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John Sheppard

(c. 1515—1558) composer


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(bc.1515; d Dec. 1558). English church musician and composer. Little is known about his life, except that he served as informator choristarum at Magdalen College, Oxford (1543–8), then joined the Chapel Royal as a Gentleman, a position he retained until his death. Sheppard's Latin-texted church music survives in reasonable quantity, thanks largely to the Elizabethan copyists who collected it long after it had ceased to be liturgically useful. The most important works are the responds and hymns for five- and six-voice choir; they are constructed around (and alternate with passages of) plainchant, and are impressive for their rhythmic energy and rich sonority. The masses are more varied in style; they range from the festal six-voice Missa ‘Cantate’, based on an unidentified model, through the tuneful ‘Western Wind’ Mass, to the compact Plainsong Mass for a Mean. Inevitably his anthems and canticles written for the reformed English rite are more modest in scope than the Catholic liturgical music. Virtually no keyboard music by Sheppard survives, and an extended cycle of metrical psalms is now known only from a single voice part.

From The Oxford Companion to Music in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Music.


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