9. A Catch in the play of The Knights of Malta - Henry Purcell
One of the many musical endeavours of Henry Purcell was composing incidental music for stage dramas. The most famous of which perhaps being that for Abdelazer. Another of these was a Jacobean era play called The Knights of Malta, a tragicomedy written between 1616-19 and which comes from the canon of John Fletcher and his collaborators. Fletcher had collaborated with Shakespeare, particularly on his later plays and after Shakespeare’s death became the new playwright for the King’s Men. There was a resurgence in popularity in Shakespearean and Jacobean plays by the time of Purcell (although normally in extremely condensed versions with extra musical interludes).
Purcell wrote this particular incidental music in 1691. It seems that most of the music has been lost, except for this catch which it appears remained popular in the Catch Club and was eventually published in 1731 in “Catches upon Military Matter”.
This song was likely associated with the character Norandine who provides the comic relief in the play hence the mocking depiction of the procedure of the evening changing of the guard, with those being relieved looking forward to a sensible night’s rest so they can uphold their duties the following day.
“At the close of the Evening the Watches were set,
The Guards went the Round, and the Ta-ta-ta-to was beat.
But now younder Stars appear in the Sky,
And the Ta-ra-ra-ra is sounded on High.
We shall soon be relieved then drink away,
here’s to you and to you. Let us drink till ’tis day.”