Anglo-Irish Music in the Seventeenth Century

From A History of Irish Music by William H. Grattan Flood

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Chapter XX....concluded

The Smock-alley Theatre was rebuilt in 1672, and John Ogilby retired in favour of Thomas Stanley, who gave up his post as Master of the Revels in 1683, which was then conferred on William Morgan. Meantime, Joseph Ashbury was Deputy Master of the Revels, who continued in office until 1720. Ashbury, like his predecessor, was a classical scholar and a cultured man. Unfortunately, details are wanting of his managership of Smock-alley, from 1674 to 1688, but all the London successes were brought over to Dublin, including the Indian Queen and The Committee. The original Teague—the anglicised form of the Irish Tadg—in the latter play was an Irishman, John Lacy, originally a dancing master, and then a lieutenant in the army. He was styled "Roscius" by Evelyn, and was notable for his impersonation of Falstaff. Till his death, in 1681, he continued the favourite comedian of King Charles II.

A remarkable volume of songs, was published by an Irishman, Thomas Duffet, in 1676, entitled: New Poems, Songs, Prologues, and Epilogues. In this volume are many Irish tunes, including the lovely melody to which Duffet wrote "Since Coelia's my Foe," previously known as "Fortune my Foe." I subjoin the version of this air, as printed by Playford, in 1676:—

Coelia's My Foe

Since the publication of Birkenshaw's translation of Alstedius, in 1664, other treatises had appeared treating music from a mathematical and philosophic aspect. In 1676, Dr. Narcisus Marsh, whilst at Oxford, wrote a tract on the "Sympathy of Viol or Lute Strings," which was printed in Plot's Oxfordshire (1677). Marsh played the viol and the harp, and held in his rooms "a weekly consort of instrumental and vocal music," on each Thursday afternoon. He was made Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, in 1678, and continued his musical studies. In 1680 he instituted Irish lectures, and in 1683 helped to found the Dublin Philosophical Society, before which he read a valuable paper on Acoustics, suggesting, inter alia, the term Microphone.[9] Another musical member of this Society was Sir William Petty, M.D. (formerly Gresham Lecturer in Music), the author of the Down Survey, who died in 1687.

And now we come to a noteworthy landmark, the founding of the Hibernian Catch Club in 1679-80. Its origin is due to the social gatherings which had been customary among the lay vicars-choral of the two Dublin Cathedrals. It appears that at the inaugural performance of Pompey, in 1662, the choral interludes were sung by the stock company, assisted by the "gentlemen of the choirs of both Cathedrals." This singing in play-houses was objected to by the ecclesiastical authorities, and there is a significant entry in the Chapter Book of Christ Church Cathedral, under date of February 22nd, 1662-3—"Mr. Lee, one of the stipendiarii of this church, having sung amongst the stage players in the play-houses, is admonished that he do so no more." A few years later musical dinners took place and, at length, in the winter of 1679-80, the Hibernian Catch Club was inaugurated. There are no details of its first years, but we have a reference to the meetings of the Club in 1698, the place of meeting being in Francis-street. Among existing European musical societies, the Hibernian Catch Club is easily the first, as the Leipzig Gewandhaus Concerts were only started in 1733.

Organ building seems to have been revived in Dublin in 1679 or 1680, as the records of St. Audeon's Church contain an entry relative to a new organ for that place of worship, built by Mr. Pease at a cost of £110, in the year 1681, which church had been completely renovated some years previously.[10]

In 1680 Luke Wadding, Bishop of Ferns, published a small volume entitled A Pious Garland of Godly Songs for the Solace of his Friends and Neighbours in their Afflictions. It is of special interest as supplying the names of many now-forgotten tunes to which the verses were adapted, e.g., "Patrick Fleming," "Ochone," "Bonny Broom," "The Dumpe," "Since Coelia's my Foe," "Farewell, Fair Armelia," "The Knell," "The Skilful Doctor," "Fortune my Foe," "How Cold and Temperate am I Grown," "Alas! I cannot keep my Sheep," "That time the Groves were clad in Green," "Norah oge nee Yeorane" (Norah oge O'Ryan), "Neen Major Neal" (Ingean = the daughter of Major Neale), and "Shea veer me geh hegnough turshogh" (Se mir mé go h-eagneac = It is lonely you have left me).

