www.townwaits.org.uk / History Index / France

French Waites

Thanks to Alan Radford for spotting these references -

Music and Musicians in Renaissance Cities and Towns, edited by Fiona Kisby - Cambridge University Press.

Chapter 5 by G. Peters on civic musicians in southern France.


Five liveried civic musicians from mid-14th century

Five liveried civic musicians from mid-14th century. Starting with the 1357/8 civic account book, regular payments were recorded to "our five minstrels" to accompany the city council in fifteen processions. The 1370/1 accounts record payment to "five minstrels" for twenty-six processions, and in 1371-2 for thirty-one processions. A city statute in 1375 has the minstrels in official city livery embroidered with the coat of arms when accomanying the council in procession or other official activities. In 1357 payment is made for new banners for two trumpets and two "cornamusa". In addition to the two "cornamusayre" and two "trompayre", the ensemble also included a "nacharayre". In 1372 for the arrival of the Queen of Navarre, the civic minstrels wore red livery. In the early fifteenth century the ensemble was reduced to two or three, but from 1431 for the rest of the century it stabilised at four. In 1429 two civic minstrels sold a bombarde with a key and a shawm made in Bruges. In 1469 a relative of one of the civic minstrels sold three shawms in a case, a bombard and two "charaminas". In the late 15th century the city made frequent payments to the loud minstrels ("los autz menestries") who played their shawms ("calamillas"). In 1403 a slide trumpeter from Tournai was recruited to the civic wind band. Apart from the regular civic processions at Christmas, Pentecost etc., for visiting dignitaries, special occasions etc., the civic minstrels also played in services in church. Payments in the 14th century were for particular services rendered, but in the 15th century they had contracts and annual salaries (7 li.). Membership was stable, as in the mid-15th century three of the four members served for at least twenty years.


1330-1500, civic trumpeters and shawm-players

In 1330 regular payments made to two "trompayres" who were provided with "las trompas del argent". Public announcements were made by a separate "cornayre" with a simple horn. By 1383 there was also a civic wind ensemble called "menestries", provided with livery and annual salary paid on December 13th. These fulfilled both civic and religious roles. In 1439 the five minstrels were paid for performing in Mass, both "trompetas" and " haut menestries". Annual salary was 6 li 10 s in the late 14th century, falling to 4 li in the late 15th. Their livery cost twice as much as their annual salary and their pennons just as much. Civic minstrels held these appointments for up to thirty years, and the office ran in families.


Civic wind band from mid-15th century

The civic wind band first appears in the mid-15th century, with regular payments thereafter. They included a pair of trumpeters, and three or four wind musicians on shawms ("chalamelis") and pipes and tabors ("fistulis et taborinis"). Loud and soft ensembles were used, the latter including harp, lute, rebec and bells, portative organ and pipe and tabor. "Gaychatores" played trumpet and cornemuse from the Papal tower.

Civic Musicians in French Cities up to 1500

Extracted from "The Musical Sounds of Medieval French Cities" by Gretchen Peters, Cambridge University Press (2012), in which more detail is to be found.


1443     Jo Crestan, city trumpeter, 36fl/year, to play at festivals

1444-    Monnetus Monneri, city trumpeter, sounded watch twice a day, tower music

1450     Monnetus took Anthonius Gill as apprentice trumpeter


Mid-C14, official waits/minstrels playing from belfry, also served to make the watch and announce fires from the belfry

1387-1410     Ascension Day celebrations, Jehan wait of the belfry on cornett, plus two trumpeters

1402     purchase of trumpet for the wait to play from the belfry

1407     wait(s) provided with chain and badge with city coat of arms

1461     Minstrels' guild – loud and soft instruments. Outside musicians had to pay a fee per performance to the guild.

1462     Jehan Boutard dismissed

1462-1477     ..and the Aldermen gave the watch of the belfry to Jehan Mevel, menestrel, who plays well on the said pipe (shawm replacing the earlier trumpet).

1460s     Wait annually provided with a coat

1387-1500     twenty-seven named civic musicians


1243-     watchmen in the bell tower to sound the horn twice a day

C14     tower musician employed

1379     city trumpeter, in new livery, for arrival of the Pope

1390     for departure of the Kings of Sicily and Navarre, reed and trumpet musicians were hired in by the city

C15     city council stipend for a trumpeter and a minstrel on the bell tower

1450-1463     civic minstrel played cornemuse

1473-1481     civic minstrel played pipe and tabor

1449-1500     six named watch musicians


1406-1422     Very few civic records survive, but there is evidence of two civic trumpeters who received regular wages and livery, and played on the council’s silver trumpet. Civic minstrels also existed.

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