WHILE York waits for the verdict from the delayed judicial review of Richard III’s remains, the York Waits have pressed ahead with their new disc of music from the life and times of the last Yorkist monarch.
“Arguments may still rage over a final resting place for Richard’s bones, but even if York does miss out, we’ve staked own special claim to the controversial king,” says William Marshall, stalwart member of York’s resident early music band.
Recorded by the six-strong York Waits with singer Deborah Catterall, The White Rose And The Red: Music From The Age Of Richard III consists of songs and instrumental pieces from Richard’s lifetime during the turbulent 15th century, when the Wars of the Roses raged between the Houses of York and Lancaster until Richard was slain in battle in 1485 at Bosworth Field.
The CD features instrumental combinations such as the loud ensemble of shawms and sackbut, plus softer string groupings including lute, harp, fiddle and rebec, and the Waits also play rumbustious combinations of bagpipes, hurdy gurdy and percussion.
Some of the most famous compositions of the 1400s by English and Continental composers are included, with the aim of introducing modern listeners to the sophisticated and beautiful music of the period and the varied instruments first played by minstrels, whether employed by Royal courts, noble households or cities such as York.
“We know that the Duke of Gloucester, or Richard III as he became, was a cultivated man who employed musicians,” says William. “On his visits to York he would probably have heard the city’s band, the Waits, which we model ourselves on.
“But unlike Henry VIII, say, we cannot really link any specific music to Richard, although we can safely assume that he would have been familiar with some of most prized and popular songs and pieces of the period. So what we’re doing is providing a kind of musical soundtrack to the later-15th century, which is something that people just don’t hear very often.
“When there’s a TV documentary about Richard or a drama such as The White Queen, you get little or no genuine music of the period, so our CD helps to fill an important gap.”
As well as issuing The White Rose And The Red CD, The York Waits have been performing their repertoire around the country, with more performances lined up for next year. Meanwhile, the band will be embracing the Christmas spirit in seasonal concert appearances that include the National Centre for Early Music in York on Monday night.
As part of the York Early Music Christmas Festival, Tim Bayley, Lizzie Gutteridge, Susan Marshall, William Marshall and John Peel will be joined by Deborah Catterall for Drive The Cold Winter Away: Music For The Cold Season Of The Year.
Heralding the onset of winter, their 7.30pm programme of ancient music for the festive season includes dance tunes, ballads about feasting, pastimes for dark evenings and references to the weather that dominated medieval and renaissance lives for a third of each year.
Among such early instruments as curtals, bagpipes, the portative organ and tabor, listen out for a rommelpot: a percussive device made from a pig bladder.
• Tickets for this Christmas By Candlelight concert are on sale on 01904 658338 or at ncem.co.uk
The White Rose And The Red CD is available at retail outlets or via theyorkwaits.org.uk, priced £12.