The York Waits


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The York Waits' Repertoire

The York Waits play music from a wide range of European sources, reflecting the rapid spread of musical styles following the invention of music printing around 1500. The lack of copyright laws, and the practice of arranging music for whatever forces were locally available, meant that tunes which appeared first in, say, Italy, often turned up in other countries arranged for different voices or instruments.

England, as well as importing music and musicians throughout the 16th century, enjoyed a golden age of home-grown tunes associated with ballad singing and country dancing, music which seems to have been truly popular with all levels of society. We play our own arrangements of these tunes, as well as composed pieces, following the presumed practice of the original waits. All the instruments are copies of surviving originals or reconstructions based on pictorial evidence and recent folk instruments.

They are made by specialist craftsmen all over Britain, Europe and the U.S.A. The costumes are based on pictures and archaeological material from Tudor and Jacobean sources, and include scarlet livery coats modelled on descriptions of those given to the original waits in York, and replicas of their Elizabethan silver chains of cognisance, three of which survive.