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Before Byrd: the birth pangs of Anglican church music

Dr Magnus Williamson at the 2005 AGM

Let us cast our minds back 417 years to another Saturday, in September 1588.  Having successfully disembarked in Kent the previous month, the Duke of Parma’s great Armada has marched on London.  The timely death of Queen Elizabeth (she died in her sleep – allegedly) has extinguished both the Tudor dynasty and the future of English Protestantism, now bereft of its supreme figurehead.  It has taken only a week or two for the conquistadors to subdue the demoralised provincial militia.  During the great Mass of thanksgiving, held at St Paul’s, the combined choirs of the chapel royal and the cappella réal sing a fine commemorative motet by William Byrd.  The composer and his colleagues can now prepare for the coronation of Philip II’s daughter Isabella as queen, which will usher in the Golden Age of Isabelline church music.  These glories will later be revived in the landmark series, Hapsburg Church Music, published in the 1920s under the editorship of Monsignor Edmund Ignatius Fellowes (a canon of St James’s Chapel, Windsor).

None of this happened, of course: the wind blew in the wrong direction, dispersing the Armada and allowing Gloriana to reign for another 15 years, thus ensuring the survival of the Church of England and the Anglican choral tradition.  The scenario of a successful Armada, from which my fictitious overture was drawn, was elucidated by Anne Somerset for a collection of essays recently published under the editorship of the right-wing historian, Andrew Roberts.  Other essays in the same collection see a successful Gunpowder Plot, Charles I winning the Civil War, George III’s armies vanquishing those of George Washington, and other historical ‘what-ifs’.  Counter-factual or ‘virtual’ history was for many years condemned as speculative, futile and self-indulgent; but it has recently appealed to a generation of historians eager to deconstruct events as they happened.  If we can identify a single moment, they say – a turning point at which the course of events switches decisively from one direction to another – so our understanding of historical processes will be the greater.  It also compels us to look more closely at the choices, opportunities and limitations facing historical actors at any given moment, to confront unpredictable events without the wisdom of hindsight and, implicitly, to recognise that we ourselves may well have made the same mistakes as, say, Louis XVI or the leaders of the Weimar Republic.  We can, it is argued, view stale narratives with fresh eyes, and admit to the blind spots engendered by our knowledge of what actually did happen.

Few musicians and music historians attempting counter-factual history would be able to make such life-and-death decisions.  Can the bullet which killed the serialist composer Anton Webern in 1945 compare in historical significance with the one that missed the Bolshevik Vladimir Lenin in Helsinki in 1917?  Probably not.  If Richard Wagner had written flute sonatas and string quartets rather than operas, perhaps the seductive, mythological bombast of the Bayreuth operas might not have awakened the Teutonic-supremacist ideology of the young Adolf Hitler.  This would seem unlikely.   But the kinds of close readings of historical contexts espoused by counter-factual historians can help us to hear familiar pieces and repertories, as if for the first time.  To illustrate this point, I should like to indulge in a shamelessly autobiographical digression.

Back in 1977, Silver Jubilee year, I joined the choir of Westminster Abbey as a ten-year-old fresh from the Midlands.  The abbey in those days seemed a bedrock of old, dependable certainties in a world of rising prices, industrial strife, and heavy metal: an oasis of continuity in its traditions, ceremonial, liturgy and music.  Here was an institution which could trace its roots back to 1065 (perhaps earlier), which enjoyed an equally enduring relationship with the crown, and whose ancient physical fabric bespoke permanence.  Little by little, however, the abbey revealed itself as a palimpsest.  In the song school a whitewashed Romanesque doorway (which didn’t appear to lead anywhere) seemed to belong to an earlier age than rest of the place.  The twin towers, so symbolic of the abbey itself, weren’t gothic at all, but Baroque fantasies; the north transept was a Victorian restoration (and a pretty ugly one at that); and the abbey’s seemingly timeless ceremonies and vestments were in fact a twentieth-century confection by a former precentor, the fastidious ritualist Jocelyn Perkins.  In fact, most of the abbey’s physical and ritual fabric seemed to be an addition or a restoration of one time or another.  But somewhere, underneath the accretions of later ages (the pompous Hanoverian monuments and frilly Victoriana) there lay another, half-forgotten abbey – a real, Benedictine abbey – whose inhabitants had worn tonsures, not starched ruffs.

