Richard Farrant

Short Name: Richard Farrant
Full Name: Farrant, Richard, 1525-1580
Birth Year: 1525
Death Year: 1580

Like many composers of his day, the early years of Richard Farrant’s (c.1525- November 30, 1580) life are not well documented. The first acknowledgment of him is in a list of the Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1552. It is assumed from that list that his birth was around 1525. Although, that cannot be accurately determined. During his life he was able to establish himself as a successful composer, develop the English drama considerably, founded the first Blackfriar Theatre, and be the first to write verse-anthems. He married Anne Bower, daughter of Richard Bower who was Master of the Chapel Royal choristers at the time. With Anne he conceived ten children, one of whom was also named, Richard.

As a member of the Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, Farrant was active in ceremonies surrounding the royal family. He began his work with the Chapel Royal around 1550 under the reign of Edward VI. Fortunately, for Farrant, this is a time that saw huge developments in Latin Church Music. Composers like William Byrd and Christopher Tye were busy expanding and elaborating on the Church Music of the day. In Farrant's twelve years with the Chapel Royal, he was able to participate in funerals for Edward VI and Mary I, and coronations for Mary I and Elizabeth I. After his work there, he took up a post as organist at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor.

For Farrant, the post at at Windsor became a permanent one that he retained for the rest of his life. Along with this, he also acquired the position of Master of the Chapel Royal choristers in November of 1569. Having the choirs of both of these institutions at his disposal gave him an outlet to showcase all of his compositions and plays. In fact, every winter he was able to produce a play for the Queen herself. These positions also allowed him to move back to London in 1576 and begin a public theater of sorts where he rehearsed some of his choir music openly. It was soon after, in 1580, that he passed away, having left his house to his wife.

Unlike many composers of his day that stuck to only music composition, Farrant also wrote many plays. One of his most important contributions to drama in England is of course the creation of the first Blackfriars Theatre. This eventually became one of the most important places in London for drama to develop during the Renaissance. Farrant is also one of the earliest and most well known composers that began to mix the two mediums of music and drama. It was this uncommon mixture that allowed him to begin to develop the composition style of 'verse.' This becomes prominent in a lot of his pieces including the anthems "When as we sat in Babylon" and "Call to remembrance" and "Hide not thou thy face."

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