For their Christmas concert Tickhill Music Society invited The Doncaster Waites to entertain them. For those not in the know, waites were employed by the borough to act as watchmen, marking the hours of the night with a call or a few notes on their instruments – hence the carol Past Three O’clock. In time they became more accomplished and were used as the town band to play on ceremonial occasions.
For their visit to Tickhill the five members of the Doncaster Waites came dressed in 17th century costume and played with great skill on an astonishing array of instruments – shawms and crumhorns (early ancestors of the oboe), recorders, English bagpipes, a sackbut (a primitive type of trombone), a hurdy gurdy, and a tabor (akin to a side drum). They produced an engagingly earthy sound, quite unlike the sophisticated sound that concert-goers have become accustomed to.
The carols likewise came from the 16th and 17th centuries, and from various corners of Europe, and were introduced by the Waites in an informative and amusing way. Who knew that Gaudete, published in 1582, became a popular hit in 1972 in the hands of Steeleye Span?
The second half of the concert was time for audience participation, with the audience being coached in two early carols as well as singing more familiar Victorian ones. It was a highly enjoyable opening to the festive season.