There were at least two and possibly three or more English church musicians of this name working in the late 16th century and early 17th, one or more of whom may have been related to Richard Farrant. Two John Farrants – probably father and son – were connected for a considerable time with Salisbury Cathedral. By early October 1571 John Farrant (i) was acting as master of the Salisbury choristers, although it was only towards the end of that month that he was formally admitted as a lay clerk, on a year’s probation. He was appointed organist in 1587. He may possibly have been the John Farrant who was appointed organist at Ely Cathedral in 1567, or the John Farrant at Bristol Cathedral from 1570 to 1571 – or perhaps the three posts were held by the same man. The year after his admission as a lay clerk at Salisbury, he married a niece of Dr John Bridges, subsequently Dean of Salisbury. Farrant was evidently a man of rough temper, and this ultimately led to his dismissal in 1592, after an episode in which he physically threatened Dr Bridges, who had been vainly attempting to intervene in a domestic dispute. From Salisbury, John apparently moved to Hereford, and within a year was in serious trouble there for ‘rayling and contumelious speeches’ against the warden of the college of vicars-choral. He resigned in December 1593, and his subsequent movements are not known. He may have moved to London as organist of Christ Church, Newgate.
John Farrant (ii) was born in Salisbury on 28 September 1575, the second of four children. By 1585 he was a chorister in the cathedral choir and from 1598 was being paid as cathedral organist, although he was not formally admitted as a vicar-choral and organist until 1600, and then only on condition that ‘he be junior to his brethren, the Vicars Choral, and not otherwise’. He was buried on 30 September 1618 and was succeeded by Edward Tucker.
Two full anthems and a Short Service ascribed to John Farrant have survived; they may be by either the elder or the younger Farrant. Some music is ascribed simply to ‘Farrant’ and may be by Richard Farrant.
attributed to ‘John Farrant’
Short Service, d (Ven, TeD, Jub, Ky, Cr, Mag, Nunc), GB-Cp, Cu, DRc, GL, Lbl, Ob, Och, WB, Y
W.Shaw: The Succession of Organists of the Chapel Royal and the Cathedrals of England and Wales from c.1538 (Oxford, 1991)
PETER LE HURAY/JOHN MOREHEN
(b ?c1525–30; d London, 30 Nov 1580). English cathedral musician and composer. His name first appears in a list of Gentlemen of the Chapel Royal (GB–Lbl Stowe 571, f.36) in the summer of 1552. It seems that he had only recently joined the choir, for he was placed 31st in the list of 32 fully stipendiary Gentlemen. He continued to sing in the choir during the reign of Mary Tudor, resigning his post in 1564 to take up duties as Master of the Choristers and as one of the organists at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Before this he had been a close colleague of Richard Bower, Master of the Chapel Royal choristers; he married Bower’s daughter Anne, and acted as his legal representative after his death in June 1561. Among the ceremonial events in which Farrant took part were the funeral of Edward VI, the coronation of Mary I and her funeral, and the coronation of Elizabeth I. In November 1569 Farrant became Master of the Chapel Royal choristers in succession to William Hunnis and he retained this appointment, as well as that at Windsor, until his death. He left a widow, a son (also Richard) and nine other children whose names are not known.
Richard Farrant is an important figure in the history of English church music, and his practical interest in drama undoubtedly did much, if only indirectly, to foster the new ‘verse’ style of liturgical composition. On moving to Windsor in 1564 he organized the choristers into a dramatic company similar to those of St Paul’s and the Chapel Royal. In February 1567 he presented the Windsor boys at court for the first time, and from then on he produced a play for the Queen every winter, using at first the Windsor boys, and then in 1577 a combined Windsor–Chapel Royal company. Documents relating to the last three productions, in 1578 and 1579, refer only to the Chapel Royal company, although it is quite possible that the Windsor–Chapel Royal association continued. On moving back to London in 1576 Farrant took a lease of ‘six upper chambers, loftes, lodgynges or Romes lyinge together within the precinct of the late dissolved house or priory of the Black ffryers’ at a yearly rent of £14 for the purpose of ‘rehearsing’ the boys for their courtly entertainments. Subsequent litigation makes it clear, however, that the rehearsals were open to the public and that Farrant was in fact using the premises as a public theatre.
None of Farrant’s plays has survived, though the titles of those that are known – Ajax and Ulysses, Quintus Fabius and King Xerxes – suggest that the author preferred to develop serious and even tragic themes. Only two of his stage songs are known: ‘O Jove, from stately throne’, from King Xerxes, and ‘Ah, alas ye salt sea Gods’, from an unidentified play dealing with the story of Panthea and Abradatas, in which Panthea sings a lament over the body of her dead husband as she is about to take her own life; the song is also attributed to Robert Parsons, a Chapel Royal colleague of Farrant. These represent the more elaborate genre of Elizabethan consort song. The solo voice is in each case a boy’s (one treble, the other a meane) and the accompaniment is presumably for viols. The instrumental textures are highly polyphonic, while the vocal lines stand out for their comparative simplicity, the word-setting being basically syllabic.
Farrant does not appear to have written much liturgical music, but his three main works – the full anthems Call to remembrance and Hide not thou thy face and the ‘High Service’ – survive in an unusually large number of pre-Restoration manuscripts. They reveal a sensitive, if restrained, feeling for word accentuation and mood. Farrant was one of the first composers to develop the ‘verse’ style of writing. His one extant verse anthem, When as we sat in Babylon, shows the influence of both the metrical psalm and the consort song. The words come from the Sternhold and Hopkins version of Psalm cxxxvii. Each verse is sung by a solo meane, the last line being repeated simply by the SATB choir. The setting is strophic apart from the last verse. Although its musical and literary qualities are slight, the anthem is of unusual historical importance being, with William Mundy’s Ah, helpless wretch, one of the very earliest of its kind.