Early Tudor Composers: Biographical Sketches of Thirty-Two Musicians and Composers of the Period 1485-1555

By W. Henry Hadow; William H. Grattan Flood | Go to book overview

XII. John Taverner

THE fullest account of Taverner is in the first volume of Tudor Church Music (Carnegie edition), while a list of his printed and manuscript compositions will be found in the second edition of Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. This list includes eight Masses, numerous Latin Services and Motets, various In Nomines, and some English part-songs--overwhelming evidence of Taverner's activity. Until the appearance of Tudor Church Music the biographical data may be described as meagre, but some crumbs have fallen to my investigations which may serve to lead students to study Taverner's actual works, in vol. i and vol. ii of Tudor Church Music.

John Taverner was almost certainly a native of Lincolnshire (Tattershall or Boston), and was born circa 1495. This date is more likely to be correct than '1500', because Taverner was already a composer of fame in 1521. He was a boy chorister at Tattershall Collegiate Church (founded by Sir Ralph Cromwell, in 1439, for seven priests, six clerks, and six choristers), and had a good master in John Gygur, who was Warden from 1478 to 1500, and was owner of Sloane MS. 1210, from whom it passed to Dom William Stokes, O.S.B.

In 1524 we find Taverner as Master of the Choristers and Stipendiary of Tattershall, and in 1525-6 he was appointed first musical director of Cardinal Wolsey's College at Oxford. On October 17, John Longland, Bishop of Lincoln, wrote to Wolsey that he had sent for ' Taverner, a singing man, to be Informator of the Children of Wolsey's Chapel in his college at Oxford, but cannot induce him to give up his living at Tattershall and the prospect of a good marriage which he would lose by removal'. Bishop Longland suggests to Wolsey that the man to be appointed should have 'both his breast at will [that is, have a good chest voice], the handling of an instrument [organist], pleasure, cunning,

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