Anglo-Irish Music: 1750-1800

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

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Chapter XXVI....continued

Thomas Rosingrave, who returned to his native city in February, 1753, conducted a performance of the opera Phoedra and Hippolitus at the Fishamble-street Music Hall, on Tuesday, March 6th, 1753.[6] On April 20th Samson was performed under Dubourg's leadership. Five years later Arne and Tenducci had a short season in Dublin.

Crow-street Music Hall disappeared in 1757, and on its site was built Crow-street Theatre, which opened on October 23rd, 1758, under the control of Spranger Barry and Harry Woodword. The opening play was She Would and She Would Not, and Sam Lee was appointed musical director. Crow-street soon proved a formidable rival to Smock-alley Theatre, and, in addition, the Dublin citizens of that period had attractions at Mosse's (the Rotunda) Gardens, Marlborough Bowling Green,[7] and Ranelagh Gardens.[8] Of course, the Anacreontic and Philharmonic concerts were also well supported, whilst Lord Mornington's Academy of Music was patronised by the élite.

Dubourg still led the State Band at Dublin Castle, and composed numerous birthday odes. Walker gives the following anecdote of Handel's friend:—

"Dubourg often wished to enjoy, unobserved, the sports of an Irish Fair. An opportunity of gratifying this wish occurred while he was on a visit to a Mr. Lindsey's, in the town of Dunboyne, near Dublin, where one of the greatest Fairs of the Kingdom is annually held. Having disguised himself as a country fiddler, he sallied forth amongst the tents another Crowders. He was soon engaged, and a company of dancers stood up. But though he exerted himself to play in character, that is, discordantly, there was still a sweet charm in his playing that fixed his audience with rapture. At length the crowd pressed and gazed so upon him that he thought it but wise to retire."

It was whilst on a visit to Dubourg that the great violinist, Geminiani, died, on September 17th, 1762, at his lodgings in College-green. Dubourg, who had been appointed Master of the King's Band of Musick in 1752, returned to London early in 1765, where he died, July 3rd, 1767, and was buried in Paddington churchyard.

In 1759-1760 Kane O'Hara, at the request of Lord Mornington, wrote his charming burletta of Midas, which was first performed at the private theatre attached to the residence of the Right Hon. William Brownlow, at Lurgan, in April, 1760, and afterwards at Crow-street Theatre.[9] Private theatres were all the rage from 1752 to 1782, and at one memorable performance of the Beggar's Opera, at Carton, in 1761, the caste was as follows:—Captain Morris (Macheath), Lord Charlemont (Peachum), Rev. Dean Marlay (Lockit), Thomas Connolly (Filch), Miss Martin (Polly), Lady Conolly (Lucy), the Countess of Kildare (Mrs. Peachum), Viscount Powerscourt (Mrs. Slammeckin), Miss Vesey (Jenny Diver), and Miss Audley (Coaxer).

In 1762 the Passerini family delighted Dublin with their serenatas, and they gave a fine performance of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater in the Fishamble-street Music Hall. This was the year memorable for Arne's Artaxerxes, produced at Covent Garden, on February 2nd, 1762, the part of Mandane having been specially written for his pupil, Miss Brent, who married Thomas Pinto, the violinist, four years later. John O'Keeffe tells us that Arne and Tenducci were delighted with the reception accorded Artaxerxes in Dublin, on March 28th, 1765, at Smock-alley.[10]

In 1764 the Professorship of Music was founded in Trinity College, with the Earl of Mornington as first Professor, and the degree of Mus. Doc. was conferred on both Mornington and his friend, the Right Hon. Charles Gardiner, M.P. Gardiner was a distinguished musical amateur, and he died on November 15th, 1769, leaving issue Luke, created Baron Mountjoy in 1789. Between the years 1764 and 1771 the degree of Mus. Doc. was conferred on Richard Woodward, Samuel Murphy, and Sampson Carter. Lord Mornington resigned the Professorship in 1774, and the chair remained vacant till 1847, when Dr. John Smith was appointed.

On the death of George Walsh, in 1765, his son Henry was appointed Organist of St. Patrick's Cathedral, whilst Richard Woodward was appointed to Christ Church, being also made Master of the Choristers of both cathedrals. Henry Walsh was a good executant, but was delicate in health, and he only survived his father four years, dying in 1769.