Bishop Wadding wrote hymns and Christmas Carols to the above tunes, and it is remarkable that these lyrics of two hundred and twenty years ago are still sung in the Parish Church of Kilmore, Barony of Forth, County Wexford. The little volume was several times printed, the fourth edition being published in London in 1731, but it is now very scarce, and it was only after a long search I was able to get a loan of the third edition, printed in London in 1728.

Dr. Petrie in 1855, was indebted to the late Mr. Wm. Chappell for a knowledge of Thomas Duffet, previously mentioned, whose song of "Since Coelia's my Foe" (printed in 1676), was utilised by Bishop Wadding for carols. Chappell acknowledges that Duffet (Duhbthach, or Duffy) was certainly an Irishman, and that the tune quoted was Irish. In fact, many of the tunes used by D'Urfey were taken from Duffet.

Bishop Wadding was a fair musician, and lived at New Ross, where Father Stephen Gelosse, S.J., had a famous school. On March 22, 1686, King James II. ordered him a pension of £150 a year, and he died a martyr in October, 1691.

Perhaps the most convincing proof of a growing musical taste in Ireland in the first year of the reign of James II.—that is in the year 1685, is the introduction of music-printing into Dublin. The first Dublin music publisher was Robert Thornton, who on March 21st, 1685, had issued a newspaper, printed by Joseph Ray, in College-green. Only one specimen of his work has remained, but Mr. E. R. M'Clintoch Dix discovered in Marsh's Library one of his advertisements, which proves that half-sheet songs, engraved on copper, were printed in Dublin in 1686.[11] In a list of "Books printed for and sold by Robert Thornton, at the sign of the Leather Bottle, in Skinner Row," there is included the following advertisement:—

"The Choicest New Songs, with Musical Notes, either for voice or instrument, fairly engraven or copper plated, will be constantly printed, and sold at Twopence a Song by the said Robert Thornton."

In 1688 Thomas Godfrey (who had been organist of St. Patrick's Cathedral since 1686) became a convert to the Roman Catholic faith, and was appointed organist of Christ Church Cathedral, of which the Dean was Dr. Alexius Stafford, a priest of the Diocese of Ferns. The ancient Catholic ceremonial was observed in Christ Church from 1689 to 1690, and St. Patrick's was converted into a temporary barracks for King James's troops. The Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, Francis Marsh, fled to England in February, 1689, after which Archbishop Russell was given jurisdiction.

Meantime English opera had been making headway. Henry Purcell's Abdelazar was written in 1675, followed, in 1688, by Dido and Aeneas, the libretto of which was written by an Anglo-Irishman, Naham Tate, better known for his partnership with another Anglo-Irishman, Nicholas Brady, in the once popular version of the Psalms. It is interesting to add that the epilogue to this opera was spoken by an Irish gentlewoman, Lady Dorothy Burke. The complete score of Purcell's Dioclesian, dedicated to the Duke of Somerset, was published in 1691, and it is an excellent example of that master's style, whose chef d'oeuvre, King Arthur, was produced the following year.

As may be well imagined, the usurpation of Prince William of Orange, and the troubled period of 1688-1692, retarded the development of music, but the last years of the seventeenth century more than compensated for the comparative barrenness of the previous fifty years.

The first indication of a revival of music, after four years turmoil, was the formation of a scratch orchestra for the interludes during the inaugural performance of Shakespeare's Othello, at Smock-alley Theatre, on March 23rd, 1692. As is well known, singing and dancing were de rigeur in all performances, whether tragic or comic, and almost every great actor or actress introduced his or her favourite song. Between the years 1692 and 1700 nearly all the most eminent performers played in Dublin under Joe Ashbury. An Anglo-Irishman, Thomas Doggett (born in Castle-street, Dublin, in 1669) was one of the best commedians in London from 1691 till his retirement in 1713, but his claim to notice, from a musical point of view, is that he made known many Irish tunes set to English words.

