John Forest

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Born: c. 1365

Died: 25 March 1446

English composer, a contemporary of Leonel Power. There are two motets of Forest's in the Old Hall manuscript, but much more survives in Continental sources such as the Trent Codices. His music contrasts declamatory and melismatic passages; the conflict of rhythms between the various voices gives his music a restless quality.

No initial or forename is given in the sources, and no Forests with specifically musical credentials appear in archives. Identification therefore remains uncertain, though the name is not common, and there is only one strong candidate, John Forest, onetime Dean of Wells, who was born about 1365–70 and died on 25 March 1446. He was a member and benefactor of Lincoln College, Oxford, and a lifelong canon of Lincoln Cathedral, also holding prebends at various times at Durham, York, Lichfield, Southwell, Salisbury and Wells. He was Archdeacon of Surrey from 1415 and Dean of Wells from 1425 until his death, having obtained in 1429 a papal indult to visit his archdeaconry by deputy for five years, owing to old age, failing sight and infirmity. This has cast doubt upon the identity of John Forest with the composer as being inconsistent with the fresh, blossoming and youthful music presumably composed at this time. However, he lived for a further 17 years and cannot have been totally decrepit; also, it seems that some of his most advanced compositions may have been copied into the Old Hall Manuscript not much later than 1425. John Forest was particularly active in the Winchester diocese, and closely associated with Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester from 1404; this may reflect some personal patronage. Forest also appears in the records of Christ Church, Canterbury, perhaps significantly, given Leonel Power’s association there after the death of his patron in 1421.

View the Wikipedia article on John Forest.

List of choral works

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