Queen Mary did not want a wholesale return to some perceived halcyon age but was intelligent enough to realize that she had to provide a settlement which did not ignore the recent past. As composers grappled with this new reality they had to find suitable texts for any extended compositions as there seemed to be no demand for a return to the old-fashioned and lengthy Votive Antiphons to the Virgin Mary. They turned instead to the Book of Psalms and to two Psalms in particular—Psalm 15 (or 14 in the Vulgate) Domine, quis habitabit?
and various portions of the extended Psalm 119 (Vulgate 118). Both texts are concerned with righteous living and the following of God’s commandments and instruct people how to live a godly life. Could it be that these texts became popular for people searching for the ‘right’ way? The to-and-fro of politics had created a considerable degree of confusion and unease and such advice could be invaluable. Or was it that such texts could apply equally to Protestants as well as Catholics and were unlikely to cause offence?
Domine, quis habitabit? was set by Tallis, William Mundy, Robert White (three times) and William Byrd as well as Parsons himself. Parsons sets only the first half of the Psalm (as does Byrd) and makes a feature of juxtaposing the high voices against the lower ones. The piece seems to owe more to the Continental Flemish style than his more florid English inheritance.
from notes by Andrew Carwood © 2011