ROBERT PARSONS (1535 - 1572)
Little is known about the life of Robert Parsons. Much of his music has survived to the modern day, however, often in incomplete editions. Born in England around 1535, Parsons was appointed as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1563, a post he held until his death in 1572, when he was succeeded by William Byrd.
Parsons’ output of music was varied, and although the majority of his surviving scores are for choir, he is believed to have written a large amount of instrumental music for the Chapel Royal as well. It is the story surrounding the death of Robert Parsons that arouses great intrigue. On a cold and wet January day, Parsons fell into a swollen River Trent and drowned. Such was the upset and suspicion surrounding his death that much of his music ceased to be performed in the Chapel Royal, as musicians tried to move on and forget this tragic incident. These unfortunate circumstances may also have led to the poor maintenance of Parsons’ music over the years. The consequence of the lack of performance of Parsons’ works after his death has, in the course of time, led to this English polyphonic master being largely unrecognised and even forgotten. His vocal writing is very gifted, and he must have been well versed in composition to have access to the skills of writing music for seven part viols.