From: Tibicen
To: The Jongleurs' Email List
Subject: Whence Waytes and Why?
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 1996 18:05:17 EDT

Greetings, all!

Someone asked me about the term "Waytes", and I figured now would be a good time to write up an explanation and share it.

Simply put, through most of the time period from which we draw our repertoire (13th-17th centuries), there was a term in English (and I have reason to believe there was a related one in French) for groups of people who do more or less precisely what the "Instrumentalists" do: serving as the official town band. This term was "Waytes" (spelt in a wide variety of ways).

Now it is very clear that these musicians were somehow connected, at some point at least, with the town watch -- the people who's job it was to keep a look out for invaders, fires, and other nocturnal problems. "Wayte" means "watch" in earlier usage. Somehow the meaning "municipal musician" grew out of the "town watch" job. And this is not merely a linguistic shift -- apparently one job grew out of the other. I have a manuscipt, in translation, which is the accounts of moneies and goods paid to musicians of certian courts in the 13th/14th century; the original is mostly in Latin with some French. Listed amoung the "trumpours" and "viellors" and "harpers" are what the original has as "vigiles" and "geytes", and modern editor has translated "watchmen":

"10s. each to 4 of the King's and the King's son's Watchmen, for performing [ed. "or being on duty"?] at the wedding of Princess Elizabeth." --- 1296/1297
"[Listed as] Kings Vigiles: Radulphus le Geyte, Johannes Hardyng, Willelmus Hardyng." --- 1330 [Note, that there is a "Willelmus Trumpator" on the King's payroll from 1299 to at least 1322 who may be the same fellow, and who on at least one occasion is paid for "making his minstrelsy"]


So far, I have heard much theorizing as to why "town watch" evolved into "town band", but no actual period evidence; it would seem that it began to be the town watch's job to perform fanfares for VIPs, and that may be the route of the evolution. But at any rate, it most certainly did evolve. The following I took directly from the Oxford English Dictionary (and reformatted for clarity):

And under "wait" as a compound, we find:

And so saith the OED.

The Encyclopeadia Brittanica claims:

an English town watchman or public musician who sounded the hours of the night. In the later Middle Ages the waits were night [Index] watchmen, who sounded horns or even played tunes to mark the hours. In the 15th and 16th centuries waits developed into bands of itinerant musicians who paraded the streets at night at Christmas time. From the early 16th century, London and all the chief boroughs had their corporation waits."

but gives no documentation whatsoever.

So: Where "minstrals", "jongleurs", "troubadors", etc. are usually solo artists, often not tied to a specific town/region nor having particular duties except to be "on call" for performance, "waytes" are clearly instrumental emsembles hired by the town/city to handle the music at municipal functions such as feasts and festivals.

That's us.

I've started using the term because "Instrumental Ensemble" sounds hideously modern. It makes us sound like a community college class ("UoC Mu411: Instrumental Ensemble, 4 cr., M 7-8:30, no exams but graded end of term recital."). "Instrumental Ensemble" is obtrusively modern and pretty darn vague.

"Waytes", on the other hand, is just right.

So now the question is: what does the "Vocal Ensemble"/"Vocalists" want to be called, hmmm?

--Tibicen, a wayte

From: Tibicen
To: Jongleurs Email List
Subject: re: Waytes, etc.
Date: Wed, 23 Oct 1996 16:24:24 EDT

And in case that wasn't enough info....

The OED also explains that the term "waytes" came to mean "the kind of instruments used by waytes", i.e. a shawm, sackbut etc.:

It also explains that after period (oh, around 1750 or so) the usage of "Waites" (as people) became rather exclusively the provence of what we now call "Cristmas carolers", ostensibly (according to the EB) because towns then had police forces to do nocturnal patrol and cops weren't expected to sing.

Under the Cristmas definition was this example, a definition from Grove's Dictionary of Music, 1889, which I found absolutely hysterical:

Which just goes to show something we've known for a while: "Time immemorial" is the 19th century's name for the mid to late 18th century!


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