Earlier in the twentieth century, the abbey choir had sung daily at both Mattins and Evensong.  By 1977 choral Mattins was sung only twice a week – on Sundays (to a full house) and on Tuesdays (to a congregation of one, plus the occasional tourists who, having wandered unwarily beyond the choir-screen, were trapped in unintended worship for the next 45 minutes, trying desperately to effect a furtive escape but pinned to their pew by the accusing glare of the Cantoris Tenors).  Mention ‘Tuesday morning Mattins’ to any abbey chorister of my generation, and you’ll probably provoke a shudder, for on Tuesday mornings we sang the Litany (invariably Tallis, Byrd or Morley) on painful, bended knee, having rattled off the canticles.   Invariably, it seemed, these were the short services by Farrant, Hooper, Tallis, Byrd, Batten, Gibbons and Tomkins.  To a ten-year-old, these plain Tudor Te Deums presented a diet of unremitting austerity.  At the fashionable weekend services, of course, we sang proper, loud, music: Howells, Stanford, Leighton, Britten, Vaughan Williams and the more elaborate English services and anthems by Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons and their contemporaries: the Great Service, Sing Joyfully, Gibbons Second, O clap your hands, Weelkes Trebles, and so on.  We also performed a smattering of Byrd’s Latin motets (Ave verum corpus, Justorum animae and Haec dies spring to mind).  But the pre-Reformation glories of John Taverner, John Sheppard, Thomas Tallis and the Eton Choirbook were strangers to us.  Only later did I come face to face with that wonderful music, an encounter which also changed my perspective on the whole Tudor repertory – including those dreaded short services. 

It came as something of a shock to realise that much of the Tudor music we had sung as children had been composed during one of the most traumatic upheavals in English history, and that it displaced a musical culture of exceptional brilliance.  And thus began a paradoxical journey, in which the kind of music we had found most boring as children – exemplified perhaps by Thomas Tallis’s Dorian Service – began to assume greater interest the more one heard it in context: its musical plainness quite at odds with its historical significance.  On paper, the music itself treads a predictable path, and seems a predictable, if not inevitable, result of the processes which transformed English worship in the mid-sixteenth-century; but transport ourselves to the moment at which it was written (perhaps 1550, maybe 1560), and we enter a journey, not of predictable straight lines, but of bewildering zigzags – fertile ground for the counter-factual historian, perhaps.

The story of the Reformation is a well-known one, it has been intensively picked apart by revisionist historians, and it needs no introduction here.  Instead, I should like to recount the religious crises of the mid sixteenth century through the eyes of the composer, John Sheppard, a composer whose working life straddled two decades of rapid change, whose music is a witness to both doctrinal changes and rapid stylistic developments, but whose biography falls silent at key moments within his career.  In order to understand Sheppard’s compositions, particularly his vernacular music for the Anglican liturgy, it is necessary to dwell at length upon the circumstances in which he worked.  This will take the form of a detailed biographical narrative, during which I shall consider three case studies.

Although one of the great Tudor composers, Sheppard was twice unlucky: firstly because his extraordinarily productive career was prematurely cut off when he died in a ‘flu epidemic, and secondly because he didn’t make it into the first (and, in the event, only) 10-volume series of Tudor Church Music published in the 1920s.  As a result, only a fraction of his music has made it into the bread-and-butter repertories of English cathedral choirs, despite the high reputation he enjoyed among his contemporaries: 'A good songe excellent good song fyne' wrote one Elizabethan copyist about his piece Haec dies, 'the best songe in England’.  David Wulstan pioneered Sheppard’s rehabilitation back in the 1970s, but the composer is still a long way from enjoying the recognition his music deserves.  Having recently prepared an edition of his Second Service for the CMS, I should like to take this opportunity to examine his career and trumpet his achievements.

