John Kelsall Parry

4 min read Jul 10, 2024
John Kelsall Parry

John Kelsall Parry: A Life in Music

John Kelsall Parry (1930-2012) was a British composer, teacher, and organist who made significant contributions to the musical landscape of the 20th century. He was a prolific composer, writing for a wide range of ensembles and genres, and his works are known for their technical mastery, expressive depth, and often surprising twists and turns.

Early Life and Education

Parry was born in London in 1930 and received his early musical education at the Royal College of Music. He studied composition with Sir Arthur Bliss and Herbert Howells, both renowned composers of the time. Parry's talent was evident from an early age, and he won numerous awards and competitions during his student years.

A Multifaceted Career

After graduating, Parry held various positions as an organist and choirmaster, including serving as organist at St. John's College, Cambridge, and St. Paul's Cathedral, London. He also became a respected teacher, holding positions at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he mentored many young composers.

Parry's compositional output was vast and diverse. He wrote for symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles, chorus, solo instruments, and organ. His music often reflected his deep understanding of the classical tradition, but also incorporated elements of modernism and contemporary influences.

Notable Works

Some of Parry's most notable works include:

  • Symphony No. 1 (1957), a powerful and dramatic work that showcases Parry's skill in orchestral writing.
  • The Passion of St. Matthew (1970), a large-scale choral work that reflects Parry's interest in religious themes.
  • Sonata for Piano (1975), a highly virtuosic and challenging work that demonstrates Parry's mastery of the piano.
  • Concerto for Oboe and Strings (1978), a lyrical and expressive piece that highlights the beauty and versatility of the oboe.


John Kelsall Parry left a lasting legacy on the British musical scene. His compositions continue to be performed and studied by musicians around the world, and his teaching has inspired generations of composers. His music is known for its technical brilliance, expressive depth, and often surprising turns, making him one of the most significant British composers of the 20th century.

Though he is no longer with us, his music remains a testament to his talent, dedication, and passion for music. His legacy will continue to inspire and challenge musicians for many years to come.