Robert Parsons c.1530 to January 1572
Thomas Tallis and William Byrd are the Tudor composers that most come to mind and music of the court and chapel are thought of generally in terms of the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.
The two short reigns of Edward VI and Mary I are often overlooked…although these two reigns see in quick succession not only three monarchs (Edward VI, Jane Grey and Mary I) but three entire liturgies one after the other…the two Books of Common Prayer 1549 and 1552 and the restored Sarum usage in 1553/55….
The Chapel Royal was a busy place. Thomas Sternhold one the the gentlemen in Edward’s reign for example composed a series of metrical psalms for Morning and Evening Prayer and use in Holy Communion. And Robert Parsons wrote some exquisite music in both Edward’s reign and for Mary. The queen’s name had a particular cultural resonance with the Virgin Mary….and like Elizabeth, she wasn’t slow to exploit the association. Settings of the Ave Maria and other Marian prayers became fashionable.
The music at Mary’s court is commented on throughout Europe. It wasn’t the dull dreary place of myth and legend. The queen loved music, masks and she kept Christmas court vigorously adhering to all the old riotous traditions of misrule and boy bishops and other entertainments…
Parsons life was spent at the court and he was listed both as a boy, singer and finally a gentleman. The chapels had in addition to their religious duties other employment for the revels and in providing court entertainments. The gentlemen has their own livery. Parsons is a seriously great composer and you may sample some of the delights on the link below.
The Ave Maria is haunting…and still often performed. On the Web Page below devoted to his music you can hear a great range of his compositions.
He died some time in the course of January 1572….he should not be forgotten…..
May angels lead you into paradise and may the martyrs receive you and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May the ranks of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, the poor man, may you have eternal rest.
We also have St John’s College giving a wonderful rendition of this glorious work and you get the bonus of Franck’s Panis Angelicus: