Handel and Arne in Ireland

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

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Chapter XXV....continued

As appears from an advertisement in Faulkner's Journal, Signora Avoglio announced a benefit concert in Fishamble-street Music Hall—"she being a stranger in this city"—to take place on Wednesday, June 16th, but it had to be postponed owing to the excitement consequent on Garrick's arrival the previous Sunday, with whom came Peg Woffington and Signora Barberini. A subsequent announcement gives the information that "the players have given up the Wednesday following [June 23rd] to Signora Avoglio for her performance."

On June 30th, 1742, Dr. Arne and his wife arrived in Dublin from London, no doubt, influenced by the favourable reception given to Mrs. Cibber, sister of Dr. Arne. Mrs. Arne was accorded a benefit at the Theatre Royal, Aungier-street, on Wednesday, July 21st, on which occasion Mrs. Cibber sang "Chi scherza colla Rose," from Handel's opera Hymen. In addition to the "great entertainment of musick" there was given a scene from Arne's opera Rosamund, also an Overture by Handel, and a selection from Alfred, No wonder that a repetition of this performance was announced, intimating at the same time that tickets could be had at "Mrs. Cibber's House in Aungier-street."

Handel left Ireland on Friday, August 13th, and, ten days later, Dr. Arne and Mrs. Cibber, Garrick, and Delane set off from Dunleary Harbour. In parting with Handel it is only pertinent to add that it was only on March 23rd, 1743, the first performance of The Messiah was given in London, and Dubourg went over specially from Dublin as leader of the orchestra.[4]

Dr. and Mrs. Arne returned to Dublin in October, 1742, for the opening of the musical season, taking a house "over against the Ram in Aungier-street." The Charitable Musical Society of the Bear, on College-green, removed to Crow-street Music Hall, indifferently known as "Mr. Johnston's Large Room," and were succeeded at the Bear by another musical society. In addition there was a third musical society at Vicars-street, off Thomas-street. All these musical associations devoted their funds to some benevolent purpose. Thus the Charitable Musical Society of Fishamble-street Music Hall, handed over their funds to the release of poor debtors; and, in 1742, there were one hundred and forty-two Marshalsea prisoners liberated, "whose debts amounted to £1,225 17s. 1d., besides £33 given in charity to poor creditors and outgoing prisoners." The Society of the Bear applied their funds to "putting out poor orphan apprentices to reputable tradesmen." The Crow-street Society, also known as the Philharmonic Society, or the Academy of Music, founded the Incurable Hospital; and the Bull's Head devoted their profits to the Dublin Society.

From Faulkner's Journal we learn that on Monday, December 6th, 1742, for the benefit of Miss Plunket, a lady violinist, there was a grand concert in Fishamble-street Music Hall. It is added: "Tickets can be had at Mr. Neale's in Christ Church Yard, or from Miss Plunkett, at Mr. Dubourg's house in Henry-street." Five days later [5] a child pianist was announced at Mr. Johnston's hall in Crow-street, viz., "Miss Davis, a child of six years old, who will perform a Concerto and some other pieces upon the Harpsichord, particularly she will accompany her mother to a song of Mr. Handel's, composed entirely to shew the Harpsichord, the vocal parts to be performed by Mrs. Davis and her sister, Miss Clegg."

Miss Clegg's brother, John Clegg, of Dublin, was one of the greatest violinists of his time. Born in 1714, he studied under Dubourg, and appeared in London as a prodigy, afterwards studying under Buononcini. From 1730 to 1742 he was unapproached, but he was insane from 1742 to 1746, and died soon afterwards.

Another celebrated Irish musician of this period was Abbé Henry Madden, of the Eyrecourt (County Galway) family. He was successively chapel master of Tours Cathedral (1725), then to the King of France (1737), and finally of the Chapel Royal, Versailles (1744), in succession to Campra. Abbé Madden died at Versailles in 1748, aged fifty.

On Friday, December, 17th, 1742, the Charitable Musical Society gave a performance of Acis and Galatea at Fishamble-street, on which occasion Mrs. Arne sang, "accompanied on the violin by Mr. Arne, who will introduce Comic Interludes, intended to give relief to that grave attention necessary to be kept up in serious performances." The Coronation Anthem of "Zadok, the Priest" was also performed, and Mr. Dubourg gave a violin solo.

At this date Mr. Charles, the French Horn Master, took over "Mr. Geminiani's Concerns and Great Musick Room in Dame-street," and announced that he gave lessons to gentlemen and others from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. His terms were: "If to the Room, a guinea entrance, and a guinea for 16 lessons to a month. If he waits on gentlemen, a Moydore entrance, and a Moydore for 16 lessons."[6]

One of the earliest announcements for the year 1743 is the performance of Comus at the Theatre Royal, Aungier-street, on January 10th, when an "extraordinary band of music" performed, conducted by Mr. Arne, "who accompanies on the harpsichord." The favourite song of "Sweet Echo" had an obbligato accompaniment on the hautboy by Mr. John Neale, of London. As an additional attraction, "Master Neale, a child of ten years old," performed a concerto on the violin, and Eibhlin a ruin" with all its variations."

