A medieval band
Among the dozens of carvings on the outside aisle walls of the church at Adderbury in Oxfordshire are several representing musicians. Although time-worn (they’re 14th-century, after all), they still bear some detail, and it’s possible to make out what instruments are being played. And I know I have at least one reader who knows plenty more about early instruments than i do, who’ll no doubt put me right if I slip up.
My first picture (above) shows a woman playing a small organ – the kind that you can carry around and that is therefore called a portative organ (it’s also sometimes referred to as an organetto). It has a rank of small pipes, plainly visible in the carving, and at the bottom, there would be a tiny keyboard, which you play with one hand. The other hand operates bellows, on the back of the instrument, to supply the pipes with wind. Most people today think of organs as church instruments, but portative organs were also used in secular music in the Middle Ages.*
- - - -
* Although in many cases we don't know exactly which instruments played which pieces – medieval music manuscripts often give the notes without allocating them to a specific instrument.