Music

The 15th century was not all wars, death, disease and destruction: there was plenty of time for music, song and dance. Music also played a very important part in religious worship.

We know that Richard III enjoyed musical entertainment and ‘pageants’.

“….he arranged splendid and highly expensive feasts and entertainments to attract to himself the affection of many people.'”
N. Pronay and J. Cox (eds.) The Crowland Chronicle Continuations: 1459-1486 (London, 1986) p.161

Minstrels’ Gallery at Lower Brockhampton Manor House

Entertainment was a regular feature in the life of an aristocrat. Baronial halls commonly had a minstrels’ gallery and musicians were kept on the staff. Often great lords sponsored troops of minstrels who travelled the country performing at major events. For instance, the Dover Corporation paid Cecily Duchess of York’s minstrels for playing at a feast attended by the Duke and Duchess of Clarence.

John Blanke in the Westminster Tournament Roll, College of Arms, London

Kings invited musicians from across the world to play at their courts. Richard III hosted minstrels from the Dukes of Austria and Bavaria. Henry VII and Henry VIII employed a black trumpet player called John Blanke. There are paintings of Blanke in a tournament roll that was created in 1511.

A wide range of weird and wonderful wind instruments were played in the 15th century including bagpipes, (which are not exclusively Scottish).

There was a separation between sacred music played in religious worship and secular (non-religious) music and the performers of each only played either one or the other.

The oldest set of church bells in the world date from the middle of the 15th century in St Lawrence Church, Ipswich.

You can listen to a ‘change’ of all five bells here.

Portable wind instruments such as oboe and bassoon were very popular.

The Early Music Centre in York keeps this form of music alive.

Musical instruments were depicted in medieval churches such as in Beverley Minster

Many different types of stringed instruments were in general use. A favourite of travelling musicians was the hurdy-gurdy played here in modern style.

Few 15th century organs survive but here is one being played.