Sadly, much of Sheppard’s music has been lost. His compositions survive in partbooks at Christ Church Oxford, and testify to the elaborate style of church music from the reign of Mary Tudor (1553–1558). These were turbulent times: after Henry VIII’s death, the ten-year-old Edward VI became King. During his reign the first Prayer Books were issued by Archbishop Cranmer in 1549 and 1553. Edward bequeathed the crown to Lady Jane Grey who was proclaimed Queen, but was arrested and executed at the Tower. Mary was a Catholic, acknowledged the supremacy of the Pope, and had Cranmer burnt at the stake, replacing him with a Catholic Archbishop. Her persecution of Protestants earned her the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’. For church musicians this must have been a traumatic time – they had to hedge their bets as to whether to compose in Latin or the vernacular. Latin music might have become passé with alarming suddenness.
from notes by William McVicker © 2005