O Wilhelme, pastor bone
is one of Taverner’s more forward-looking and immediately attractive compositions, written in an uncomplicated note-against-note style, with largely syllabic text setting and systematic alternation of choral groupings. There are only two surviving sources, dating from the 1540s and the 1580s, both of which give the first line as ‘Christe Jesu, pastor bone’. Nevertheless, it is now thought that the text was originally addressed to St William, twelfth-century Archbishop of York, and that the second verse included a prayer for Cardinal Wolsey. The statutes of Cardinal College required that antiphons to St Mary, the Holy Trinity, and St William be sung daily after Compline. Wolsey was Archbishop of York, and the tercentenary of his predecessor’s canonisation fell a few months after Taverner’s appointment to the College, so that it is quite likely that a special setting of St William’s antiphon should be written for celebrations of that event. It would have been a simple matter, after the re-founding of the College, to adapt the text so that it became a Jesus antiphon with a prayer for the king in the second verse; in the 1580s it was altered once again into a prayer for Queen Elizabeth.
from notes by John Heighway © 2000