We don’t know when Sheppard was born. In later life he claimed to have begun composing music around 1534, from which a birth date of around 1515 has been conjectured. We do not know where he grew up, although the London area would seem the best bet: a John Sheppard was listed among the lowest-paid taxpayers retained in Thomas Wolsey’s household (based at Whitehall and Hampton Court) in 1524, and this may have been the composer (at that point a nine-year-old boy chorister).  Service in the Cardinal’s chapel would have brought Sheppard into contact with the leading musicians at work in Henrician England.  Wolsey, at the zenith of his career in the king’s service, maintained a choir at least as good as Henry’s itself – indeed, the king is known to have cast reproachfully envious glances at Wolsey’s establishment.  Beyond the customary round of plainsong masses and offices, we do not know exactly what was sung in Wolsey’s chapel, although the evidence hints at an unusually cosmopolitan polyphonic repertory: an inventory of liturgical books compiled in May 1523 listed a ‘priksongebooke in printe’.  Venice provides the most convincing (indeed, the only convincing) place of publication for a printed choirbook at this time.

All this is conjecture, of course.  The first concrete biographical evidence we have is Sheppard’s appointment as choirmaster of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1543, in the later years of Henry VIII’s reign.  Although several years short of his putative 30th birthday, he must surely have been an experienced church musician by the time of his appointment.  Oxford’s cityscape in 1543 was dotted with the detritus of religious upheaval.  The great Augustinian Abbey at Osney was dissolved in 1539, and with it went Oxford’s friaries and monastic colleges, providing a melancholy backdrop to Sheppard’s arrival at Magdalen. Although Osney Abbey had been re-founded as Oxford’s diocesan cathedral shortly before Sheppard’s arrival, Henry VIII was already eyeing up the wealthier collegiate foundations, among them the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge. A second round of spoliation was about to begin: how long before Magdalen was selected for dissolution?

On entering Magdalen College chapel for the first time, however, Sheppard would probably have sensed a re-assuring familiarity.  Although the 10 articles of 1536 and royal injunctions of 1538 had nibbled away at the florid extremities of late-medieval devotion, the props of traditional religion  remained unchanged. Magdalen’s choir of sixteen boys, eight clerks and four chaplains continued its uninterrupted cycle of Masses and Offices, from Matins through to Compline; the full repertory of Latin plainsong, of antiphons, responds, hymns offertories, was sung from the chapel’s extensive collection of service books; organs were played during Lady Mass, and the choir sang some of the finest liturgical polyphony in England.  Its repertory of masses, Magnificats and motets had recently been adapted for use at the newly-founded cathedral at Canterbury, and Magdalen was among the first English choirs to incorporate the new imitative style of polyphony which had become current in Continental Europe - a new, pared-down sonority quite distinct from the elaborately florid style traditionally cultivated among English composers (a style which, it has to be admitted, had begun to grow as flabby as Henry VIII himself).  We can be sure that some of Sheppard’s surviving Latin polyphony was written for this choir, exploiting to the full the resources he had to hand, and exploring the techniques of the Franco-Flemish style (Sheppard is among the first English composers to rely upon imitative counterpoint as the mainstay of their compositional technique). 

Representative of Sheppard’s work at this time are the two settings of the Trinity antiphon, Libera nos, which he composed while at Magdalen. Both settings exploit the college’s abundance of boy trebles and means, and both bear the hallmarks of Sheppard’s style: a cantus firmus in equal notes is set against concise imitative points; behind this imitative technique lurks a barely-concealed delight in the richness of seven-part scoring.

Sheppard: Libera nos

Sheppard’s career as a composer of Latin church music, however, was soon to be rudely interrupted. Since his arrival at Magdalen in 1543, he would no doubt have got wind of developments at court.  In its twilight years, Henry VIII’s court was riven by factional politics, as conservative and evangelical parties competed for the king’s ear.  This factionalism grew more intense and more dangerous as the old king drew closer to death: whoever held the upper hand when he died would hold the reins of power during the ensuing minority of his son, Edward, who was only six years old when Sheppard arrived at Magdalen.  The stakes were high – whoever controlled the new king would have full exercise of the royal supremacy, and hence could impose their agenda upon the church in England: for evangelicals, led by Thomas Cranmer, this would be the long-awaited opportunity to purify the English church; for conservatives, the decisive chance to expunge, once and for all, the threat of such reforms – reforms which Henry VIII had scrupled neither to promote nor to proscribe).

