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John Taverner

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Composer, b. in the County of Norfolk, England, about 1475; d. at Boston, England, 1535 or 1536. He was organist of Boston Parish Church from 1500 to 1525, when he was appointed master of the choristers at Cardinal College, Oxford, by Cardinal Wolsey. His fame as organist and choirmaster was fully equalled, if not eclipsed, by his powers as a composer of masses and motets. He continued at Oxford till 1533, and then retired to Boston. On the strength of a statement of Foxe, in his so-called "Book of Martyrs", Taverner has been branded as a heretic, but it is more than probable that Foxe confounded the composer with John Taverner, a correspondent of Cromwell, or else with Richard Taverner, a Canon of Wolsey's College, Oxford, who revised Matthew's Bible. He wrote nothing for the English Service, but he has bequeathed eight masses, as well as fragments of others, and Latin Magnificats, that stamp him as a composer of the first rank. His beautiful four-part "In nomine" has been altered to fit two English anthems, "O give thanks", and "In trouble and adversity", in Day's "Morning and Evening Prayer" (1565). He contributed three songs to Wynkyn de Worde's English song book, printed in 1530; but by far the greater part of his work is sacred. His "Gaude Maria Virgo", for three voices, and his "Mater Christi", for five voices, are good examples of his style, but he is best known by his "Western Wynde" mass. Although obsessed by the conventions of the early sixteenth century, Taverner showed some good pioneer work, which was afterwards successfully developed by Shepherd, Byrd, Tallis, and Whyte. He must not be confounded with a later John Taverner, who was appointed professor of music at Gresham College in 1610.


Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians, V (New ed., London, 1904-1910); WALKER, A History of Music in England (Oxford, 1907); GRATTAN-FLOOD, Notes on English Church Composers in MS.

About this page

APA citation. Grattan-Flood, W. (1912). John Taverner. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Grattan-Flood, William. "John Taverner." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Thomas J. Bress.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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