Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Farrant, Richard

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FARRANT, RICHARD (fl. 1564–1580), composer, is said, in the list of composers given in Novello's ‘Words of Anthems’ (1888), to have been born in 1530, but as no authority is given for the statement it cannot be taken as decisive. He was a gentleman of the Chapel Royal for some time previously to 1564, when he resigned his appointment on becoming organist and master of the choristers at St. George's Chapel, Windsor. This post he held, with a salary of 81l. 6s. 8d. and a ‘dwelling-house within the castle, called the Old Commons,’ until 1569, when, on 5 Nov., he was reinstated in the Chapel Royal, succeeding Thomas Causton. While at Windsor, on Shrove Tuesday, and again on St. John's day, 1568, he presented a play before the queen, receiving on each occasion 6l. 13s. 4d. Under date 30 Nov. 1580 an entry occurs in the ‘Cheque Book’ of the chapel, to the effect that Anthony Tod was appointed a gentleman on the death of Richard Farrant. As the same entry is repeated under date 30 Nov. 1581, the value of this testimony is considerably weakened. It is probable that he resigned his post on one of these two dates, and returned, as Hawkins says, to Windsor, where he died in 1585, and was succeeded by Nathaniel Giles [q. v.]

His name is chiefly known in connection with the anthem, ‘Lord, for thy tender mercies' sake,’ one of the most beautiful compositions of its kind, and a ‘single chant,’ apparently adapted from the first phrase of the anthem. It is fairly certain, however, from evidence both internal and external, that the authorship cannot be claimed for him. In the part books at Ely Cathedral and Tudway's collection (Harl. MSS. 7337–42) it is attributed to ‘Mr. Hilton’ (Mr. Oliphant has added the name of Farrant in pencil). The words, which appear first in Lydley's ‘Prayers,’ are printed in the second edition of Clifford's ‘Divine Services and Anthems,’ 1664, but with the name of Tallis attached as composer. In 1703 the words again appear in Thomas Wanless's ‘Full Anthems and Verse Anthems’ (York), with no composer's name. In 1782, in another book of words printed at York by Mason, the name of Farrant appears, it would seem for the first time in print, though Dean Aldrich, in a copy belonging to him, erased the name of Hilton, and replaced it by that of Farrant. The anthem itself first appeared in print as Farrant's in Page's ‘Harmonia Sacra,’ 1800. An ingenious theory concerning the origin of the anthem is propounded by the Rev. J. H. Sperling in vol. iii. of the ‘Parish Choir’ (quoted in Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. iii. 273), to the effect that it was composed during the civil war by some musician who did not live to see the Restoration. In the great demand for music which that event brought about it would be copied out anonymously, and subsequently attributed to Farrant. The genuine works of Farrant are as follows: A service (full morning and evening) given by Tudway in A minor, and called ‘Farrant's High Service’ (it exists also in manuscript at Ely, and in the Peterhouse Library, Cambridge; it is published by Boyce in G minor, ‘Cath. Mus.’ vol. i.); two anthems, ‘Call to Remembrance,’ and ‘Hide not Thou thy face,’ which were usually sung on Maundy Thursday, on the occasion of the distribution of the queen's royal bounty. These are given in vol. ii. of Boyce's collection. The Royal College of Music possesses some odd parts of another morning and evening service in F, and an alto part of a Te Deum and Benedictus is in Addit. MS. 29289. Two other musicians of the name are mentioned, and are supposed to have been related to Farrant. A Daniel Farrant, probably a son, is mentioned in the State Papers of 1607 as receiving 46l. per annum as one of the king's musicians for the violins. He is said by Anthony à Wood, Hawkins, and others to have been one of the first to set lessons for the viol ‘lyra-way,’ after the manner of the old English lute or bandora. Wood (MS. Notes, Bodleian) says: ‘Dr. Rogers tells me that one Mr. Farrant, an able man, was organist of (qu. Peterboro'?) before the rebellion broke out.’ This is probably the John Farrant, or one of the John Farrants, of whom traces are found at various cathedrals. One of that name was organist of Ely in 1567–1572. The name occurs again as that of an organist of Hereford from 22 March 1592 to 24 Dec. 1593, who ‘was sconced for railing and contumelious speeches to Mr. Custos in the hall at supper time.’ Hawkins says that there were two John Farrants, who were organists at Salisbury and Christ Church, Newgate Street, about 1600. It is by no means impossible that these may be one person of nomadic tendencies. To him, or to one of his namesakes, if the other supposition is preferred, must be ascribed the anthem given by Tudway ‘O Lord Almighty,’ since by no stretch of imagination could Richard Farrant be described as ‘Mr. Farrant who lived in K. Ch. I's time.’ The short service in D Dorian, manuscripts of which are extant at Ely Cathedral and Peterhouse, and which is published in ‘Ouseley Cathedral Music,’ 1853, is by the earlier John Farrant, organist of Ely.

[Cheque Book of the Chapel Royal; Grove's Dict. i. 507; Hawkins's Hist. (1853), p. 465; Wood's MS. Notes in Bodleian, communicated by Mr. W. Barclay Squire; Calendar of State Papers, 1607; Cunningham's Extracts from the Accounts of the Revels at Court, &c. (Shakespeare Soc. 1842), p. xxix; Bull's Christian Prayers and Meditations (Parker Soc. 1842); Clifford's Divine Anthems, &c., 1664; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. iii. 273, 417; Havergal's Fasti Herefordenses; Bemrose's Chant Book; Imp. Dict. of Univ. Biog.; Brit. Mus. MSS. as above.]

J. A. F. M.