As musical acrobats, free musicians saw to the merriment in
castles and inns all over Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth
century. They made music in village greens and market squares,
at parties, fairs and on other special occasions. Although the
clerical and secular authorities did not like the musicians’
free and dissolute way of life, they did perform in cloisters
and castles. Obviously, these musicians were appreciated all the
same and therefore they were paid for their performances.
In the latter half of fourteenth century many of these free
musicians were held in permanent appointment
by the cities. In those times town musicians were a sign of
status and a display of power: an indication of great wealth. In
this way the magistrate wanted to present himself to both his
own townspeople and country people. Around that time everywhere
in the Netherlands bands arose, e.g. in Utrecht, Maastricht,
Antwerp, Brussels and ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
The city’s financial
The first payments to the City Pipers were found in the Bosch
financial records of 1399 – 1400. Besides the pay for the
pipers, expenses were earmarked for the purchase of clothing,
instruments and decorations. However, money was also spent on
wine and candles to light the tower on which the City Pipers
were present as guards.
The Bosch City Pipers made an
important contribution to cultural life in the capital of
Brabant in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. The “Illustre
Lieve Vrouwe Broederschap” [Illustrious Virgin Mary Brotherhood]
did not employ any musicians at first, only singers. This
Brotherhood hired the City Pipers for the musical accompaniment
of their celebrations in Saint John’s cathedral. The City Pipers
also played on their musical instruments, when the Brotherhood
had its meals
Outside the city
local guilds of the civic militia regularly attended shooting
games. On their trips and during their stay there the City
Pipers musically accompanied them, as was the case in Ghent in
1498. Especially for this occasion, the city made extra money
available to have the City Pipers look at their Sunday best. The
Bosch pipers, together with the chamber of rhetoric of Moyses
Bosch, also participated in many games and parties held by the
various chambers of rhetoric. One of the most successful
performances was in Antwerp in 1561, when the Bosch townspeople
returned home with a host of prizes.
When the city council went on trade missions, they very often
invited the City Pipers to accompany them. For instance, on the
yearly trip to Nuremberg for the so-called pepper ceremony. When
the Bosch townspeople went up in arms for their duke or
governess, the City Pipers came also along with these warriors
In 1507, during one of the wars against Gelre, they made music
when castle Poeroijen was under siege.
The city as employer
Only the affluent Bosch people were able to
hire the City Pipers for parties and festivities, so the City
Pipers performed to earn some extra money. There was often a
competitive rivalry among free musicians from other cities! The
magistrate granted the City Pipers more privileges.
Despite the many performances for third
parties, the city council of ‘s-Hertogenbosch remained the main
principal for the City Pipers. On Sundays and special festival
days they made music on the town ramparts and at city gates or
on the steps of the town hall. The City Pipers also joined
processions that were organised by the city and were present at
In those times a great number of
dignitaries honoured the city with their visits. The City Pipers
must certainly have accompanied the city council and the clergy
at the “blijde incomste” [the joyous arrival] of Maximilian of
Austria, Philip the Fair and Charles V.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth century, as musical ambassadors,
the City Pipers were the city’s business card. They also left
for other towns to represent ‘s-Hertogenbosch in various
Varying number of musicians
The number of Bosch City
Pipers was varying: in the city’s financial records you can
sometimes read of four people and another time they mention
five. However, it also happens that only one drummer and
trumpeter is mentioned. On special occasions musicians from
elsewhere were hired to reinforce the band of the City Pipers.
After the siege of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, in 1629, the City Pipers
probably disappeared from the scene.
The present City
Pipers consist of eleven people.