18th – 20th May 2018. The 8th International Festival of Town Pipers (Waits)

Every two years it is an event to look forward to. Waits, united in the International Guild of Town Pipers (IGTP) from different countries come together for their biennial International Festival.

A weekend full of new and renewed acquaintances, joy, and of course a lot of music from medieval and renaissance times. Nice to look forward to, to listen and of course very nice to be part of it.

Stadspijpers van ’s-Hertogenbosch

I became a member of the Stadspijpers van ’s-Hertogenbosch in 2011. Until some year in the seventeenth century such a group existed in the town but was re-established in 1984 when the city ’s-Hertogenbosch celebrated its 800th birthday.

At first I played the nicolo, more recently I've moved to schalmei, both wooden wind instruments. A nicolo is a tenor shawm, while a schalmei soprano. Occasionally I play the recorder (soprano) or some percussion

Festivals in King’s Lynn

The 8th International Festival of Town Pipers in 2018 was held from 18-20 of May in the English town of King’s Lynn. In that same weekend the King’s Lynn Hanse-Festival took place. A small part of the program was shared.

Attending were the Waits of King's Lynn, York, Leeds, Doncaster, Lincoln, Worcester, Gloucester and Colchester, the Stadspijpers van 's-Hertogenbosch, the Speelluden van Campen, Blondel, the Ely Piper with individual guild members from around the world.

Friday 18th May

We had chosen to travel by boat and car and arrived on Thursday evening in the Globe-Hotel, near Tuesday Market Place, in the town centre. An ideal location, close to everything. Arriving so early gave us the chance to look around on Friday, and so we did.

 Friday 18th May: The program starts!

The official program started at 18:30 in Stories of Lynn. Local historian Dr. Paul Richards informed us about the connection between the Hanse-towns and King’s Lynn (In those days: Bishop’s Lynn). After that there were drinks and bites and we had the chance to meet again with all our musical waits-friends. The mayor welcomed us and gave us all a special badge we could pin on our costumes. The Stadspijpers were honoured for hosting three previous Town Pipers’ Festivals (2004, 2010, 2016).

 Saturday 19th May

At seven different locations in town groups of waits performed, every group would perform three times during the day. Our first location to play was on Tuesday Market Place, very close to our hotel. How convenient!

Our second location was St Nicholas’ Chapel, a beautiful building with a very nice acoustic. The building is nowadays not in use for worship, but for concerts, exhibitions, educational purpose, etc.

In this photo the Stadspijpers. From the left to the right:

Henk, Eugéne, Willem , Harrie,

Jef, François, Theo,  Hans 

For our third location we went to the Minster, a church at Saturday Market Place to play outside and enjoyed the sun.

Nice weather, nice people, making music together, what else could you want? Well, more audience would have been nice… Due to the fact that on this very same day the Royal marriage of prince Harry and Meghan took place the streets were not as crowded as usual on a Saturday.

Saturday Evening 20th May

During the International Festival of Town Pipers the Saturday evening is for the musicians. Being together, enjoying a good meal and after the desert some extra musical deserts. And that could be anything. Songs, poems, a well-told story and a lot of instrumental music. Sometimes played by one of the bands, and sometimes a single tune is picked up by others to make it an renaissance jam session.  The Stadspijpers played some modern pieces of the Beach Boys. Quite a challenge on the old instruments!

Sunday 21th May

The Sunday has its own traditional elements during an International Festival: The Great Noyse. The name says it all, during this event all bands play together, and of course, a rehearsal moment is very necessary. Early in the morning everyone, dressed up in their costume, stood ready in the rehearsal room, instruments at hand. I admire Lizzie Gutteridge, she made an excellent job in controlling all those musicians. And that is not an easy job…

After this rehearsal there was the connecting activity between the Hanse-Festival and the International Festival of Town Pipers.  A Hanseatic procession went through the town, with all the waits-bands playing. We rehearsed  two connected pieces and we had to play every piece twice. How many times? Twice. Or more. In the unavoidable confusion that followed you could hear some musicians playing the wrong part or piece, but we had fun!

Photo: Lizzie Gutteridge leading the bands

A clip from Norfolk Now.

Among others, you can hear the Stadspijpers play and sing just before the procession started. Why? Just because we could...

You can also see a part of the procession itself.

 The Great Noyse

 After the procession, at last the moment we were waiting for: the Great Noyse in St Nicholas’ Chapel. Every band entered playing and introduced themselves to the public. When all bands were present every band played another piece. The Stadspijpers van 's-Hertogenbosch had chosen for a partially played, partially sung piece: ‘Slaet op den trommele’. We just like surprises!

And then, the big moment: all bands played four pieces together. And of course, every piece twice. Recorders, flutes, shawms, dulcians, bagpipes, hurdy-gurdys, renaissance trombones, drums and other rhythm instruments, cornettos, a lizard and more. Unique and great fun!

In this fragment, found on Facebook, you can see a small part of it:


The weekend ended with a drink for and with all musicians before they went to their hotels or homes.

We had a wonderful weekend, with a lot of nice new and renewed acquaintances, a lot of fun and of course a lot of music. We all are looking forward already to the next International Festival in 2020!


Making music

Making music is always great fun. In most waits-bands there is room for new players. So if you are interested why shouldn’t you give it a try? Contact the IGTP (http://www.townwaits.org.uk/) for the nearest bands! In the Netherlands you could contact The Stadspijpers van ‘s-Hertogenbosch: info@stadspijpers.nl. More information about the Stadspijpers can be found on www.stadspijpers.nl 

More photos of the 8th International Festival of Town Pipers (Waits) can be found on: http://www.townwaits.org.uk/fest2018_photos.shtml

(c) 2018 Hans van Gemert

Afbeeldingen: IGTP, El Lenssen, José Danse, Hans van Gemert. Filmpje (Norfolk Now): Youtube.


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