John Sheppard (c1515–December 1558): Media Vita

Sheppard’s music is not as popular as that of his contemporaries – I think this is a shame as he’s right up there alongside his better-known contemporaries Taverner, Tye, White, and even Tallis. If you want to hear Tudor era music of breathtaking beauty and originality then Sheppard’s compositions surely fit the bill. Media Vita is his undoubted masterpiece its sheer breadth of phrasing and expressiveness coupled with stunning sonorities and a remarkably deft hand with dissonance always stops me in my tracks. It’s been recorded a few times – I think the most recent recording is by Stile Antico, but the recording below was the first and the one I find that I come back to time and time again.



Text & Translation: Media Vita

Media vita in morte sumus.
Quem quaerimus adiutorem
nisi te, Domine,
qui pro peccatis nostris iuste irasceris?
In the midst of life we are in death.
Whom can we seek as our helper
but you, Lord,
who on account of our sins are justly angry?
Sancte Deus. Sancte fortis.
Sancte et misericors Salvator,
amarae morti ne tradas nos.
Holy God. Holy and strong.
Holy and merciful Saviour,
deliver us not to the bitterness of death.
Nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine:
secundum verbum tuum in pace.
Quia viderunt oculi mei:
salutare tuum. Quod parasti:
ante faciem omnium populorum.
Now, Lord, you let your servant depart:
in peace according to your word.
For my eyes have seen:
your salvation. Which you have prepared:
in the sight of all peoples.
Lumen ad revelationem gentium:
et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.
Gloria Patri et Filio:
et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper:
et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
A light to lighten the gentiles:
and the glory of your people Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son:
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be:
world without end. Amen.
Ne proiicias nos in tempore senectutis;
cum defecerit virtus nostra
ne derelinquas nos, Domine.
Do not cast us away in our old age;
when our strength fails us
do not abandon us, Lord.
Noli claudere aures tuas
ad preces nostras.
Do not close your ears
to our prayers.
Qui cognoscis occulta cordis,
parce peccatis nostris.
You who know the secrets of our hearts,
forgive us our sins.

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