The Topping Tooters of the Town

Music of the London Waits 1580-1650
The City Waits, William Lyons
Avie AV2364

Improbable as it seems, the title of this CD comes from a 1709 description of the London City Waits, and there is indeed some top tooting here. As the original Waits of the 16th and 17th century would have done, The City Waits play attractive medleys of popular and courtly tunes with enormous skill on a variety of wind instruments including recorders, shawms, dulcians, lysard, hoboy, cornett, sackbut and bagpipes. They have carefully chosen some of the more inventive consort music of the period by Holborne, Adson, Peter Philips, as well as songs by Thomas Morley and psalms by Dowland, Richard Allison, Simon Stubbs and Ravenscroft, for which they are joined by a band of voices who ‘put out’ the psalm tune with period pronunciation before we hear it in harmonised form with instruments and voices. William Lyons’ excellent programme notes paint a vivid picture of the dynamic role played in 16th- and 17th-century musical life by city waits up and down the country, while the CD gives a rich and varied picture of how they might well have sounded in a variety of contexts. My only criticism of this excellent CD is its relative brevity – we could have done with more verses of the psalms, more Valentin Haussman, more Holborne and certainly more of William Lyons’ own imaginative full ensemble arrangements of John Playford. More ‘top tooting’ please!

D. James Ross

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