Robert Lucas 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.
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.