Workshops / workshops / workshops_2010mar27.shtml

The City Musick: Waits’ Day – 27th March 2010

Directed by William Lyons

The Museum of London, London Wall, EC2Y 5HN

Programme (pdf)


William Lyons, Paul Bevan, Richard Thomas,
Richard Van Hessel and Gawain Glenton.

William Lyons TCM

During the USA tour, Richard van Hessel was a
temporary replacement for Tom Lees who was ill.

Photo courtesy of San Diego Early Music Society.

“This project was made possible because of a successful funding bid to LCACE (London Centre for Arts and Cultural Exchange). LCACE funds partnerships between education institutions and cultural organisations and in this case the bid was made by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (contributing partner in LCACE) with the Museum of London Cultural Partner.” [Jane Booth, head of historical performance at Guildhall].

City Musick Day, Museum of London, 27th March 2010

It was a mixed crowd that gathered at the Museum of London for a day of talks and recitals on thesubject of “The City Musick”. There were academics from the fields of music, history andliterature, musicians who have made waits their study and others who had barely heard of them.Bearing this in mind it must have been quite a feat to put the program of events together.William Lyons began the days proceedings with a general description of what waits were and whatthey did, (and what they didn’t!). As musical director of the City Musick in its current form he wasable to give us a few bits of local detail such as the association of the London Waits with the tune ofthat name and with Lillibullero.

Next up was the IGTP’s own Alan Radford who gave an outline of the waits revival movement fromits earliest stirrings in the 19th C to the blossoming that has occurred in the last few years withseveral new bands forming each year for the last 3 years. He also gave a guided tour of the waitswebsite, where those who haven’t caught up with the activities of the waits of the 20th and 21stcenturies can quickly find out what we’ve been up to and find large amounts of historical researchdone by members.

The City Musick then treated us to the first recital of the day “The Topping Tooters of the Town”which concentrated on the 17th C loud and quiet wind ensembles with cornetts, lysard, sackbutts,curtal, recorders, shawms and for the grand finale, bagpipe trios!After lunch we were then treated to a more in depth look at music in Jacobean theatre, with lecturesfrom David Lindley and Peter Holman addressing the questions of who were the musicians whoplayed for Shakespeare’s plays, both at the Globe and at the indoor Blackfriars theatre? Were theythe Waits, or were some of them the same musicians as the Waits? What kind of instruments didthey play? Did they ever provide background music not mentioned in the texts of the plays or didthey only play where music is directly referred to?

This is a huge subject and of great interest both to those trying to re-create Shakespeare’s drama andfor those interested in the working lives of professional musicians in London in the 17th C. Some ofthose currently working in the same profession had some interesting practical insights to offer here.The afternoon also included two more recitals, each of combinations of instruments associated withthe theatre as discussed in the lectures. The consort of six (treble viol, recorder or flute, lute, cittern,bass viol and bandora) was hugely popular in late Elizabethan and Jacobean times and itscombination of plucked and bowed strings and wind is capable of great variety of expression. Thelast recital of the day was of a string quartet, or noyse of fiddles (in this case a string quartet), suchas played at the indoor theatre at Blackfriars both during the plays and beforehand as a sort ofseparate concert.

Overall the day proved very interesting and varied, with something of interest for all of its variedaudience. From the IGTP point of view it diverged quite quickly from what we think of as thecentral Waits movement i.e. the street band of loud winds. But this only served to remind us justhow wide ranging was the talent and musical flexibility of our forebears and how broad is our remitfor playing an enormous range of musical periods, instruments and styles under the name of Waits.

Lizzie Gutteridge