Musitioners get their Licences

Bit of a delay, but we've only just got the pictures from the happenings at this year's Minstrels' Court and it has been a pleasure looking back at the event, the best yet, and that's down to all of the support of many friends who came to share their musical skills or historic crafts.  Thank you!  It is a unique happening, but simply would not happen without this help and friendly support. 

Far too much was happening to show it all, but here's a taster.

The day began with musicians gathering from across the land, including Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, South Wales, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire and of course many from Cheshire.

There were living history demonstrations featuring a range of historic characters.

Minstrels and visitors enjoyed Renaissance dance workshops.

Lively performances took place in the chancel of St John's,

Whilst informal sessions took place in the porch.

The Minstrels left for a perambulation of the city,

Wandering down Eastgate to the Cross at the centre of the city was a rousing show and introduced today's Cestrians to a range of wonderful instruments, not least English bagpipes!

The Minstrels played a medieval processional tune all the way from the Cross to St Johns,

Where we got our licences in a recreation of the original ceremony.

Then shared more music through the day and a memorable evening concert.

We're doing it all again next year, Saturday 15th June 2013, once more in the original and authentic location of the church of St John the Baptist, Chester.  See you there!

Minstrels' Court

We're looking forward to the Minstrels' Court, coming up very soon, on Saturday 16th June 2012.  It's the recreation of an old Cheshire tradition where all musicians, and other entertainers, gathered at St John's Church at midsummer to gain their licence to perform, without which they risked arrest if performing.

The story goes that Ranulf, sixth earl of Chester, was at Rhuddlan Castle and besieged by the Welsh.  Word was sent to the constable of Chester Castle for more soldiers.  But the messenger arrived at the time of the midsummer fair and all the soldiers were in the taverns.  Instead the constable rounded up musitioners, players, bearwards and divers lewd persons and headed off into Wales with them.  They made such a din as they approached Rhuddlan that the Welsh feared a great army and fled.  The earl gave them his gratitude and protection to be renewed annually on the anniversary of this event.  That was in 1204 and the tradition continued annually until 1756.

When we heard about this and realised that this ancient tradition which ran for five and a half centuries had been neglected ever since.  It was such a great story that it had to be revived.  So, we spoke with David Chesters, the Rector of Chester, who is responsible for St John's church where the Minstrels' Court originally happened, who was equally excited about the idea and so the revival began. 

It is a really special place to play music, so atmospheric.  Listening in that location, you really understand why churches are built in this shape.  And, when so many medieval events are in tents in muddy fields, it is also great to be in an original and authentic location where the real historic event actually happened.  St John's church is a fascinating place, the oldest church in Cheshire, packed full of stories and an architectural gem.

The event has grown a little each year as more and more musicians have heard about the background and want to be involved, and this year there is a great mix including Richard York, Blast from the Past, Trouvere, Halfe Pannikin, and the Time Bandits along with many other musicians who will be coming and joining in with performances and playing together. 

There will also be storytelling, mummers' plays, a range of medieval characters including knights, archers, weavers, relic peddlers and physicians.  The Grosvenor Museum are also running children's activities and a display of archaeological finds from medieval Cheshire.

The Minstrels' will be processing through some of the city streets around 1pm, arriving at the church at 1.30pm to collect licences in a recreation of the original ceremony.   

The Minstrels' Court this year is on Saturday 16th June, starting at 10.30am and concluding at 5pm.  It's free admission too.  See you there!