From Gilbert's History of the City of Dublin we learn that, in 1766, the "Amicable Catch Club" held their meetings at the Phoenix, in Werburgh-street, "which appears to have been closed after the death of its proprietor, James Hoey, in 1773." Another musical body, called the Mecklenburgh Musical Society, gave concerts in the Fishamble-street Music Hall in 1768, assisted by the choirs of both cathedrals, and were patronised by Lord and Lady Townsend.

Tommaso Giordani and his brother brought an Italian opera company to Dublin in 1762, and played with much success at Smock-alley Theatre. So pleased was Tommaso with the Irish metropolis that he remained in it for some years as Conductor of the State Music. On August 1st, 1769, his Ode (words by Gorges E. Howard) was performed at the Rotunda, "with much applause," in presence of Lord and Lady Townsend.[11]

It may be well here to give a programme of a fashionable concert in Dublin at this period. The following is a copy of a music-making at Fishamble-street Music Hall, in aid of the Lock Hospital, on Tuesday, January 31st, 1769, and repeated on February 4th:—

"Mr. Pope's Ode on St. Cecilia's Day, set by Dr. Murphy. Between the first and second acts of the Ode will be introduced an Interlude of Catches and Glees, preceded by a Medley Overture, namely,

"First Catch: 'Jack thou'rt a toper,' for three voices. Set by Mr. H. Purcell.
"First Glee: 'Gently touch the warbling lyre,' for four voices. Harmonized by Dr. Hayes.
"Second Catch: 'Good neighbours, be quiet,' for four voices. Set by Dr. Arne.
"Second Glee: 'Fair and Ugly,' for three voices. Set by Dr. Travers.
"Third Catch: 'Hark ye, my dear,' for three voices. Set by Dr. Arne.
"Third Glee: 'Old I am,' for three voices. Set by Dr. Travers.
"Fourth Catch: 'Here lies Judge Boate,' for four voices. Set by Dr. Hayes.
'The Interlude to end with a grand chorus of 'God Save Great George Our King.'

"The catches and glees to be accompanied by instrumental parts, composed on purpose by Dr. Murphy, and performed in a manner quite new, and much approved of. The principal vocal and instrumental performers are the first in this Kingdom. The whole to conclude with a grand ball, where the ladies and gentlemen will appear in fancied habits [fancy dress] of Irish manufacture, and all the rooms will be illuminated with different coloured wax lights."

On March 16th (St. Patrick's Eve), 1770, there was another great fancy ball at Dublin Castle, given by Lord and Lady Townshend, and all the guests were commanded to appear in dresses of Irish manufacture. Not long afterwards Michael Arne (son of Dr. Arne) gave a performance of Cymon at Crow-street Theatre,[12] and spent the autumn of that year in Cork, where several concerts were given under his direction.

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NOTES

[6] He died at Salthill (Kingstown) in 1766.

[7] In August, 1752, George A Stevens gave his celebrated monologue entertainment at Marlborough Green.

[8] The Ranelagh Gardens (the mansion house of which was previously an episcopal residence) were established by Mr. Hollister, a London organ builder, consisting of "a great tavern, gardens, and a theatre for Burlettas," with a good orchestra. This was in 1760 The Discalced Carmelite Nuns acquired Ranelagh in 1806, and opened the mansion house as St. Joseph's Convent, in 1807.

[9] Midas abounds in Irish airs. The vocal score of it was published by Walshe, of London, 1764, a copy of which is in my musical library. From O'Keeffe we learn that the original caste included Mr. Robert Corry, Mr. Vernon. Mr. Robert Mahon, Mr. Oliver, Captain Morris, Miss Elliott, Miss Polly Young, and Miss M'Neill.

[10] Tenducci's singing in Dublin of "Water Parted" was magnificent. He introduced Irish airs at some of his performances, and "at his benefit had 30, 40, and 50 guineas for a single ticket."—(O'Keefe's Recollections, p. 139 )

[11] The Castle Ode, words by Benjamin Victor, and music by Richard Hay, was sung on June 4th, 1776, being the King's birthday.

[12] Arne composed Cymon in 1767. It contains a song by John O'Keeffe, set to an old Irish tune, namely, "Fatima's Song."


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