Composer and Organist John Merbecke lived in interesting times. He was born soon after the beginning of the 16th century and spent his whole life in service of music at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. In 1543 he was arrested for heresy and sentenced to death, but received a royal pardon, unlike the three others with whom he was arrested. He returned to his position at Windsor and began work on a concordance of the English Bible to replace the one that had been destroyed when he was arrested.
The Book of Common Praier Noted was published in 1550, at a time when the continued use of plainchant was controversial. Here, Merbecke sets the chants, but in English rather than Latin.
As a piece of history, for students of monody, and as a part of the church’s heritage, Merbecke’s setting is invaluable.