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Biography

Eli Parish (28 February 1808, Teignmouth, Devonshire, England – 25 January 1849, Vienna) was an English harpist and composer. He changed his name to Elias Parish Alvars, and sometimes used the pseudonym Albert Alvars in his publications.

The baptismal record found at St James’s Church, West Teignmouth, reports: "Eli, son of Joseph and Mary Ann Parish". His father, an organist, voice teacher and book dealer in Teignmouth, gave him his first musical instruction.

Eli gave his first concert in Totnes in 1818. In 1820 he was sent to London to study with Nicolas Bochsa. In 1822 he applied to the Royal Academy of Music, where Bochsa had been appointed harp professor. However, he was not accepted as a student there, probably because of his family’s inability to pay the tuition. (Joseph Parish had to declare bankruptcy in 1818.) In any case, Eli Parish continued his lessons with Bochsa thanks to the help of a local landowner.

On 13 March 1848 the first riots erupted in Vienna and in April amid the general confusion, the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde closed suddenly, stopping all payments, and even refusing to pay the salary owed for the last six months. Parish Alvars found himself in serious financial straits. He could not travel to other cities or countries, as they were experiencing similar political difficulties; he had lost most of his pupils, who, as members of noble families, had left town out of fear; musical life had stopped, and the Hofoperntheater burnt down.

During this troubled period, which reached a climax in October, Parish Alvars and his family found refuge in Leopoldstadt, on the outskirts of Vienna (now a part of the city). They lived at Jägerzeile No. 53, on the first floor. On 21 November 1848 he borrowed a hundred florins from his friend and editor August Artaria. His health suddenly worsened, and he died of pneumonia (the documents are, however, not clear on this point) on 25 January 1849. His wife returned with their daughter to London.

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