Osbert Parsley

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Born: 1511

Died: 1585


Osbert Parsley was a musician and composer who lived in Norwich during the 16th Century. He spent much of his life associated with Norwich Cathedral, where he worked as a singing man for over fifty years. A grand memorial plaque dedicated to him still survives in the building, being restored in the 20th century after a bequest by Arthur Henry Mann. This elaborate plaque speaks very highly of the composer, and is an unusual honour for a church musician of his day. Other records indicate that he was paid extremely generously by the Cathedral for his work, much more than any of its other musicians. In addition, in 1578, the Cathedral employed Parsley to write a special set of music for the royal visit of Queen Elizabeth I to the city. It is clear that he was highly regarded in his place of work.

In addition to being well-known in his native city, Parsley was also known further afield. His music survives in a number of important sources, including the Sadler Partbooks, the Peterhouse Caroline Partbooks, and the Hammond Partbooks, amongst others. His music is found alongside highly-regarded contemporaries, including Thomas Tallis, Christopher Tye and Robert White. Indeed, it is possible that Parsley and Tye collaborated on a Short Service setting. One of Parsley’s compositions was published by Thomas Morley. In addition to sacred vocal music, a number of Parsley’s compositions survive for instruments, including viols and lute, again found in a number of sources.

Parsley was a close contemporary of Thomas Tallis. He experienced the same changes and upheavals in English sacred music, and therefore wrote in a similar variety of styles. Much like Tallis, he wrote both complex Latin polyphony and, when theological practices changed, simpler English settings. His Latin polyphony is extensive and elaborate, while the simpler English settings retain the attention to harmonic detail and fine craftsmanship which distinguish Tallis’s English settings.

View the Wikipedia article on Osbert Parsley.

List of choral works

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