, and he joined her in Mazzinghi's duet ‘When a little farm we keep.’ Persuaded to try the stage, he came out at the St. James's Theatre, just then built by his father's old friend, John Braham, on 29 Sept. 1836, in a burletta called ‘The Sham Prince,’ written and composed by his father. He was well received, and on 6 Dec. in the same year he appeared in John Poole's ‘Delicate Attentions,’ and in a burletta, ‘The Village Coquettes,’ written by Charles Dickens, with music by John Hullah. Subsequently he was for a brief season at the Olympic.

In 1842 he forsook the stage for the concert-room, and was singing, with Anna Thillon and Herr Staudigl, in pieces written expressly for him by Albert Smith (cf. Athenæum, 10 June 1843, p. 556). Parry afterwards accompanied Sivori, Liszt, Thalberg, and others in a concert tour through the United Kingdom, and his powers as a pianist and his originality as a buffo vocalist were everywhere recognised. In 1849 Albert Smith wrote an entertainment entitled ‘Notes Vocal and Instrumental,’ which Parry produced on 25 June 1850 at the Store Street Music Hall, Bedford Square, London, and illustrated with large water-colour paintings executed by himself. In it he indulged in monologue, sang in different voices, played the piano, and made rapid changes of his dress. The entertainment proved more acceptable to the audience than any single-handed performance since the time of Charles Mathews the elder. He was afterwards seen at Crosby Hall, Bishopsgate Street, at Willis's Rooms, King Street, St. James's, and in the provinces. On 17 Aug. 1852 he brought out a new solo entertainment at Store Street, called ‘The Portfolio for Children of all Ages’ (Sunday Times, 23 May 1852, p. 3), which he continued with much success till August 1853 (Athenæum, 13 Aug. 1853, p. 970). The strain on his physical powers proved, however, excessive, and he for a time suffered from mental derangement. When somewhat recovered he became organist at St. Jude's Church, Southsea, and gave lessons in singing. On 4 June 1860 he joined Thomas German Reed [q. v.] and his wife at the Gallery of Illustration, Regent Street, London. Here he delighted the public for nearly nine years by a series of droll impersonations and marvellous musical monologues. The comic song he treated as a comedy scene with musical illustrations. He invented his own entertainments, composed his own music, and played his own accompaniments. On 15 July 1869 a complimentary benefit was given him by a distinguished party of amateurs at the Lyceum Theatre, and on 7 Feb. 1877 he took a farewell benefit at the Gaiety Theatre, which realised 1,300l. His later years were embittered by the loss in 1877, through the defalcations of his solicitor, of the greater part of his forty years' savings. He died at the residence of his daughter, Pembroke Lodge, East Molesey, Surrey, on 20 Feb. 1879, and was buried in East Molesey cemetery on 25 Feb. A miniature portrait of Parry by Maclise is in the possession of Horace N. Pym, esq. He married, on 30 June 1835, Anne, daughter of Henry Combe, surgeon. She died on 4 Jan. 1883, leaving a daughter Maria, who married, first, in 1857, Lieut. Francis Walton of the royal marines; and, secondly, in 1872, Henry Hugh Lang, of the secretary's department, Inland Revenue.

Parry was the composer of numerous songs and ballads, all of which he sang in his own entertainments. The following were printed: ‘Wanted, a Governess’ (1840), ‘Fair Daphne’ (1840), ‘Anticipations of Switzerland’ (1842), ‘The Accomplished Young Lady’ (1843), ‘My déjeuner à la Fourchette’ (1844), ‘The Polka explained’ (1844), ‘Fayre Rosamond’ (1844), ‘Matrimony’ (1845), ‘Young England’ (1845), ‘Miss Harriet and her Governess’ (1847), ‘The Flying Dutchman’ (1848), ‘Coralie’ (1853), ‘Charming Chloe Cole’ (1854), ‘Oh, send me not away from home’ (1854), ‘Little Mary of the Dee’ (1855), ‘In lonely bow'r bemoans the turtle dove’ (1855), ‘The Tyrolese Fortune-teller’ (1867), ‘Bridal Bells’ (1868), ‘Cupid's Flight’ (1868), ‘Don't be too particular’ (1868), ‘Take a bumper and try’ (1874), and ‘The Musical Wife’ (1878). Duetts: ‘Fond Memory’ (1855), ‘A B C’ (1863), ‘Tell me, gentle stranger’ (1863), ‘We are two roving minstrels’ (1864), and ‘Flow, gentle Deva’ (1872). He also wrote a glee, ‘Oh! it is that her lov'd one's away’ (1853), and ‘Parables set to Music,’ three numbers (1859), besides much music for the piano, including many polkas. The Melodists' Club awarded him prizes for the following songs: ‘The Inchcape Bell,’ ‘The Flying Dutchman,’ ‘A Heart to let,’ ‘Sweet Mary mine,’ ‘The Gipsy's Tambourine Song,’ ‘Nant Gwynnant,’ ‘You know,’ ‘Constancy,’ ‘Fair Daphne,’ and ‘The Days of Yore.’ Some of his songs were arranged as quadrilles by L. Negri in 1842, and L. G. Jullien's ‘Buffa Quadrilles’ in 1844 were also composed from the tunes of his vocal melodies.

[Dramatic and Musical Rev. 1843, ii. 541–3; Illustr. London News, 1844, iv. 389, with portrait, 1851, xviii. 29, 1877, lxx. 251, 252; Illustr. Sporting News, 1865, iv. 657, with portrait; Graphic, 1877, xv. 101; Era, 20 Feb. 1879, p. 7; Morning Advertiser, 22 Feb. 1879, p. 5; Pascoe's Dramatic List, 1879, pp. 253–5; Illustr. Sporting and Dramatic News, 1879, x. 572, 574, with portrait; Blanchard's Life, 1891, i. 260, 338, ii. 437, 457, 464–5, 484; Grove's Dictionary of Music, 1880, ii. 651; Cock's Musical Almanack, 1851, p. 36; German Reeds and Corney Grain, 1895, p. 29; information from Mrs. H. H. Lang, Pembroke Lodge, East Molesey.]

G. C. B.