We don’t know anything about Richard Farrant’s early life. The first record of him appears in 1552 when he was listed as being one of the Gentlemen of the Chapel Royal. There are records of him participating in some of the most important ceremonial events of the Tudor era – Edward VI’s funeral, Mary I’s coronation and funeral, and Elizabeth I’s coronation. He resigned his post in 1564 to take up his new duties as Master of the Choristers and as one of the organists at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, and in 1569 he was also appointed as master of the choristers of the Chapel Royal retaining both positions until his death in 1580.
He organised the boys into a dramatic company producing a play for the Queen every winter. None of these plays have survived and only two of the songs he wrote for the stage are now known. He’s far more important as a composer of church music although he doesn’t seem to have written much liturgical music. Only three main compositions by him are known to have survived the anthems Call to remembrance and Hide not thou thy face and the ‘High Service’. Along with When as we sat in Babylon and Mundy’s Ah, helpless wretch they’re some of the first examples of verse-anthems and to judge by the number of sources in which they survive must have been wildly popular with his contemporaries. Lord, for Thy tender mercy’s sake remains popular with choirs to this day and is sung below by the Choir of Clare College. Enjoy :-).
Text: Lord, for Thy tender mercy’s sake
Lord, for thy tender mercy’s sake,
Lay not our sins to our charge;
But forgive what is past,
And give us grace to amend our sinful lives;
To decline from sin and incline to virtue;
That we may walk in a perfect heart
Before thee now and evermore. Amen.