Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Shepherd, John (fl.1550)

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SHEPHERD, JOHN (fl. 1550), musician, born probably about 1521, was in 1542 appointed instructor of the choristers and organist at Magdalen College, Oxford. He resigned in 1543, but resumed the post in 1545. In 1547 he was paid 8l. as teacher of the boys for one year, and other sums for repairing the organ and providing various church furniture, vestments, and books. He then resigned again; but in 1548 he supplied twelve music-books, for which he was paid 5s. From 1549 to 1551 he was fellow of the college. He probably then entered Edward VI's Chapel Royal (cf. Hawkins, Hist. of Music). On 21 April 1554 Shepherd supplicated for the degree of Mus. Doc. Oxon., ‘having been a student in music for the space of twenty years;’ but his petition was apparently not granted. He reappears in the records of Magdalen College for 1555, but in a very unfavourable light. He had dragged a boy ‘in vinculis’ from Malmesbury to Oxford, probably for impressment as a chorister, and was publicly reprimanded by the vice-president on 2 and 15 June. The last reference to him is on the following 15 Dec., when he was paid 20s. for some songs.

In the manuscript written by Thomas Mulliner [q. v.], the musician is described as ‘Master Sheppard of the queenes chappell;’ but he is not mentioned in the cheque-book (Camden Society's Publications, 1872), which begins in 1561. He was probably still alive in 1563, as an anthem by him, ‘O Lord of Hosts,’ is included in the appendix to the four-voiced setting of the ‘Psalter’ published by John Day in that year. Another anthem by him, ‘Submit yourselves one to another,’ was printed in Day's ‘Certayne notes … to be sung at the morning, communion, and evening praier’ (1560), and ‘Morning and Evening Prayer, and Communion set forth in four parts’ (1565). Tallis's ‘I give you a new commandment,’ from the same publications, has also been erroneously ascribed to Shepherd, and was reprinted with his name in the ‘Parish Choir’ (1847). In Barnard's ‘Selected Church Musick’ (1641) is another anthem in two sections, ‘Haste Thee’ and ‘But let all,’ by Shepherd; and in some seventeenth-century choir-books at Durham (one of which set is now in the British Museum as Addit. MS. 30479) he is credited with the fine anthem still in use, ‘O Lord, the Maker of all things,’ which Barnard ascribed to William Mundy, but Aldrich and Boyce to King Henry VIII, from whose ‘Prymer’ the words were taken.

A large number of unpublished works by Shepherd are preserved in cathedral choir-books and in manuscripts at Buckingham Palace, the British Museum, the Royal College, and Christ Church, Oxford. They are mostly to Latin words, and are nearly all vocal. But there is a song with lute accompaniment in Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 4900; a pavan and a galliard for the lute in the Christ Church MSS., and some short organ ‘Versus’ in Mulliner's book are purely instrumental. Addit. MS. 29246 contains works by Shepherd arranged for the lute.

Shepherd's most important works are four masses preserved in Addit. MSS. 17802–5, with four alleluias and ten motets. One of the masses is constructed on a secular tune, ‘Western wind, why dost thou blow?’ which has been also used for masses by Tye and Taverner in the same set of part-books. As these are the only known instances of masses by English composers upon a secular theme, it is probable that they were composed at the same time and in friendly emulation. Another mass, ‘Cantate,’ is in the part-books at the music school, Oxford. All these masses begin with the ‘Gloria,’ and contain no ‘Kyrie eleison.’ A separate ‘Kyrie’ by Shepherd in Addit. MSS. 30480–4 is called by the copyist ‘the best songe in England.’ Addit. MSS. 15166, 29289, and 31390 contain Anglican church music by Shepherd. There are thirty-nine Latin motets and an anthem by Shepherd at Christ Church. Several others are in Baldwin's manuscript at Buckingham Palace, among them an anthem ‘Steven first after Christ,’ a very weak production, which Hawkins unfortunately selected for publication in his ‘History of Music.’ Burney naturally objected to such a misrepresentation of Shepherd's powers. But the worst faults which Burney adduced in the composition prove upon collation with Baldwin's manuscript to be due to a misprint in Hawkins. Burney by way of reparation printed an ‘Esurientes’ by Shepherd, from the Christ Church part-books, and on the strength of it pronounced Shepherd the best composer of Henry VIII's reign (cf. Ambros, Geschichte der Musik, ed. Kade, iii. 458, 460, who, however, did not notice that ‘Shephard,’ as Hawkins spelt the name, was the same as Shepherd). The appendix to Hawkins's ‘History’ contains a short but charming ‘Poynte’ by Shepherd, from the Mulliner manuscript.

Morley (Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke, 1597, p. 151) reckons Shepherd with Fayrfax, Taverner, W. Mundy, Tye, Tallis, Whyte, and Byrd, as the ‘famous Englishmen nothing inferior to the best masters on the continent.’ Shepherd, who was probably born after 1520, must, however, be reckoned among the Elizabethan rather than the pre-Reformation musicians, and was hardly equal to several composers of the more advanced period.

[Bloxam's Registers of Magdalen College, vol. ii.; Wood's Fasti Oxonienses, col. 709; Hawkins's History of Music, c. 76, 113, and appendix; Burney's General History of Music, ii. 565, 587, iii. 4–6; Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ii. 422, iii. 271, 486; Weale's Descriptive Catalogue of the Music Loan Exhibition of 1885, p. 160; Davey's History of English Music, pp. 135, 148, 166; MSS. and works quoted.]

H. D.