Sheppard: Missa Cantate; Verbum caro

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WORKS: Missa Cantate; Verbum caro
PERFORMER: Salisbury Cathedral Boy Choristers, Gabrieli Consort/Paul McCreesh
CATALOGUE NO: 457 658-2
Once again Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort have woven their magic. The Sarum Rite was the benchmark for liturgical practice in medieval England, and shaped the course of the church music repertoire until Cranmer’s 1549 Book of Common Prayer. Among the more distinctive composers in the Sarum tradition was the still relatively underrated John Sheppard, whose third Christmas Mass – the Missa Cantate – is recorded here in the full context of the relevant plainsong sections. Excellent singing by the Salisbury Cathedral Boy Choristers and the location recording give the whole project added authenticity.


McCreesh’s musicians set the mood beautifully in the plainsong processional music, following the choir’s journey to each of the cathedral’s 19 altars. And when the first section of Sheppard’s Mass begins after some 20 minutes of exquisitely sung plainchant, the smoothly elegant phrasing of the singers works marvellously on the ear. The choir’s opposition of high and low voices, underlining Sheppard’s clever textual emphasis, is most potently effective in the Credo. But their poised serenity in the Sanctus (atmospherically highlighted by the bells in the ‘Osannas’) and Agnus Dei makes an arresting impact.


An inspiring account of Sheppard’s Verbum caro completes this memorable musical and spiritual experience.