Parsons, William (1746?-1817) (DNB00)

PARSONS, Sir WILLIAM (1746?–1817), professor of music, born about 1746, was a chorister of Westminster Abbey, under Cooke. Before 1768 he applied in vain for an engagement at Covent Garden Theatre, and thereupon betook himself to Italy for the improvement of his voice and method. On his return he was successful in the career of a singing-master, and was acknowledged by a severe critic to be equal to any in London (A B C Dario). An introduction to court procured him, on the death of Stanley in 1786, the post of master of his majesty's band, conductor, and composer of the odes and minutes performed at court on the king's birthday, with a salary of 300l. His first essay was the setting of an ode by Warton, ‘In rough magnificence array'd,’ performed at court to celebrate the new year 1787.

On 26 June 1790 Parsons was admitted Mus. Bac. and Mus. Doc. at Oxford. On his visiting Ireland, in 1795, he attended the lord-lieutenant, Earl Camden, who knighted him. In 1796 Parsons was appointed instructor to the princesses royal. His name was on the commission of the peace, and for many years Parsons attended Bow Street police-court as a kind of subsidiary magistrate, and was afterwards promoted to be stipendiary magistrate at Worship Street. Some authorities give Marlborough Street as the scene of his labours. He died of apoplexy, at Somerset Street, Portman Square, on 19 July 1817, in his seventy-first year.

Parsons was a professional member of the Catch Club and a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He was an early patron of Michael Kelly and of Horn.

Parsons published:

  1. ‘Court Minuets for His Majesty's Birthday,’ for the pianoforte and in orchestral parts, 1794.
  2. ‘Six English Ballads,’ dedicated to the Princess Mary, 1790?

He also issued other ballads, besides arrangements. The ‘European Magazine’ published a portrait, engraved by Ridley and Blood, from a watercolour-painting by Wilkins, jun. (August 1808).

[Dictionary of Musicians, 1827, ii. 268; Georgian Era, iv. 521; Busby's Anecdotes, i. 265; Grove's Dictionary of Music, ii. 652; Morning Chronicle, 1 and 4 Jan. 1787; Mrs. Papendieck's Journal, ii. 165, 190, 272; Annual Biography, 1818, ii. 463; Kelly's Reminiscences, i. 12; Pohl's Haydn in London, p. 285; Gent. Mag. 1817 pt. ii. p. 92; authorities cited.]

L. M. M.