|I should first warn you, gentle reader, that outside of having been an admirer of these forms of music for far longer than is wise and a performer of them for somewhat a lesser time, I have no formal background in music, per se. I neither read nor write without the aid of the computer, I have attended no institutions teaching theory or composition, nor do I understand (intellectually) how these things work.My knowledge is empiric only but, such as it is, I offer it freely. I await the inevitable corrections from the more erudite of my readers and welcome them to submit same so that I, and through me, you, may be more appreciative of these tunes.
The simplest of multi-voiced tunes, these can be either three or four parts (although there are rounds for eight and probably more) and are laid out so that each voice "chases" the previous voice by a set interval, the parts then forming chords in a pleasing and harmonic fashion.(Usually.)
So: a round is simply ( n ) parts arranged so as to create an harmonious chorus when the song is sung in the properly precessed fashion.They can be complex or simple, although in rounds, simple is usually best.
Basically an "Art" song, where the voices and occasionallly instrumental accompaniment are of a set piece. Whether they predate, are co-eval with or postdate the Madrigal is a subject of some discussion.
A perfect example is "Now Is The Month Of Maying" (q.v.) (MIDI verzion)
Political, humorous, bawdy, occasionally even scatalogical (and, in two cases I know of, "cat"-alogical), the catch was one of the most popular forms of song from the mid-Sixteenth thru the late-nineteenth centurys. Catch Clubs were formed and at least three are still extant to this day, one in London, one in Boston and one in Belfast, which was formed in 1680 by the lay vicars of Christ Church and St Patrick's Cathederals.
The catch is a round with the words and rests so arranged that upon performance a "hidden" part appears,
or can be simply a round (rondo) of somewhat greater-than-normal complexity than your normal round. The best catches combine magnificent musical composition with intricate and inventive poetry, and the best purveyor of this genre was Henry Purcell (PUR-cell) (1659 - 1695). Mr. Purcell's incredible talents and accomplishments are lauded elsewhere on this site and on the net.
The example shown here is a catch he set to music for Master John Carr upon the publication of the Carr's book of Catches and Songs, published by himself and John Playford. (I call it "The First Advertizing Jingle".)
Again, a round or catch, except the term refers almost exclusively to religious music as opposed to the secular Round or Catch
Example (When Jesus wept...)
Beginning in the 15th Century a school of composition began to form in Italy which took all the previously known vocal forms and began making songs of not only complex parts (printing now allowed a song to be consistant and reproducible!) but parts and music arranged by mathematical principles and formulae. Part of the incredible intellectual blossoming of the Renaissance era, it is typified in many ways by the arguably insane Gesualdo. Madrigals remain some of the most beautiful three to eight part vocal efforts ever composed. Their true (IMHO) blossoming was in the 16th-17th Century "English School" which flourished from 1585 through 1630 or so, when they became "passe". The Madrigal form esentially died with the Interregnum (or Commonwealth, if you prefer) of 1649, never to regain their general popularity with composers. Instead, the genius of persons like Purcell was directed toward religious music, catches, rounds and glees and being as inebriated as possible at all times.
As they also spent most of their money on such endeavours, they necessarily gave birth to the Baroque period.
Several composers in the 19th century attempted madrigal-like compositions, but included the 'modern' notions of harmony without which their offerings would have been rejected out-of-hand, thus lessening the purity of their efforts and essentially consigning them to long-term obscurity. The madrigalia of the "golden" period live on in their glory precisely because they were and remain true to their period and tradition.
That's what I know.
Ain't much, eigh?
WHO SANG 'EM?
One is tempted to give the same reply as the young lady who made $24,573.25 as a prostitute. When asked who gave her the quarter, she replied, "Everybody!"
Tradesmen, Gentlemen of the Courts, Musicians enjoying a busman's holiday, tavern-keepers (of the better sort) drunkards, soldiers,servants... just about anyone who had a smattering of education and some vocal ability at music would have sung one or another type at some point in their lives.
"My Man John" is challenging, infectious and just a lot of fun to sing or hear. They appealed to eveyone.
And, since this was an age singularly and almost disfunctionally religious and secular, the same people who wrote and sang Canons in the Cathedrals then repaired to the ale houses and wrote and sang some of the bawdiest songs ever penned. Hypocrisy doth ever reign in the affaires of men.
For the most part, the authors of catches were highly skilled musicians, most of whom started out as small boys in choirs (Purcell, Blow) and made a life of music. (Well, chartered accountancy was right out for them... that involved sitting down!) Many of the words were also written by them or some of the leading poets and rhymers of their day. Remembering that this was as close as most people ever got (outside of a church's organ) to what we would refer as classical Baroque music, it is no wonder that their popularity burgeoned and survived as it has done.
For certain such as Pepys, Franklin and many, many others enjoyed singing these and the inevitable drinking rounds which followed a flubbed line.
At some future date I will put up a biography page for each listed author/composer for whom I can ferrett out information. A VERY future date. For those of you who can't wait, I commend you to Chris Whent's excellent online source at www.hoasm.org, a radio programme from New Yourk City dealing with the Baroque and Renaissance periods of music. The website is extraordinarily enlightning and a half-hour's poke-about is sure to be well rewarded! HOASM is available on webcast as well.
WHERE WERE THEY SUNG?
For the most part, in taverns / pubs / alehouses or (surprisingly enough) at Court for the King. Canons, of course, in Churches. Most of these Catches are NOT what would have been acceptable in a Drawing-Room. A great many of them would not have been acceptable within hearing-distance (635 Nautical miles, last I checked) of a wife.
IN WHAT ERA(S) WERE THEY WRITTEN ?
Really, the only time that they did NOT flourish or be written was during The Commonwealth of Cromwell. Puritans had such little tolerance of anyone having a good time.... they were sure that wiping oneself HAD to be sinful because it felt good.
The first arguable round is also one of the first English songs written and surviving: "Summer Is A-Comin' In"
from sometime in the 1100's. The most prolific era for catches was during the Restoration in England, during which time Purcell, Blow, Eccles, et. al. practiced their crafts of musicianship.
FOR A TRULY ERUDITE DISCOUSE UPON ROUNDS GO HERE