John Sheppard is a composer from the English Renaissance who wrote mainly for the church, including English anthems and Latin motets. The award-winning British vocal ensemble Stile Antico devotes their new Harmonia Mundi recording entirely to Sheppard, putting together a program that combines some of his finest choral pieces.
Stile Antico has received quite a bit of international acclaim since their debut album. Their latest, entitled “Media vita,” is sure to inspire more praise. Beautifully delivered, the ensemble draws out wondrous sonorities from Sheppard’s lush and complex writing.
The Chirk Castle Part-Books
Chirk Castle is located in North Wales. At two points during the 17th Century, the castle owners compiled books of choral music to sustain a modest chapel of singers. Somehow the books managed to survive mostly intact through the 20th-century. They contain a wealth of choral music from the English Renaissance, including composers Thomas Tallis, Christopher Tye, John Sheppard, and others.
The Brabant Ensemble’s recent Hyperion label recording focuses on select unaccompanied pieces from the Chirk Castle part-books, exploring previously known works alongside ones found only in the books. Their excellent performance evokes a mood unique to Tudor church music—somber and meditative.