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John Shepherd

Musical composer, b. about 1512; d. about 1563

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Shepherd, JOHN, musical composer, b. about 1512; d. about 1563; one of the great English musicians who rank with Tallis, Whyte, Taverner, Farrant, Edwards, and Byrd. He was educated at St. Paul’s music school under Thomas Mulliner, and was appointed organist and master of the choristers of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1542, which position he held, with a short intermission, till 1547. His attention was not wholly given to music, at this date, for he obtained a fellowship in Magdalen College in 1549, retaining it for two years. On April 21, 1554, he petitioned—as a student of music for twenty years—the University of Oxford for the Degree of Mus.D., and he was one of Queen Mary’s Chapel Royal from 1553 to 1558. Among the New Year’s gifts to Queen Mary, on January 1, 1557, there is an entry in the Chapel Royal books that “Shepherd of the Chapel gave three Rolls of Songs”. He was certainly alive in 1562, but there is no record of him after that date, from which it is concluded that he died, or resigned, in 1563. There exist numerous compositions—printed as well as MSS.—testifying to Shepherd’s undoubted powers. His “Esurientes” for five voices, to be found in Burney’s “General History of Music”, is a fair specimen of sincere and straightforward writing. In the British Museum there are some of his masses and motets, all for four voices, while The Royal College of Music, London, has four of his Latin motets. The Music School, Oxford, possesses much of his church music, including a delightful Magnificat. Hawkins has printed two of his pieces, and Morley names him among the distinguished musicians of the sixteenth century.


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