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.

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