Wait for Old Yorkshire Music

Royal courts may have had their fools and jesters, Robin Hood had the  wandering minstrel Alan-a-Dale  and Yorkshire’s mayors had their ‘City Waits’.

What was a Wait

  • From medieval times groups of musicians were sometimes organised as waits. The York Wait is one of the best documented dating back 9 centuries.
  • As professional musicians their purpose was to play music at civic entertainment, ceremonies, parades and city related events. They also had duties as night-watch an early neighborhood watch. In York the Wait  also augmented the Minster choir.
  • They used instruments  including flute or oboe like Shawms, Curtal, Saggbut, bagge pype and by the 18th century oboes Cornetts even trumpets and drums.
  • In 1829  at the Spotted House Bradford they elected municipal bandsmen including 4 blind players led by Sam Smith ( a good name for a man elected in a pub).
  • By 1836 politics and a history of ‘begging badly’ brought about the demise of these publicly funded waits. The 1836 Municipal Corporations and Reform Act couldn’t wait to change our Waits. The Christmas tradition of musical busking still continued in many areas.

Spelling of Wait

  • There are many spellings  and versions of Wait some of which predate most written records.
  • The most common alternative name is  Waites or Waite and Wayte, Waytes
  • International Waits included in Holland where they were called stadspijpers, in Germany Stadtpfeifer and in Italy pifferi ( wikipedia)

Acknowledgement and thanks s to James Merryweather and his ‘York Music The Story of a City’s Music from 1304- 1896’

This entry was posted in Yorkshire Arts & Music, Yorkshire History and Heritage. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.