the Pipe and Tabor compendium

the Pipe and Tabor compendium

essays on the three-hole pipe

England: history of the pipe and tabor

the 16th century

under construction
In the 16th century neither terminology nor spelling were fixed. So a pipe and tabor player could be, for example, a mynstrell, a musician, a drummer, a pyper, taber and piper, tabret, taberette or a fidler. It is impossible to know now which of some of these are taborers or players of other instruments as seen in contemporary images.

1506 poem ‘Passetyme of Pleasure’, by Stephen Hawes

 “…There sat dame Musyke with all her mynstracy ;
As tabours, trumpettes, with pipes melodious,
Sakbuttes, organs, and the recorder swetely,
Harpes, lutes, and crouddes ryght delycyous ;
Cymphans, doussemers, wyth clavicimbales glorious.
Rebeckes, clavycordes, eche in theyr degree…”

1532-1564 story

“   Be you there also, Trudon, said he to his drummer, with your pipe and tabour. The form of matrimony must be read, and the bride kissed at the beat of the tabour…”Then the tabour beat a point of war … Then the tabour beat a retreat… But what harm had poor I done? cried Trudon, hiding his left eye with his kerchief, and showing his tabour cracked on one side: … they have also broke my harmless drum. Drums indeed are commonly beaten at weddings,— and it is fit they should; but drummers are well entertained, and never beaten… Brother, said the lame catchpole, never fret thyself; I will make thee a present of a fine, large, old patent, which I have here in my bag, to patch up thy drum…”

‘The Horrible and Terrifying Deeds and Words of the Very Renowned Pantagruel King of the Dipsodes,
Son of the Great Giant Gargantua’ by François Rabelais, chapter 12
Great books of the Western World by Encyclopaedia Britannica, pub 1986

1573 ‘Kyng Alisaunder’  retells the story of Alexander the Great. The name of the author is not known, but he or she probably lived in or around London

“Noyse is gret with tabour and pype,
Damoysels playen with peren ripe.
Ribaudes festeth also with tripe;
The gestour wil oft his mouthe wype.”

The noise of pipe and tabor is loud.
Damsels play with ripe pears*;
good-for-nothings feast on tripe;
the storyteller often wipes his mouth.

* pears were associated with lovers in medieval times

'The status and function of minstrels in England between 1350 and 1400' by M A Price 1964

1585 “the fagge-end of an old man’s old will, who gave a good somme of mony to a Red-fac’d Ale-drinker, who plaid upon a Pipe and Tabor, which was this:

“To make your Pipe and Tabor keepe their sound,
And dye your Crimson tincture more profound,
There growes no better medicine on the ground
Than Aleano (if it may be found)
To buy which drug I give a hundred pound.”

in 'Drinke and Welcome' quoted in Th'e Curiosities of Ale & Beer: An Entertaining History', by John Bickerdyke 1889

1587 or 1595 play: Thomas Tabrer is a minstrell in ‘John a Kent and  John a Cumber,
A Comedy’ by Anthony Munday

Page 15 Enter Turnop, with his crewe of Clounes and a Minstrell.
...Tom Tabrer. Heare ye, Hugh. Be not so forward : take a little use of your minstrell.
Omnes. And well sayd, Thomas Tabrer: you have scression ; speak on...
Enter John a Cumbek in his owne habit ; with him Turnop, Hugh, and Thomas the Tabrer.

1590 from the jest book ' Tarlton's Jests and News out of Purgatorie'

The dead actor is made to declare: “they appointed that I should sit and play jig
s al day on my tabor to the ghosts without cesing, which hath brought me into
such use, that I now play far better than when I was alive,” and he starts piping.”

[One in the long line of jest books which were popular in the 1590's.
Tarlton died in 1588 and this publication traded on his name, there is no
evidence that he was the author of any of these snippets. Jest books were
collections amusing stories, sometimes risqué many of which were recycled
and owed much to the stories from the Italian Renaissance.]

‘The Elizabethan jig and related song drama’ by Baskervill, Charles Read

1590 pamphlet
“…he, not hearing the crie of the hounds, for the barking of dogs, (that is to say) the minstrelsie for the fidling, the tune for the sound, nor the pipe for the noise of the tabor, bluntly demanded if they were not all beside themselves, that they so lip'd and skip'd whithout an occasion."

 ‘Plaine Perceuall the peace-maker of England Sweetly indevoring with his blunt persuasions to botch up a reconciliation between Mar-ton and Mar-tother. Compiled by lawfull art, that is to say, without witch craft, or sorcery: and referred specially to the meridian and pole artichoke of Nomans Land: but may serve generally without any great error, for more countries then he speake of. by Harvey, Richard

1594 play

“…These called me forth to rouse thy master up
Tell him from me, false coward as he is
That Orlando, the County Palatine,
Is come this morning, with a band of French,
To play him hunt's-up with a point of war,
"to wake up Rodomont  I'll be his minstrel with my drum and fife;
and invite him to meet me on the battlefield."
Bid him come forth, and dance it if he dare,…”

[Ed. Drum and fife probably mean instruments of war, not the pipe and tabor]

1598 play' Love's Labour's Lost - Act 5' by William Shakespeare

“…Dull. I'll make one in a dance, or so; or I will play
On the tabor to the Worthies, and let them dance the hay….”

other Shakespeare quotes here

1600 play ‘Shoemaker’s Holiday’ by Thomas Dekker.

[ A noyse within of a Taber and a Pipe.]
Mayor. What noyse is this?
Eyre. O my Lord Mayor, a crue of good fellowes that for love to your honour are come hither with a morris - dance.
Come in, my Mesopotamians, cheerely!
[Enter Hodge, Hans, Raph, Firke, and other Shooemakers, in a morris;]

Dekker based his play on a prose tract titled The Gentle Craft by
Thomas Deloney, printed in 1598.

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