The York Waits


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About The York Waits

The York Waits take their name from the ancient city band of York, the earliest evidence for which we find in 14th century records. Before they turned to music full time the waits had been night watchmen and, although their guard duties diminished, they continued to keepe the night watches in the weeks leading up to Christmas, playing at various points to mark the hours and wake the citizens. In York as in many towns, they were employed by the Lord Mayor as the city’s own band of musicians, paid and liveried by the corporation to play on public occasions. The band is known to have been in continuous existence for at least five hundred years until abolition in 1836.

Today’s York Waits have revived the band as it was in its heyday in the 16th century, playing a wide repertoire of period European music as well as their own arrangements of popular dance and ballad tunes.

Like their predecessors they play upon a noyse of shawms, ancestors of the oboe-bassoon family, and characteristic instruments of waits before 1600. They also play cornett, saggbut, and curtal, flutes, recorders great and small, crumhorns, bagpipes, hurdy-gurdies, lute and cittern.

By creating a replica band of waits, not only in their instruments and costumes, but also in their performing style, The York Waits have attempted to remove the music from the rarefied atmosphere of the concert hall and return it to the wider audience for whom it was created. They take pride in being perhaps the only period band to play on the move, whether in the street, on a boat or even in a hot air balloon. This flexibility has put them much in demand for outdoor events. When indoors they present their music in an informal style which builds a bridge with any audience.

The York Waits give regular concerts throughout Britain for festivals, music societies, schools and private functions. They accompany dancers and choirs, hold workshops and period dances and have appeared in stage productions in York, London, Copenhagen and Bruges. An extended memorised repertoire enables the Waits to perform readily outdoors, whether in concert, procession or as a part of historical pageantry. The Waits have enlivened many national celebrations, including festivities for Richard III at Bosworth Field, Elizabeth I at Tilbury Fort and Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace where they have been his Royal wind band. The group has made numerous recordings including "The King's Pavan", "Playford Plus", "Fortune My Foe", "Yule Riding", "Music from the Time of Richard III", "1588", "The Punk’s Delight", "Old Christmas Return’d" and "The City Musicke". They have performed on TV and Radio and were featured in Richard Baker’s Comparing Notes series for the BBC.

Videos of the Queen's Maundy Thursday visit to York, with the York Waits playing: