St Stephen's was very fortunate to have not one but four organs in the sixteenth century. There were three in the upper chapel, to accompany singers or to be used on their own. They would have contributed to the daily round of services sung by the lay clerks and the choirboys, with assistance from the vicars and the canons.
Two important composers earned their living at St Stephen's by looking after the chapel's building and furnishings as the verger, and by playing the organ when required. In the fifteenth century, John Bedyngham composed popular multi-voice secular songs called 'chansons', as well as religious settings of the mass.
Fifty years later, Nicholas Ludford held the same position, while writing fabulously complex choral masses for St Stephen's, preserved today in what is known as the Caius choirbook.
Image 1: Replica of a Tudor organ, made for the research project 'The Experience of Worship in Late Medieval Cathedral and Parish Church' at Bangor University. © Adrian Holgeth.
Audio: Listen to part of the Kyrie from Lady Mass cycle iii by Nicholas Ludford. The recording is from 'Chorus vel Organa: Music from the Lost Palace of Westminster', sung by the choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, with Geoffrey Webber director, and Magnus Williamson on the organ. Available now on Delphian Records.