Entertainment :: Music

The Mufitians Of Grope Lane - The City Waites

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Wednesday Sep 25, 2013
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Centuries before the Internet (or even Barry White and Isaac Hayes), the brothels and storefronts of the red-light districts in 17th century England would use the influence of music to lure customers into their establishments. Tales of loose maids, lusty couples, and other sexual exploits were composed and performed live in order to entice the populace into seeking out frolicking experiences in these competing businesses.

The City Waites, under the leadership of Lucie Skeaping and Douglas Wootton, have undertaken the accumulation of two dozen of these melodies, both vocal and instrumental, and have compiled them into an enjoyable set titled, "The Mufitians of Grope Lane: Music of Brothels and Bawdy Houses of Purcell’s England." The seven members of the group handle a variety of period instruments including bagpipes, baroque violin and the hurdy-gurdy, to replicate the sounds that one would have heard while frequenting the areas that contained "Grope Lane," accurately named for the primary types of "goods" that were sold on the street.

Skeaping and Wootton have included a wonderfully, fascinating narrative booklet with the recording, giving the background on the lyrics and melodies of these noted songs of double entendre, with their expansive vocabulary on how many synonyms can be created for genitalia (from a "pipe of wine" to a "Dil Doul"), masturbation, and the act of lovemaking (from "grinding" to "banging and hammering").

With titles such as "Lady of Pleasure," "The Fair Maid of Islington," "The Jovial Broom Man," and "The Gelding of the Devil," the melodies are upbeat, as their notes had the responsibility of creating the atmosphere of a place that one would want to spend their money in exchange for these services. The lyrics are easy to understand, but they are spoken in the English of Henry Purcell’s day, so unless you frequently attend renaissance faires, you may want to do some "research" ahead of time.

"The Mufitians of Grope Lane"
The City Waites
CD and digital formats
United Classics

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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