John Merbecke

Short Name: John Merbecke
Full Name: Merbecke, John, ca. 1510-ca. 1585
Birth Year: 1510
Death Year: 1585

John Marbeck, Merbeck or Merbecke (c. 1510 – c. 1585) was an English theological writer and musician who produced a standard setting of the Anglican liturgy. He is also known today for his setting of the Mass, Missa Per arma justitiae.

Probably a native of Beverley in Yorkshire, Merbecke appears to have been a boy chorister at St. George's Chapel, Windsor, and was employed as an organist there from about 1541. Two years later he was convicted with four others of heresy and sentenced to be burnt at the stake, but received a pardon owing to the intervention of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester. An English Concordance of the Bible which Merbecke had been preparing at the suggestion of Richard Turner, was however confiscated and destroyed. A later version of this work, the first of its kind in English, was published in 1550 with a dedication to Edward VI.

In the same year, Merbecke published his Booke of Common Praier Noted, intended to provide for musical uniformity in the use of the First Prayer Book of Edward VI. This set the liturgy to semi-rhythmical melodies partly adapted from Gregorian chant; it was rendered obsolete when the Prayer Book was revised in 1552. Merbecke wrote several devotional and controversial works of a strongly Calvinistic character, and a number of his musical compositions are preserved in manuscript in the British Library, and at Oxford and Cambridge. He died, probably while still organist at Windsor, about 1585.

His son, Roger Marbeck (1536–1605), was a noted classical scholar and physician.

In the first half of the 19th century, the Oxford Movement inspired renewed interest in liturgical music within the Church of England. John Jebb first drew attention to Merbecke's Prayer Book settings in 1841. In 1843, William Dyce published plain song music for all the Anglican services, which included nearly all of Merbecke's settings, adapted for the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer then in use. During the latter half of the 19th century, many different editions of Merbecke's settings were published, especially for the Communion Service, with arrangements by noted musicians such as Sir John Stainer, Charles Villiers Stanford and Basil Harwood, Merbecke's Communion setting was very widely sung by choirs and congregations throughout the Anglican Communion until the 1662 Book of Common Prayer began to be supplanted by more modern liturgy in the late 20th century. Parts of his service, notably the Nicene Creed, have been adapted to "modern" wording. His setting has also been adapted for the liturgy of many other denominations; the Roman Catholic Church used it for the new English language rite following the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65.

His complete Latin Church music was recorded by The Cardinall's Musick under the direction of Andrew Carwood in 1996.

A voluntary choir for young men and women at Southwark Cathedral in London is named the Merbecke Choir in his honour, because Merbecke's heresy trial had been partly held at the church in 1543.

Merbecke is honoured, together with William Byrd and Thomas Tallis, with a feast day in the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (United States) on 21 November.

Tunes by John Merbecke (15)sort descendingAsInstancesIncipit
[Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord] (Merbecke)J. Merbecke (1523-c. 1585) (Composer)522344 44445 32266
[Glory be to God on high] (Merbecke)John Merbecke, 1510?-1585? (Composer)812443 45343 22555
[Glory be to thee, O Lord] (Merbecke)John Merbecke (Composer)311111 61
[Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Hosts] (Merbecke)John Merbecke (Composer)1811224 23115 54245
[I am the resurrection and the life] (Merbecke)John Merbecke (Composer)255611 11712 17655
[I believe in one God the Father Almighty]J. Merbecke (Composer)744677 13334 53212
[Lift up your hearts] (Merbecke)John Merbecke, 1523-c.1585 (Composer)423432 121
[Lord Have Mercy Upon Us] (Merbecke 12323)John Merbecke (Composer)2212323 21433 2321
[Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law]John Merbecke (Composer)612323 21112 34432
[Chant] (Merbecke)John Merbecke, 1510?-1583? (Composer)212116 71112 11671
[O Lamb of God, that takest away] (Merbecke)John Merbecke (Composer)1211231 44334 5443
[Our Father, who art in heaven] (Merbecke 5676)John Merbecke (Composer)256776 17657 655
[The Lord be with you] (Merbecke)John Merbecke (Composer)2
[Our Father, who art in heaven] (Merbekce 22222)J. Merbecke (Composer)822222 23212 17171
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