Even after many years of choral singing, there’s a surprise at discovering a new piece, and sometimes a new composer.  

This term we have been introduced to Robert Parsons, an exceptional early English composer who died in his 30s, drowning in the swollen River Trent in Nottinghamshire in 1571/2.

He was a contemporary of William Byrd and Thomas Tallis.  We are rehearsing Parsons’ Ave Maria – a masterpiece of polyphonic writing, with unexpected and delightful passages.  Our conductor, Tony Bevan, likened the progression of the piece to the gradual unfolding of a beautiful flower, building in intensity to the final blossoming.  

That Parsons’ life was brutally cut short was reflected in his funeral eulogy.“You who were so great, Parsons, in life’s springtime – how great you would have been in autumn, had death not intervened?”

Parsons’ Ave Maria will be featured in Cantilena’s next concert, along with several pieces by William Byrd.  It’s at St Nicholas Church, Church Lane, West Pennard, Somerset BA6 8NT at 7:30pm on Friday 8 December 2023, with tickets on the door.