Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mercoledi Musicale

Until last week my only knowledge of the music of John Sheppard came from a recording by the Gabrieli Consort of his Messe Cantate written for Christmas in the Chapel Royal of Queen Mary and her husband King Philip.  Sheppard was one those composers,  who like Tallis and Tye, lived through the turbulent religious changes during the reign of the Tudors.  He composed for Catholic Cathedral and Protestant Chapel; for Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I however he died within the first few days of the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth, the last Tudor.

A Sarum missal created for Florence Chichele Darell circa
1418 and now in the collection at SMU. A left click will
take you to a larger view and a short history of the missal.
Much of his music was written for the Sarum rite celebrations that were common in the Catholic church in England of the time.  Established in the 11th century by St Osmund in Salisbury (Sarum) it was the standard liturgical practice (Use) for much of England, Wales, Ireland and eventually Scotland.  Osmund created very little himself but took what he saw as the best from the many Uses in the dioceses around him - each seemed to have its own way of doing things - and set them forth as the standard for the Divine Offices, Mass and the Church Calendar.  Though originally meant for his own diocese of Salisbury the usage spread and within a hundred years became the liturgical standard in most of England. 

The Sarum rite was more ritualistic than the Roman rite and certainly more elaborate in its ceremonies and its use of music.  Music - plainsong and polyphony - were central to the form of worship.  Many parts of the Offices and Mass were sung:  collects, antiphons, canticles, psalms and responsories as well as prayers, litanies, invocations and at Festal masses even the consecration.  The ability to sing was much valued in a priest or for that matter in a parishioner - even when he was Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas More sang in his Chelsea parish choir at Evensong.  More than one wealthy patron saw to that his local church had the monies to employ "an able priest, and in especiall a syngynge man yf he may be gotten"*. 

The rite disappeared under Edward but was re-instituted when Mary came to the throne.  It was during this brief five year period that Shepperd wrote many of his most complex masses and motets.  I was unable to find a date for this Lenten motet which Christopher Hossfeld used as inspiration for the conclusion of his In Pace premiered by the Cantata Singers last week but it is possible that it was written during his time at Magdelen College.

In Pace In Peace
In pace, in idipsum dormiam et requiescam.
Si dedero somnum oculis meis,
et palpebris meis dormitationem,
dormiam et requiescam.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.

In peace and into the same I shall sleep and rest.

If I give slumber to my eyes

and to my eyelids drowsiness,
I shall sleep and rest.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son,
 and to the Holy Spirit.
The first line is from Psalm 4:9, and the second two lines are from Psalm 132:4, both in the Vulgate version.
With the advent of Elizabeth the Sarum rite disappeared from use however it's influence can be seen in the Book of Common Prayer and also in the musical tradition of the Anglican Church.  The rite also strongly influenced the founders of the Oxford Movement and many of the practices within the Anglo-Catholic church can trace their roots to the traditions instituted by St Osmund. 

*From a bequest in the will of John Lang of Lincolnshire in 1516.  He also requested that the priest be able in plainsong at the least but suggested that someone also skilled in "pricksong" or polyphony was preferable.

November 12 - 1439: Plymouth, England, becomes the first town incorporated by the English Parliament.

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