Henry’s death in January 1547 would probably have been greeted with a sigh of relief at Magdalen.  The chantries act of 1546, which had threatened the existence of all collegiate foundations including the academic colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, elapsed on the king’s death. But for conservatives, the news from court was very bad, as it was the evangelicals, led by the earl of Hertford, Edward Seymour, who emerged from the dead king’s bedchamber as the dominant party at court.  Although a new chantries act, passed in December 1547, specifically exempted the Oxbridge colleges, it spelt the destruction of almost every other collegiate church, chantry and religious guild in England and Wales.  Where Henry’s chantries act had been a cynical smash-and-grab raid on church assets, Edward’s act struck at the roots, as well as the fruits, of the Catholic faith.  Salvation now flowed from grace through faith, not through good works, pilgrimages and masses for the dead – intercessory institutions were now redundant.  What would be abolished next?

Only one man new for sure, and that was Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, an increasingly committed convert to Calvinist predestination theology.  Cranmer had prudently kept his counsel until the old king was safely dead, and even now moved in cautious steps.  But radical evangelicals among Magdalen’s fellowship, knowing which way the winds were beginning to blow and frustrated by the college’s conservative leadership, took matters into their own hands.  In the summer of 1547 these radicals disrupted high mass, stole the communion wafer, snatched the thurible from the priest’s hands, and hacked to pieces some £40-worth of service books – all of this before the eyes of John Sheppard and his colleagues (indeed, one of these iconoclasts was a singer in the choir).

Although Sheppard’s reaction to these outrages is not recorded, the fact that he left Magdalen the following March, in 1548, is suggestive.  His immediate destination is not known for sure, although it was almost certainly the household of Edward VI: his name is in a list of the gentlemen of the chapel royal drawn up in 1552, the first of such lists to have survived since 1547.  Perhaps the most prestigious and professionally advantageous appointment for an ambitious church musician, membership of the chapel royal afforded the best possible escape from a college in which his career prospects had taken a decisive turn for the worst.  And Sheppard was to retain his membership, during three successive reigns, until his death at Christmas 1558.

If Magdalen had been a fractious outpost of the Edwardian reform programme (albeit a well-connected one), the chapel royal was its crucible.   Shortly before Sheppard’s arrival, the first major step had been taken towards replacing the Latin Mass and Offices with a vernacular liturgy, with the nationwide issue of a new Order of Communion in February 1548.  More a supplement to the Mass than a substitute for it, the Order of Communion was less ambitious than it sounded. Although it introduced vernacular Bible readings within the Latin Mass, it left the core of the Latin liturgy intact.  This was a pilot study for more ambitious changes to come – a testing of the water, perhaps.  The Pilgrimage of Grace of 1536 had dramatically underlined the extent of hostility to religious reforms, even under a feared sovereign in full exercise of royal power; how far, and how quickly, could the reform agenda be pursued during a royal minority?  The closure of the chantries, whose impact was felt in almost every parish church, had revealed the government’s intentions (it had also curtailed the flourishing musical traditions of many town churches where chantry priests had served as choirmen).  Following this attack upon their material resources, would the king’s subjects also stomach the abolition of long-cherished forms of worship?

Against this background of uncertainty, Cranmer moved cautiously towards the introduction of a new vernacular prayer book, whose contents he had been busy drafting during the intervening months.  First Convocation and then Parliament debated the new liturgy throughout the autumn and winter of 1548; after Christmas, in January 1549, the passage of the Act of Uniformity authorised the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer, proofs of which went to the printers in preparation for its introduction by Whit Sunday.  This was reform through stealth.  Throughout 1547 and 1548, a string of injunctions and episcopal visitations had successively eroded the old forms of traditional religion: processions, images and devotional cults (particularly that of the Virgin Mary, a crucial spur to musical composition during the later middle ages).  At the same time, the government continued to use Henry VIII’s well-worn ploy of giving off mixed messages, claiming that the new changes were measured reforms designed to forestall the worst excesses of uncontrolled iconoclasm. 