At this date the old-time May-pole festivities were revived at Finglas, County Dublin, and continued for a century and a-half in unabated popularity. Indeed, as a matter of fact, the May-pole remained in the village as late as the year 1844. Among the many Anglo-Irish ballads commemorative of these festivities, usually attended by a piper, the writer picked up one some thirty years ago, which was sung to the air of "Nancy Dawson," the second half of the first verse concluding as follows:—

"Ye lads and lasses all to-day
To Finglas let us haste away,
With hearts quite light and dresses gay,
To dance around the May-pole."

There was a May-pole in New-street, Dublin, long before the "Great Rebellion," to which allusion is made in the Fourteenth Report of the Hist. MSS. Commission.

On August 12th, 1695, an agreement was made between the Dean and Chapter of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, and Renatus Harris, of London, for £505, to build a new organ for said Cathedral, he allowing £65 for the old pipes. The new instrument was duly erected on March nth, 1697, and on May 10th following the Dean and Chapter further agreed to give Harris £350 for additional stops. It is satisfactory to note that an Irishman, Thomas Fennell (who had been appointed Organist and Vicar-Choral of Christ Church Cathedral in the year 1689) was organist of St. Patrick's from the close of the year 1693 to 1698, and opened the new organ. He was apparently of a contentious disposition, and was superseded three times by Peter Isaac, William Isaac, and Robert Hodge, but managed to retain his post till June, 1698, when Daniel Roseingrave, an Englishman, was appointed.

Harris built an organ for Christ Church Cathedral in 1697, being portion of the instrument discarded in the famous contest at the Temple Church. It was erected at the north side of the choir, and on November 11th, 1698. Roseingrave was appointed organist of both cathedrals. This historic instrument, originally built in December, 1687, was exchanged for a new one in 1751, and it is now in St. John's Church, Wolverhampton.

At Dublin, on January 9th, 1694, the centenary of the founding of Trinity College was celebrated with much éclat. Henry Purcell composed an ode specially for the occasion, entitled "Great Parent, Hail!" words by Naham Tate. Although Joseph Ray, of College-green, Dublin, printed the words, the music was left in manuscript, and perhaps it is just as well, as it was composed in a hurry and shows evidence of being merely a piece d'occasion. The words, as Professor Mahaffy truly says, were "a fulsome eulogy on King William and Queen Mary." Dr. Blow's anthem, "I Beheld, and lo!" was also sung.

Thomas Lindsay, Dean of St. Patrick's from 1693 to 1695 (when he was made Bishop of Killaloe), made a strenuous effort to improve the choral services in St. Patrick's Cathedral, and presented a new bell to the church, cast by Henry Paris, who had cast the treble and tenor bells for St. Audeon's Church in the previous year.

Tate and Brady's Psalter was published in 1695, and a Dublin-printed issue of Barton's Psalms was issued by Eliphel Dobson in 1697, but without music. Three years later Henry Dodwell, the great Anglo-Irish writer, who had refused to take the oath of allegiance to King William, wrote A Treatise on the Lawfulness of Instrumental Music in Holy Offices, which went through two editions in the year 1700.

A new era was now at hand, when opera, oratorio, and orchestra were to revolutionise the existing style of music in the opening years of the eighteenth century. From this date forward Ireland was destined to figure conspicuously in the musical world.

END OF CHAPTER XX.

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NOTES

[9] Stokes's Worthies of the Irish Church, by Lawlor, pp. 82 and 138.

[10] Gilbert's History of Dublin.

[11] The only example of Thornton's printing is a reprint, in 1686, of "A New Irish Song," as sung in the Masque of "The Triumphs of London," by Thomas Jordan, as performed in London on October 29th, 1682. The musical setting was by John Playford.