Robert Lucas Pearsall

1795 - 1856



Pearsall was born at Clifton in 1795 into a rich Quaker family. Although resident abroad, he kept in touch with his home city of Bristol. His last visit to Willsbridge in 1836–37 coincided with the foundation and earliest meetings of the Bristol Madrigal Society; many of the madrigals and partsongs that Pearsall wrote in the period 1837–1841 were composed for the BMS. Its success encouraged him to write others, including Sir Patrick Spens (in ten parts), Great God of Love and Lay a Garland.

His setting of In dulci jubilo is still performed frequently at Christmas. Pearsall was an amateur composer, and many of his compositions were not published until after his death, and even now the majority of his work remains in manuscript. A signficant step forward in remedying this has been taken in Novello's publication of two collections of his partsongs, available on Musicroom.

He contributed to both Roman Catholic and Anglican Church music, and helped to re-establish plainsong, Renaissance polyphony, and ancient church hymns in German-speaking countries. His interests and represented values places him firmly as a member of the Romantic movement.