The Saxons were a musical people. It was usual at their feasts to pass the harp round from hand to hand, and every man was supposed to be able to sing in his turn and accompany himself on the instrument.

The harper of the Middle Ages was the most distinguished among the minstrels craft. He was the reciter, and often the composer, of heroic and historical poems, of romance and love songs.

After the Norman Conquest, the Medieval minstrels had even more duties, performing at an increased number of feasts and celebrations.

They associated with bands of musicians, whose task was to fill the intervals between minstrels recitations and songs. To further entertain the audience, the musicians performance was often enhanced with a mime. The minstrel chanted the ancient romances of chivalry, the national stories, or the exploits of the master of the feast or of his family. When the guests were merry at their drinking, the minstrels sang laughable stories, called fabliaux, which were frequently of the grossest description.

Source: Medieval Minstrels