The Canterbury Catch Club: a performance of class

Conference paper


Price, C. 2016. The Canterbury Catch Club: a performance of class.
AuthorsPrice, C.
TypeConference paper
Description

The lithograph of 1826 shows the Canterbury Catch Club in its heyday. It is clearly intended to depict a gathering of sophisticated, culturally literate gentlemen enjoying a concert provided by professional musicians in convivial surroundings. The decorations in the room, including a chandelier, portraits of St Cecilia and of Corelli, the hint of statuary which may or may not be trompe l’oeil, and the enscrolled motto convey a sense of confident affluence reflected in the carefully casual demeanours of the figures in the picture.

Much of the image is a representation of reality. The club really did exist from 1779 to 1865, and organised weekly concerts throughout the winter months; many of the people can be corroborated by contemporary electoral records; and the room in which they met in the years 1779-1833 still survives in the city, as do the portraits. But records show that the atmosphere would have been thick with the fug of all those pipes; that the orchestra was composed of local musicians – many of them cathedral singers with little or no formal schooling – who were a perpetual irritation to the committee of local worthies running the Club; that women formed part of the audience and – exceptionally – were frequently heard performing in this provincial gathering; and that the ribald, transgressive nature of the post-concert communal singing of catches into the early hours of the morning – many of them lewd in the extreme – is wisely ignored here.
This paper interrogates the image here presented in order to reveal the performative essence of the picture, aiming to show that this carefully calibrated representation is concerned, above all, to depict the club its members wanted to present both to themselves and to the outside world. With all the trappings of nineteenth-century class and culture clearly on display, it is a masterclass in the performance of class.

Year2016
Conference13th Conference of the ICTM Study Group on Iconography of the Performing Arts “Decoration of Performance Space: Meaning and Ideology"
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Publication process dates
Deposited13 Jan 2017
Completed17 May 2016
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