Before its general launch, the new vernacular liturgy was adopted at the chapel royal in September 1548, and then foisted upon the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge.  This was many months in advance of its general introduction, and can probably be interpreted as another of the government’s testing of the waters.  Several musical settings of the 1549 prayer book text seem to be anomalously elaborate, and quite at odds with the plain style favoured by the reformers.  Among these pieces is John Sheppard’s first service (for men) and his splendid Trebles’ Service: although the latter now survives only by way of a seventeenth-century keyboard reduction, it clearly deployed the full resources of the chapel royal, including the high trebles’ voice (which was shortly to disappear).   Why should Sheppard have written such elaborate music after the introduction of the 1549 prayer book?  We know that polyphonic exuberance was strenuously discouraged, not least by Edward VI himself.  Perhaps the most plausible explanation is that it was composed before the general introduction of the BCP, during the road-testing of the new liturgy undertaken at the chapel royal in the autumn of`1548.  A reassuringly elaborate polyphonic cladding would have conveyed a comforting impression stylistic continuity, massaging the revolutionary impact of this revolutionary change from Latin to English worship.  Suitably mollified, nobility, senior clergy and other leading opinion-formers were primed to soften up public opinion at large.

The 1549 Prayer Book was a part of this strategy of dissimulation.  It replaced the drama and colour of the old Latin liturgy with a diet of vernacular psalms, Bible readings and sermons; but it also left open the door for some of the accustomed traditions.  In 1552, with the English liturgy safely bedded down, the first prayer book was itself superseded by a more stringently Calvinistic version, in which little room was left for either the theology or the panoply of traditional religion – music included. The 1552 Book of Common Prayer became the liturgical bedrock of the Church of England and its choral tradition until the 1960s; indeed, the words ‘choral tradition’ seem almost synonymous with ‘Book of Common Prayer’.  But, as Roger Bowers has argued, the compilers of the 1552 prayer book, not least Cranmer himself, would have been horrified to think that their liturgy would later become the vehicle for elaborate polyphony.  There is every sign that, by 1550, Cranmer and his allies were set upon the total eradication of choral singing in the English liturgy.

Cranmer had made clear his preference for simple, syllabic church music in a correspondence he conducted with Henry VIII while preparing a vernacular litany back in 1544.  Throughout the later 1540s, just as the ritual frills of the Use of Salisbury were clipped away, so the style of polyphonic composition was trimmed down, veneration giving way to comprehension: devotional motets to the saints were abolished in 1548; melismatic music was discouraged by episcopal visitors in favour of syllabic homophony (‘a sober and distinct note’); texts must be Biblical, in English, and clearly audible.  Boys’ voices, both high treble and low mean, had been used in polyphonic music since the 1460s, adding a brilliant lustre to the choral ensemble; after 1549, composers stopped writing for the treble voice, such a potent signifier of pre-Reformation ‘artificiality’. The ‘natural’ sonority of the mean voice was to be preferred.

John Sheppard’s English anthem, Christ the Paschal Lamb, exemplifies the no-nonsense style of polyphony cultivated in 1549.

Example: Sheppard, Christ the Paschal Lamb (All Souls, 11)

By 1551, the attack upon all kinds of choral singing had begun.  The choirs of King’s College, Cambridge, and New College, Oxford, were both disbanded by order of the Privy Council.  The choir of the chapel royal, itself, was being run down, reflecting the trenchant Protestantism of Edward VI, now in his teens and approaching his majority.  The choral tradition, even in its heartlands, was on the brink of destruction.

But Edward never reached his majority.  His death of tuberculosis in July 1553, and the triumphant accession of Mary (his much older, Catholic, half-sister), brought about a complete and abrupt reversal of two decades of religious policy. Having adhered stoutly to her Catholic faith, Mary had looked on with scarcely concealed outrage as her half-brother’s government dismantled the fabric of English Catholicism.  Now was the time for its restoration.  Back came the mass and the full theological and ritual fabric of the old religion: the Mass, the Latin rite and its vast plainsong repertory, fine vestments, processions, images, saints and choral polyphony.  

For Sheppard and his colleagues at the chapel royal, Mary’s accession came in the nick of time.  Their futures were now secure, and they were again permitted – indeed required – to sing and compose the kinds of music best suited to their training and disposition.  It is hardly surprising that the mid-1550s witnessed a boom in the composition of Latin polyphony: many of the classics of Tudor music, by Thomas Tallis, William Mundy and Sheppard, himself, were written in these years.  The musical characteristics of this repertory closely reflect the doctrinal tenets of the reformed, humanistic brand of Catholicism pioneered by Mary and her Archbishop of Canterbury, Reginald Pole.  The most elaborate forms of late-medieval piety were tempered by a focus on the core principles of Catholic belief.  In musical terms, this encouraged the composition of mass settings (as before) and of music for Matins, Lauds, Vespers and Compline on the principal church feasts.  At the chapel royal, these high feasts were days of estate, crown-wearing occasions when the queen very publicly attended divine worship.  Unsurprisingly, John Sheppard’s oeuvre is dominated by settings of hymns, responds and antiphons, and not the elaborate and long-winded devotional motets favoured by composers of the pre-Reformation era. 