On February 8th, 1743, the annual performance for the benefit of Mercer's Hospital took place in St. Andrew's Church, the music consisting of Handel's Utrecht Te Deum, Jubilate, and two new Anthems.

On February 10th, 1743, Mrs. Arne had a benefit at the Theatre Royal, Aungier-street, when were produced a grand serenata, Love and Glory, by Mr. Arne, and Lucy in Town. Two days later Mr. Charles had a benefit at "Mr. Geminiani's Concert Room in Spring Gardens."

About the same date Mr. Layfield announced that he had taken "the Great Bowling Green in Marlboro'-street, and is determined to entertain the Nobility and Gentry in the most polite manner." This Bowling Green was a sort of Vauxhall Gardens, and was well patronised for about twenty years. O'Keeffe gives an account of the Bowling Green, and tells that Layfield eventually died mad.[7]

Sheridan's benefit at Smock-alley Theatre took place on Monday, February 21st, 1742-3, in Richard III. On Thursday, March 10th, at William Delamain's benefit, Henry IV. was played, prefaced by a concert and followed by a farce, whilst between the acts there was "dancing and singing."

On Wednesday, May 4th, 1743, Handel's oratorio, Alexander's Feast was given at Fishamble-street Music Hall, under Arne's direction, for the benefit of the Charitable Infirmary. The announcement adds: "Gentlemen of the choirs of both Cathedrals, the celebrated Mrs. Arne, and several other voices will assist." At the last concert of the season at Fishamble-street, on May 10th, Mr. Arne performed a solo of his own composition.

Arne's opera of Rosamund was announced to be performed at the Theatre Royal, Aungier-street, on May 27th, but it had to be postponed to June nth owing to the illness of Mrs. Arne. In October Mr. Dubourg and Mr. Arne announced that they would perform "six oratorios of Mr. Handel's." Two months later Arne published his scheme for four performances of King Alfred and Abel.[8]

On December 8th, 1743, by command of the Duke of Devonshire (Viceroy), Arne conducted a performance of the Beggar's Opera at the Theatre Royal, Aungier-street, at which house Mademoiselle Chateauneuf had a benefit two days later, one of the attractions being O'Carolan's song "Bumpers Squire Jones," sung by Thomas Lowe, the English tenor.

At Smock-alley Theatre, on December 15th, for the benefit of Mr. Phillips, harlequin and dancer, the tragedy of Julius Caesar was performed, in which Sheridan played the part of Brutus. During the acts the entertainments of singing and dancing included an Irish song, Eibhlin a ruin, by Mrs. Storer, and the dance of "The English Magot."

Apparently, the attempt at this time on the part of Mr. John Church to act as conductor of the various concerts at which he assisted, was resented by the other professional singers, as may be guessed by the following advertisement in Faulkner's Journal:—"Whereas, Mr. John Church, one of the choir, for some time past assumed an authority at all public performances which he is not entitled unto," etc. . . . Now, we, the undersigned, declare that we will not engage or perform in any Society or Concert where the said John Church is any wise concerned.—Barth. Mainwaring, Wm. Mainwaring, George Wade, George Fitzgerald, Sam Lee, Thomas Johnson, John Angel Putti, Jos. Lee, James Walshe."

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NOTES

[4] Two organs associated with Handel are still in Ireland. One of them, brought by Handel from England, became the property of the Marquis of Ely, at whose sale, in 1811, it was purchased by Francis Johnston, who removed it to his house, No 60, Eccles-street On his death, in 1845, the house, including the organ, became the property of the late William Seale, and subsequently of Isaac Butt. It was a Portatif Organ, "8 feet 1 wide, 7 feet 6 high, and 2 feet 10 deep." The second instrument, an old German Organ, was bought by Lord Mornington, and was afterwards used as the parish organ of old St. Paul's, Dublin. When St. Paul's was taken down, in 1820, the organ was removed to the Blue Coat Hospital, where it now is.—(Handel's Visit to Dublin, by Townsend, 1852.)

[5] This performance was postponed to Saturday, February 5th, and was very successful.

[6] By proclamation of September 10th, 1736, moidores were made current coin of Ireland, being equivalent in value to £3 17s. 8d.

[7] Recollections of John O'Keeffe, pp. 66-68.

[8] Added to this notice is the quaint advertisement: "Mr. Arne has for sale the vocal score of Comus, price, seven shillings. He will also sell very reasonable (sic) a curious harpsichord from London, made by Kirchmann, Tabel's foreman."


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