Dering's few unremarkable pieces for the Anglican rite were written almost certainly before he left England. He subsequently composed a large number of works, both published and unpublished, including often striking vocal pieces reflecting the Italianate influence. Most were included in two collections of sacred music and two sets of Canzonette published in Antwerp between 1617 and 1620. The present Cantica sacra, published posthumously in London in 1662, comprises twenty-four motets for two and three voices and basso continuo. A further eight duets appeared in a collection of 1674, but Dering's authorship of these is by no means certain.
Early seventeenth-century Italian motets for two and three voices and continuo by Lodovico Viadana and Alessandro Grandi provided the line of succession for composers such as Peter Philips and Dering whose Cantica sacra pieces were evidently written in the late 1620s for performance in Henrietta Maria's private chapel in Somerset House. Their popularity prompted the composition of a number of similar works by English composers in the 1630s and 1640s, notably William Child and the Lawes brothers. Anthony Wood asserted, perhaps surprisingly, that Dering's settings were Oliver Cromwell's favourite music, and they continued to be performed at 'private Chappells or other private meetings' (to use Child's phrase) during the period of the Commonwealth.
They were composed for various combinations of two and three voices, both high and low, together with basso continuo – here an organ. Although they were probably intended for soloists they may also be sung chorally. In the three-part works the assigning of choral forces to the upper parts, but with a bass soloist, is a practical option.
Duo Seraphim is suitable for Trinitytide, Panis Angelicus, originally for the Feast of Corpus Christi, is appropriate for the Eucharist while Cantate Domino is apt for festal occasions.
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