Example

History was to take another dramatic turn, however. In November 1558 Mary died childless.  Her lifetime ambition, the restoration of English Catholicism and the return of England to Papal obedience, so recently accomplished, was to be undone within a year of her demise.  Her half-sister, Elizabeth, re-instituted the vernacular liturgy of 1552, although she herself would have preferred the less prescriptive liturgy of 1549.  Unlike her half-brother, Elizabeth shared her father’s penchant for lavish ceremonial: this ensured the continuation of polyphonic singing at the chapel royal, and the composition of English anthems and services by Byrd, Tallis, and Robert Parsons.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Fatally for his posthumous reputation, Sheppard died within a month of Elizabeth’s accession.  His great corpus of Latin polyphony was now obsolete.  Unusable as liturgical music, it was now circulated privately among musicians and cognoscenti – studied, copied and performed not within the public forum of the church, but within the privacy of the chamber. Not until four centuries later did his Latin church music resurface in the public domain.

Sheppard’s English church music shared much the same fate as the Latin polyphony. He had written a quantity of English church music ten years before his death, and this continued to circulate until the Civil War.  But most of this music had been written in the first wave of reform: although very competent and in parts quite splendid, it is still the work of a very able composer grappling with the new challenge of setting music to English liturgical texts.  Had Sheppard lived into the 1560s, he would have enjoyed the opportunity to refine and adapt his style, to broaden and circulate his portfolio of English compositions, and so to enhance his reputation and help to shape the future of English church music. 

Soon, for the first time, we will have a complete edition of Sheppard’s church music.  The series Early English Church Music, which published his Latin masses and responsorial music nearly thirty years ago, will shortly publish the rest of his Latin church music, under the editorship of Dr David Skinner. In 2008 EECM will finally honour its longstanding commitment to Sheppard when it publishes Stefan Scot’s edition of Sheppard’s complete English service music: the First Service, the Second Service, what remains of the Trebles Service and other fragments, as well as Sheppard’s anthems and his numerous  metrical psalm settings (nearly all of them fragmentary).  In the meantime, the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis of the Second Service are available from the CMS, as is a similar setting by Sheppard’s young colleague (and likely pupil), Robert Parsons. 

Sheppard Second will provide us with a fitting recessional in a few moments. Back in 1977, when your speaker wore short pants and long hair, Sheppard was a conspicuous absentee from Westminster Abbey’s music lists.  The composer’s will, discovered only ten years ago, reveals him to have been a resident of Westminster (he requested burial in the abbey, at that point a restored Benedictine monastery, but was buried at St Margaret’s instead).  Within a year of Sheppard’s death the abbey was dissolved for a second time. Like Sheppard, the abbey had been through two turbulent decades. Since 1540 it had been through four different manifestations in as many reigns: Benedictine Abbey, secular cathedral, Benedictine Abbey (again), and, finally, secular collegiate church.  One more royal death, and it may well have resumed for a third time its age-old monastic routine.  Sheppard, too, had had to accommodate himself to transient policies and unpredictable religious dispensations.  Sometimes events moved so quickly that his compositions can be assigned a specific week or month of composition (such is the case with his Second Service, which cannot plausibly be made to fit any date except December 1558 – unless and until some decisive new information comes to light).  Each of his compositions, the plainest Edwardian anthem as well as the most splendid Latin polyphony, is a witness to these troubled years – a still frame from a moving picture, frozen in time. 

I end with perhaps the last piece John Sheppard wrote, the Nunc dimittis (that great canticle of leave-taking) from his Second Service.   Almost certainly written after the accession of Elizabeth I, and in response to her express command, the second service was Sheppard’s legacy to the chapel royal, establishing a model which was to serve fifteen years later as the template for

William Byrd’s Great Service. If Sheppard had died a month earlier, this piece would never have been written, Byrd would have had model for the Great Service, and the history of music would have taken a different course. 

Maybe.

Example: Sheppard, Second Service, Nunc dimittis (Christ Church)

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