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The Border Waites, Music Concert

Posted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 3:55 pm
by levyarcher
Mortimer History Society


New Symphony of Castle Music


The Border Waites will be giving a full concert of medieval music in May at Ludlow. Their line-up features unusual instruments as compared with modern orchestras. They play sackbuts, shawms, crumhorns, viols, fiddles, recorders, and bagpipes. All these are needed to create the atmosphere of music at castles like Ludlow and the Royal court of that period. However for the May concert, one of the Waites, Alan Crumpler is making a new instrument that he says will be needed to bring a further authentic touch to the occasion.

This instrument called a Symphony has its origins in the Organistrum which was well established in Europe by the middle of the twelfth century. The latter was the first stringed instrument to have a keyboard of sorts attached to it to produce the various notes, and was usually played by two people, due to its large size.

The Symphony is a smaller version of the Organistrum and is played by one person who could turn the handle with one hand and play the keyboard part with the other. Alan who comes from Leominster has based his model on an illustration in the Luttrell Psalter which clearly shows an upper keyboard. His instrument is made from cherry trees cut down in Tenbury Wells (for firewood !) from an orchard being grubbed up, which he rescued and had cut into thick boards. The soundboard is made of sitka spruce from the ancient forests of northern Canada, cut down in 1967, which is about 1,000 years old, judging by the ring count. The strings are natural gut and the pegs are made of boxwood.

The Border Waites are based on the town bands of Europe common between the 15th and 18th centuries. For the Mortimer History Society they are exploring new territory, and will be presenting a unique concert. Not much English music was written down before Tudor times, but they are going to explore what would have been played in castle and court in the late Mortimer period – late 1300s and early 1400s. Details of the May conference can be found on the website - mortimerhistorysociety.org.uk - and from Ludlow Assembly Rooms where tickets can be purchased in advance. Conference speakers are Ian Mortimer presenting new research on 'The Mortimers and the Royal Family' and Alison Weir on ‘Queen Isabella - 'She Wolf of France'. The Border Waites will be demonstrating musical instruments of the period, discussing castle music, as well as giving a separate full concert.


johnusk@supanet.com