Choral Evensong - 7 November 2015

Recorded on
Saturday, 7 November 2015

John Sheppard was a composer and singer who lived from c.1515-1558. He was appointed 'Informator Choristarum' at Magdalen College, Oxford in 1543 and subsequently became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1552. 

Sheppard's musical output is varied on account of his living through a time of extreme religious turbulence. He was a key figure in Mary Tudor's programme to supply the Chapel Royal with elaborate polyphony for the Sarum Rite, restored by the fervently Catholic monarch upon her accession to the throne in 1553. However, his setting of The Lord's Prayer comes from the reign of the Protestant king, Edward VI. Much of Sheppard's output from this period has been lost. Typically, the setting of vernacular texts for the Protestant liturgy required a much simpler homophonic and syllabic style than the long melismas and intricate counterpoint of the Latin polyphony. However, despite these restrictions, Sheppard's setting of The Lord's Prayer contains some beautiful and at times, elaborate polyphony. 

​Thomas Tomkins lived from 1572-1656. He too was a member of the Chapel Royal from 1603. Much of his compositional output consists of secular madrigals and keyboard music. Stylistically, Tomkins was deeply conservative and appears to have ignored much of the developing Baroque practice occurring around him. 

The Choir has recently released CDs of both Sheppard's and Tomkins's music. Find out more here:

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Pious Anthems & Voluntaries features a new nine-part cycle, inspired by the architecture of the College and its Chapel, and composed by Michael Finnissy, St John's Composer in Residence 2016-19.

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