Skip navigation

Singing workshop with a ‘catch’

3rd November 2023

London’s Burning, Frère Jacques and Row, Row, Row Your Boat are all songs many of us will be familiar with from childhood – but you might not be aware that the history of these ‘rounds’ or ‘catches’ as they are also known, goes back hundreds of years.

An event organised by Northumbria University, taking place next month, will give people the opportunity to learn and perform a variety of catches, including several from a book housed in Newcastle’s Lit & Phil library, dating back to 1709.

The event is taking place as part of Being Human – a national festival celebrating and demonstrating the ways in which the humanities help us to understand ourselves, our relationships with others, and the challenges we face in a changing world.

Catches are generally sung in three or four parts, with the same melody being sung by each singer but starting at different times. They rose to popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries, which is when the tune for London’s Burning first appeared (though originally it was Scotland that was burning!).

Many of the songs express the joys of singing and drinking together with good companions. As they are generally quite simple tunes, they are very accessible, with no prior musical or singing experience needed to join in.

The Northumbria University event has been organised by music historian Dr Katherine Butler and will take place from 6pm to 8pm on Tuesday 14 November, at the Lit & Phil in Newcastle.

Caption|;Dr Katherine Butler of Northumbria University and James Smith of the Lit & PhilShe said: “Singing catches is great fun as it’s not about a performance, it’s just about the pleasure of singing in the moment with other people. Catches date back hundreds of years giving us a fascinating glimpse into the past, yet there’s still a timeless appeal to singing these songs today.”

James Smith, Music Librarian for the Lit & Phil added: “Giving people a chance to sing from books in our collection is a fun way to show how important our music collection is."

Those attending the event will be given a sneak preview of the songs they will be singing on the night and get the chance to vote for the catches they would most like to learn.

As Dr Butler explains: “We wanted to give those not familiar with catches an opportunity to find out more about how they work and sound, so we are giving people a peak into our early rehearsals and posting recordings of several catches online in advance of the event. We are now asking people to vote for their favourites, and those will be the catches we will learn on the day.”

In addition to the public workshop, Dr Butler and her team will be holding another event in partnership with Converge, who offer educational opportunities for adults with lived experience of mental ill-health.

Northumbria University has been involved in the Being Human Festival for a number of years, and last year was one of six festival hubs hosting events across the UK.

Each year the festival is based on a theme, with Rhyme and Reason the theme for 2023.  With their playful approach to sense and nonsense, catches are ideal for celebrating this theme.

Find out more about the public workshop and book your place.

Listen to us trying out some of the catches and ‘like’ your favourites on the ‘Pop Up Catch Club’ playlist.

Dr Butler teaches on Northumbria University’s Music degree programme, which includes Foundation Year and BA (Hons) courses. Last year saw the first cohort of students graduate from the Music degree. Among them was choral scholar Cailtin Hedley, who will be supporting Dr Butler in leading the singing at the Being Human event.

Northumbria’s Music degree team organise weekly free lunchtime concerts during term time, taking place in St James's Church, opposite Sutherland Building. These are open to the public and informal, with attendees encouraged to bring along their lunch and stay for as long as they wish. For more information, follow the Northumbria Music Instagram account @northumbriamusic.

comments powered by Disqus

Department of Humanities

Humanities At Northumbria Is Composed Of Three Subject Teams: History, Literature & Creative Writing, And English Language & Linguistics, And Is Also Developing Strengths In The Fields Of American Studies And Heritage Studies.

Cultural and Creative Industries

The Cultural and Creative Industries are among the fastest growing and most innovative sectors in the UK. Our research in this area focuses on the opportunities and challenges this creates for education and skills, health and wellbeing, the environment, civic identity and pride in place.

News and Features

This is the place to find all the latest news releases, feature articles, expert comment, and video and audio clips from Northumbria University

University Newspaper

Northumbria University News is packed full of news and features covering everything from research projects and business partnerships to student and staff awards.

a sign in front of a crowd

Northumbria Open Days

Open Days are a great way for you to get a feel of the University, the city of Newcastle upon Tyne and the course(s) you are interested in.

Research at Northumbria

Research at Northumbria

Research is the life blood of a University and at Northumbria University we pride ourselves on research that makes a difference; research that has application and affects people's lives.

NU World

Explore NU World

Find out what life here is all about. From studying to socialising, term time to downtime, we’ve got it covered.

Latest News and Features

Graduates Abbie Smith and Frankie Harrison.
Northumbria student Saffron Sinclair being presented her award by Mark Dale, Principle Consultant at Nigel Wright Recruitment.
Henry Kippin
Cally Taylor
Eva Szewczyk grad and career success v2 180624   ES
a black and white x-ray image of painting of the baby Jesus in a crib

Back to top