A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Merbecke, John

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MERBECKE, John, lay clerk and afterwards organist of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, was about 1544 arrested, together with three other inhabitants of the town, on a charge of heresy, i.e. favouring the principles of the Reformation. Their papers were seized, and notes on the Bible and an English Concordance in the handwriting of Merbecke were found, and he was moreover charged with having copied an epistle of Calvin against the Mass. He and his three fellows were tried and condemned to the stake, but, whilst the sentence was immediately carried into execution against the others, Merbecke, owing to the favour of Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and the interposition of Sir Humphrey Foster, one of the Commissioners, obtained a pardon. He indulged his opinions in secret until the death of Henry VIII, but afterwards avowed them, and in 1550 published his Concordance, and also the work by which he is best known, 'The Boke of Common Praier noted,' being an adaptation of the plain chant of the earlier rituals to the first liturgy of Edward VI. Merbecke escaped the Marian persecution and afterwards published 'The Lives of Holy Saincts,' etc., 1574; 'A Book of Notes and Common Places,' etc., and 'The Ripping up of the Pope's Fardel,' 1581; 'A Dialogue between Youth and Age,' and other works. He died about 1585. His 'Booke of Common praier noted,' was beautifully reprinted in facsimile by Whittingham for Pickering in 1844; an edition by Rimbault was issued in 1845, and a reprint was included in vol. ii. of Dr. Jebb's 'Choral Responses and Litanies,' 1857. A hymn for 3 voices by Merbecke is given in Hawkins's History, and portions of a mass for 5 voices by him, 'Per anna justitiæ,' are contained in vol. vi. of Burney's Musical Extracts (Add. MS. 11,586, Brit. Mus.) [App. p.717 "in 1550 he took the degree of Mus. D. at Oxford."]

[ W. H. H. ]