The Music

International Guild of Town Pipers

From medieval times up to the beginning of the 19th century every British town and city of any note had a band of Waits.


Their duties varied from time to time and place to place, but included playing their instruments through the town at night, waking the townsfolk on dark winter mornings by playing under their windows, welcoming Royal visitors by playing at the town gates, and leading the Mayor’s procession on civic occasions. Their instruments also varied, but were for the main part loud and penetrating wind instruments such as the shawm, which was so closely associated with them that it was also known as the Wait-Pipe. Waits were provided with salaries, liveries and silver chains of office, bearing the town’s arms.

For more information on the Guild of Town pipers visit:

The Taborers Society

The Taborers Society celebrates an ancient musical tradition going back over 700 years. Taborers are depicted in church and cathedral carvings across England.

2006 York Mystery Plays

The taborer plays two instruments at once, a small drum (the tabor) and a one-handed flute (the pipe or tabor pipe). This enables the musician to beat a dance rhythm on the drum whilst playing the melody on the pipe. The heyday of the taborer was the 13th century to the 15th century. Taborers played an important role in court and civic life, and would have been a familiar sight to those attending the original Mystery Plays.

For the modern productions of the York Mystery Plays, the Taborers play English music, sacred and secular, from the period of the original plays. Musicians in costume play modern copies of early instruments. They are accompanied by musicians playing other instruments from that time, including the English bagpipe and the hurdy gurdy.

To learn more about the pipe and tabor visit

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