Handel and Arne in Ireland

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

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Chapter XXV....concluded

Apropos of Handel's Messiah, which was to have been performed at Fishamble-street on December 16th, an interesting announcement was published some days previously: "The Charitable Musical Society having obtained from the celebrated Mr. Handell a copy of the score of the Grand Musical Entertainment called The Messiah, they intended to have it rehearsed on the 12th, and performed on the 16th December for the benefit and enlargement of prisoners confined for debt, but, to the surprise of the Society, several of the choir members thought fit to decline performing and returned their parts, etc." It is added that the "entertainment" was postponed till Friday, February 3rd.

On December 21st, Dr. and Mrs. Arne assisted at a benefit at Fishamble-street for Signor Barbatielli. This took the shape of a grand concert, and the programme also included the names of Mr. Dubourg, Mrs. Storer, Pasqualino, Mr. Lowe, and Mr. Colgan. A few days later Arne repeated Miss Lucy in Town.

At a performance of Lampe's Dragon of Wantley, for the benefit of Mr. Sparkes, on January 9th, 1744, Mrs. Arne took a comic part for the first time; and she had a benefit at the Theatre Royal, Aungier-street, on January 28th, when Mr. Arne appeared as an actor for the first—and last—time in his life, taking the part of Henry, Prince of Wales, in Henry IV. A fortnight previously, the eighth night of the Beggar's Opera, at the same theatre, conducted by Mr. Arne, was a great success, and a repeat performance on January 23rd was equally well received.

At the Music Hall, Fishamble-street, on Tuesday, February 7th, the Charitable Musical Society "for the Relief of Poor Prisoners," gave The Messiah, "postponed from the 3rd February [9] on account of Lord Netterville's trial." On February 27th this performance was repeated by the same Society for the benefit of the Charitable Infirmary.

Miss Davis, the child pianist, gave a recital at the Crow-street Music Hall, on February 9th. She is described as "a genius, born and educated in this town." Six days later, at Aungier-street, was announced Spranger Barry's "first time of appearance on any stage" as Othello, but the performance was postponed to March 2nd.

On Saturday, February 18th, Arne's new oratorio, The Death of Abel, was given for the first time at the Theatre Royal, Smock-alley, the principal parts being taken by Mrs. Arne, Mr. Tom Lowe, and Mademoiselle Chateauneuf. This oratorio was performed four times with much success. It was not heard in London till 1755. In his elaborate announcement, Mr. Arne explains his reason for having the four subscription performances on Saturday evenings: "The Mondays and Thursdays are taken up with Benefits for six Weeks. On Tuesdays are Vicar's St. Consort, and the Bear on College Green, which take up all the best Hands. On Wednesday are the Philharmonic Society, and Crow-street, where they are likewise engaged. And on Friday is Fishamble-street Consort, where they are obliged to perform."

Mr. Arne produced the comedy of The Rehearsal, at Aungier-street Theatre, on March 1st; and, on the same evening, at Mr. Hunt's Great Auction Room in Stafford-street, Mr. Richard Pockrich gave a performance on the musical glasses.[10]

Pockrich demands a brief notice as the inventor of the musical glasses, a form of musical instrument which was all the rage for half a century. On March 15th, 1744, he gave a most successful recital at the Taylors' Hall, Back-lane, being a repeat of his performance a fortnight previously. One of the novelties was a song, "Tell me, lovely Shepherd," sung by Miss Young, "who never performed before in Publick." Mr. Pockrich married a widow, Mrs. Francis White, on April 23rd, 1745, who subsequently eloped with Theophilus Cibber.[11] After unsuccessfully contesting Monaghan in 1745, and Dublin in 1749, as M.P., he gave performances through England and Ireland on the glasses, having as vocalist John Carteret Pilkington. The great composer Gluck took up Pockrich's invention, and gave a display in London on April 23rd, 1746, namely, "a concerto on 26 drinking-glasses tuned with Spring water." Pockrich's end was very sad: he was burned in an accidental fire at Hamlin's Coffee House, Sweeting's-alley, London, 1759. In 1760 one of his pupils, Miss Ann Forde, was a distinguished performer on the musical glasses, for which she published a book of Instructions (1762). Miss Lloyd and the Misses Davies also delighted English and Continental audiences on the instrument. In 1761, as appears from the Vicar of Wakefield, the ladies from London could talk of nothing but "pictures, taste, Shakespeare, and the musical glasses." Benjamin Franklin improved the instrument, and called it the "Armonica"; and for it Mozart, Hasse, Beethoven, Naumann, and other masters wrote.

