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York
Christmas Musicke - York Waits At Square Chapel
Steve Whitaker, Arts Correspondent
Who doesn't respond warmly to tradition? It gives us a sense of our place in the great timeline of history and in so doing confers a kind of purpose going forward. And at certain times of the year, the apt celebration of tradition may remind us of a former simplicity, of a time austere in circumstance and appearance, but rich in imaginative possibility.

The Christmas most of us now seem to crave embodies a rejection of the protracted free-for-all of hysterical consumption and excess, and a return to the narcotic and reflective glow of a large open fire, a tree that smells like Norway, and Christmas Musicke.

Also by Steve Whitaker...
Seeing Africa After Dark: The Tilt By Jean Harrison
Settle Stories: The Geocacher And The Christmas Tale Trail
The Ghosts In The Machine: Seaside Terror At Square Chapel
Tom Twisleton And The Long Road To Ghana: Poetry In Settle
'Jam For The Psycho Boys': Paul Nash & The Uncanny Landscape
Just as well, then, that York Waits are returning to Halifax's Square Chapel again this Saturday, 9th December, for the latest leg of what has become an annual pilgrimage. With their blend of mediaeval and renaissance instruments, Waits open a unique window on the past, giving us a flavour of the sights and sounds of York's history with colourful renditions of European and English dance tunes, religious songs and ballads of the Tudor and Elizabethan eras.

And they are the latest incarnation of a traditional lineage which first appeared in the fourteenth and reached its apogee in the sixteenth century. Originally night watchmen, these liveried musicians would call out the watches in tune, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and funded by the town's corporation, would perform in the streets on public holidays.

Keen to maintain a sense of continuity with the past, the current Waits play a range of instruments which were common in the period leading up to 1600.

Their names read like an arcane inventory: shawms, citterns, saggbuts, curtals and crumhorns - and, when not helping Scrabble devotees to certain victory, each instrument yields a distinctively robust sound that is strange but strangely irresistible to the modern ear.

Accompanied by the sweet soprano voice of Deborah Catterall, who will be appearing in sixteenth century costume along with the players, York Waits herald the kind of festive season we thought we'd lost for ever.

York Waits - at Square Chapel Arts Centre, Halifax. Sat. 9th December - 12pm.

Christmas Musicke - York Waits At Square Chapel, 7th December 2017, 8:16 AM