Elias Parish Alvars

Elias Parish Alvars was a renowned 19th century harpist andcomposer. Born at Teignmouth c.1808, he died in Vienna in 1849.Married to Melanie Lewy, after his death his widow married his friendSamuel Fischer of London.

There has been much confusion about his origins. It seems morethan likely that he was in fact Jewish, and that the family tree inthe booklet by John Wilson Smith refers to a quite different person.Rabbi Susser noted that there was a Joseph Parish resident at 10,Wellington Row Teignmouth as a music seller in 1827. This was nextdoor to the watchmaker Benjamin Jonas and his wife Annie, neeEzekiel, who had 22 children. However, this was may not have been thefather of Elias Parish, and the neighbourly connection just adds tothe confusion. Against this is the record of the Royal Academy whichstates that Joseph Parish of Teignmouth, music seller, was the fatherof Eli Parish. Were there two Joseph Parishes in Teignmouth?

In the Account Books of the Exeter Hebrew Congregation DavidParish occurs in 5595 and 5596 [1834-6] as a full payingseatholder. As the ledger commences 1827 and ends in 1840 thissuggests that the Parish family were not long in the area.

A Dr Parish and his wife resigned their seats in the ExeterSynagogue c. 1838. They had been regular weekly purchasers of koshermeat in the 1830s. Purchases are recorded from June 8th, 1830 to theend of the ledger on September 18th, 1832. A David Parish is listedin the congregational ledger for the 1830s. As he never attendedmeetings, it is likely that this person was an 'out-of-town' memberof the synagogue. Elias Parish started his first continental tour inJune, 1830.

The title "Dr" probably indicated a non-qualified practitioner, asJews could not in those days be qualified as doctors. It isimpossible that any of their children were baptised, as the parentswere clearly practising traditional Jews. It seems possible thatthere were two Parish families at the time, the Joseph Parish who wasorganist at the parish church being head of a quite differentChristian family.

Elias Parish started travelling to London to study by 1820. Heperformed in Exeter in January, 1828.His first continental tour wasin June, 1830.

December 10th 2000: the following advertisement makes clear theoccupation of dr David Parish.

 Dr Parish


At his Residence, No 10, Bartholomew Street, eight doors from North Street, may be consulted from Eight in the morning till Two at Night.

Among the numerous excitements to enterprise and research, that of success ever holds the highest claim on the minds of inteligent Men; a life spent in successful practice gives a confidence and a power which demands the highest encomiums. Dr PARISH, who after an extensive practice of twenty years has rendered his counsel an object of the utmost consequence to all who are labouring under hereditary, or deep seated maladies; to those troubled with Consumption and Asthma his advice will be invaluable, hundreds having owned his skills in these complaints. To the youth of both sexes, whether lured from health by the promptings of passion or the delusions of inexperience his advice is superior to all others. In his practice, he unites a mild gentleness of treatment and possessing so thorough a knowledge of his art, the most deplorable cases afford no resistance to his skills. His extensive practice has rendered him the depository of many distressing secrets, which are kept with unblemished faith and honour. To persons so afflicted it is highly necessary to observe that an early application is of the greatest importance, and that with such a practicioner any hesitation in disclosing their disorders, must amount to a delicacy as destructive as is false and unnecessary. - A Private Entrance first door up the Passage.

[Exeter Flying Post 1.12.1831, page 3, column 5]

In the burial ground of the Exeter Hebrew Congregation there isthe following tombstone inscription:

Aaron Samuel Paris


Erected by lamenting parents

[In Hebrew: Hana'ar rach [?] b'shnayim Aharon Smu'el ben David 12 shanim ie Aaron Samuel aged 12 son of David]

If Elias Parish Alvars' marriage to Melanie Lewy took place underJewish auspices this would remove any doubt. It would have beenextremely unlikely that he would have converted, especially given hisfame. This information would be at Vienna. [See below]

There is an entry for Parish in the Jewish Encyclopedia which Ihave not seen. [14.12.2000 The entry tacitly accepts that Parishwas a Jew. British Musical Biography by Brown and Stalk (1891) statesunequivocally that Parish-Alvars was of 'Jewish parentage'.]


Parish- Alvars: was heJewish?





Possible Evidence

A copy of his Marriage Certificate from Vienna would hopefullymake clear his parentage and his religion. A Jewish wedding wouldhave been impossible if he was not himself born a Jew. However, withthe assistance of the very helpful Ms H. Weiss of the Jewish NationalBody in Vienna, I have ascertained since writing the above that EliAlvars Parish "married in 1842 in Vienna in the Roman-Catholicrectory of St. Augustin in the City. For us the earliest case ofrenouncing in the Jewish community's history of19th century." Theonly queries that now arise are:

As regards his surname Alvars, there is a small clue to a possiblefamily connection in the details of a marriage that took place in theGreat Synagogue, London,

1835 28 June Henry JOEL (Tsevi Hirsh s. of Shlomoh) and Amelia ALVERS (Miriam d. of Aharon Alvarez)


"Elias Parish Alvars, 1808-1849: King of Harpists", John WilsonSmith, Monograph no 9, Teignmouth Museum and Historical Society

"Elias Parish Alvars: Life, Music, Documents", Floraleda Sacchi[I have ordered a copy of this book].


"My Great Aunt (x2) married Solomon Robert Benabo in Bristol UK on18 Dec 1844. He was the son of Masahod BENABO. There is no sign ofthis family in London in the 1881 UK census but there is anotherfamily of Abraham BENABO, an auctioneer, and Amelia PARIS and tenchildren who I suspect may be a brother or cousin of Solomon, and aMasahod BENABO marrying Hannah bar Jacob in the City of London in1885."

Home About UsAbout the Restoration HolocaustTestimonies From OurNewsletters Visits Tour