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Title: Mr Ward's Commission : manners, musicians, and music at the Canterbury Catch Club
Author: Price, Christopher Nicholas Turt
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 7812
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis is an extended examination of a lithograph, dated 1826, purporting to show a meeting of the Canterbury Catch Club—a musical society which flourished in the early nineteenth century. A very large collection of documents relating to the Club, now held in the Cathedral Library and Archives and the city Library, is used extensively to interrogate the print in order to assess what it tells us about the social, historical and cultural context within which the Club members and musicians promoted, performed and consumed the music which was, ostensibly, the Club’s raison-d’être. The thesis begins with an iconographical study comparing the image with other representations of convivial song of the period, and with contemporary written accounts of such evenings to be found in diaries and other literature, to ascertain how accurate it might be in its depiction of gentlemen at such an evening as this. After this, the archival evidence is then used to scrutinise, in Part I, that which is clearly visible; in Part II, that which is less clearly drawn—the musicians; and finally, in Part III, those elements conspicuous by their absence. Part I thus makes clear that the image is intended to assert the professional and socio-cultural identity of the gentlemen shown in the picture, by dint of careful composition and adherence to matters of dress, consumption, gender definition, and cultural association. Part II uses both Club and Cathedral records to investigate the extent to which the musicians employed by the Club may—as was often the case—have sung in the Cathedral Choir, and contributes to scholarship on this subaltern group of men by the use of detailed reference to hitherto unseen archival records. Part III—not for the first time in the thesis—notes the absence of women, whether as audience or performer, and then proceeds to a searching analysis of the musical repertoire itself, discussing the instrumental and vocal music which made up the programme of a Club evening, arguing that the musical taste evidenced here speaks volumes for the process of aspirational embourgoisement at work in this print and in society at large. This work is substantiated by extensive transcription, cataloguing and documentation of the Club’s archive and repertoire. Further reference is made to the clues herein about another aspect of Club culture noticeably absent from this print: the libertine revelry of the later evening singing. This speaks to a central point of the thesis: that this “after-evening” behaviour is a fascinating relic of the manners and mores of the Georgian period which gave it birth, offering Club members an opportunity to indulge in convivial behaviours which were unacceptable in more public environments. The thesis argues that the image is a telling assertion of socio-political identity at a turbulent point in British history, proclaiming an emerging certain social and economic status but also testifying eloquently to the continuation of an older, alternative, convivial culture.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available