Mr. Arne gave his Serenata of Alfred—being its first production—at the Theatre Royal, Smock-alley, on March 10th, 1744. This serenata concludes with "a favourable Ode in honour of Great Britain, beginning, "When Britain first at Heaven's command," better known as "Rule Brittania." Five days later Arne conducted the Beggar's Opera.

Mr. and Mrs. Arne, after a two years stay, left Dublin in July, 1744, Arne having been appointed director of the music at Drury-lane Theatre, and subsequently composer at Vauxhall Gardens.

As an evidence of the music makings in Dublin during the season 1744-45, the following works were performed by the Philharmonic Society:—Boyce's Solomon (libretto by Edward Moore), Handel's Esther, Athalia, Acis and Galatea, and Alexander's Feast; Boyce's Pythian Ode (libretto by Walter Harte). Eight years later a novelty by an Irish composer, viz., a new oratorio entitled Solomon's Temple, the composition of Richard Broadway (son of Edward Broadway, Organist of Cork Cathedral from 1712 to 1720), was performed "for the benefit of the Sick and Distressed Freemasons." The oratorio was merely a succès d'estime, and was not heard of afterwards.[12] However, Mr. Broadway xvas a good musician, and was appointed Organist of St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1747, in succession to Ralph Rosingrave, for whom he had acted as deputy since 1744. Another Irishman, James Colgan, a splendid bass singer, was appointed full Vicar Choral of St. Patrick's Cathedral on March 24th, 1744. The mandate for his installation was issued by Dean Swift, but was signed by Jo. Wynne, Handel's friend, as Sub-dean.

On June 1st, 1744, Thomas Walker—the original Macheath—produced Love and Loyalty at Smock-alley Theatre. He died four days later in Dublin. His Quaker's Opera (1728) contains a number of Irish airs. On November 6th of the same year, at the Music Hall, Crow-street, was produced "a new entertainment called an Ambigu, to be prepared by Mr, Johnston." Three months later, on February 14th, 1744-5, Handel's Dettingen Te Deum, was performed at St. Michan's Church for the support of Mercer's Hospital.

The principal musical event of the year 1745 was the annual performance of The Messiah by the Charitable Musical Society at Fishamble-street, for the benefit of the poor prisoners, on Thursday, December 19th, for which the public rehearsal was given three days previously. Mrs. Delaney writes:—"It was very well performed, and I was much delighted." Garrick's Hamlet had been given at the Theatre Royal on December 9th, when Mrs. Storer played Ophelia, singing after the close of the performance, "with dancing by Madame Moreau."

Lord Chesterfield, as Viceroy, was a patron of music and the dance, and he was present at Garrick's benefit at Smock-alley Theatre on December 20th, 1745. Another command night was on January 1st, 1746) when Garrick, Sheridan, and Barry played together. At a repetition performance of this on February 14th Mrs. Delaney was present, and admired Barry's acting very much. Another command night was April 15th, which derived an added attraction from the fact of being the Duke of Cumberland's birthday. The play was Orestis, and the prologue was by Sheridan, whilst the epilogue was by Henry Brooke, author of the Fool of Quality, spoken by Garrick. Like Handel, Garrick was enraptured with Ireland and its people, and though he promised to return the following season, he never visited Dublin more. Handel paid a compliment to an Irish singer, Kitty Clive, née Rafter, when he selected her for the part of Dalila at the first production of Samson, at Covent Garden Theatre, in March, 1743. Kitty Clive, whose first success was as Nell in her countryman's (Charles Coffey) ballad opera, The Devil to Pay, in 1731, was a charming actress as well as vocalist. She held the stage till April 24th, 1769, when she retired to Twickenham, as a near neighbour of Horace Walpole.

END OF CHAPTER XXV.

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NOTES

[9] The rehearsal took place on Wednesday, February 1st. In the advertisement it is added: "The Ladies have resolved to come without hoops as when the same was performed by Mr. Handel."

[10] Mr. Pockrich shows a pretty turn of wit in the following advertisement of his performance:—"When the Glasses were first introduced in Publick, an accident happened which prevented the Inventor from shewing that instrument to any advantage; some imputed it to his taking a Glass too much; but the real cause of it was owing to the hurry in removing them, which untuned and disconcerted that instrument."

[11] Theophilus Cibber was drowned at the bottom of the Irish Sea on board an ill-fated cross-channel boat on November 22nd, 1758.

[12] This performance took place at the Philharmonic Room, Fishamble-street, on Tuesday, May 15th, 1753.

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