Anglo-Irish Music: 1750-1800

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

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Chapter XXVI.

GEORGE WALSH, who had been Organist of St. Anne's, Dublin, from 1743 to 1747, was appointed Organist of Christ Church Cathedral on the death of Rosingrave, in October, 1747. On October 23rd, 1752, the new organ of Christ Church (built by Byfield at a cost of £800), was formally opened by Walsh, on which occasion a Te Deum and Jubilate of his own composing was performed, in presence of the Lord Justices. He was given the post of Vicar Choral of St. Patrick's in 1760, and was Organist of both Cathedrals from 1761 till his death in 1765. Among his many sacred compositions is a Morning Service in D, still sung.

Smock-alley Theatre catered a great deal for the taste of the day in the matter of ballad operas, or musical comedies. Henry Brooke's Jack the Giant Queller (1748) was an enormous success, but, as some of the songs were considered of a Jacobite and satirical tendency "it was prohibited after one night's performance."[1] This opera teems with old Irish airs. At the close of the year 1749, J. F. Lampe and Pasquali were engaged at Smock-alley; and the Charitable Musical Society, whose funds amounted to £300, engaged for that sum Lampe and Pasquali for a series of concerts. In 1750 this society had released 1,200 prisoners, whose debts and fees exceeded £9,000.

In the year 1747, when the Charitable Musical Society of Crow-street removed from Crow-street Music Hall to Fishamble-street, the Music Hall (Johnson's) ceased to be popular, and hence, in July, 1751, we find it leased to a syndicate (including Stephen Storace, Signor Marella, and Samuel Lee) at an annual rent of £113 15s. Two years later, subscription balls were given there, and finally, in 1754, it was used for the exhibition by Mr. Rackstraw, of the series of anatomical wax works, now in Trinity College.

At this date the Fishamble-street Music Hall (Neale's) was still the home of high-class performances,[2] and, on February 11th, 1748, by command of the Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Harrington, Handel's Judas Maccabaeus was given for the benefit of the Lying-in Hospital. This performance is memorable as being the first given in Ireland of Handel's fine oratorio, and also as being the first of a series of music-makings that contributed for half a century to the upkeep of the "Hospital for the Relief of Poor Lying-in Women"—said Hospital being "the first of the kind in His Majesty's Dominions." The concerts for this charity from 1749 were held in Granby-row, conducted by Castrucci (the last pupil of Corelli), who died in Dublin, 29th February, 1752. Walker, writing in 1785, says:—

"Castrucci has often been seen gathering chips to make his fire, dressed in the suit of black velvet which he usually wore when he appeared in public. But his poverty was not known to those who could relieve him till after his decease; his proud spirit would not permit him to solicit pecuniary assistance. To his memory, indeed, all due honours were paid; his funeral was superb, and graced with some the first Characters in the Nation; and the concourse of people that attended on the occasion was so considerable that the parish beadle was crushed to death in the execution of his office. His remains were interred in the churchyard of St. Mary's, Dublin."

John O'Keeffe, in his Recollections corroborates the account of Castrucci's funeral, on March 10th, adding that "the procession formed a fine concert, vocal and instrumental, through the streets."[3]

Between the years 1748 and 1754 the Methodists developed choral music in their meeting houses. In 1749 Charles Wesley published in Dublin a Methodist Hymn Book—A Collection of Hymns and Sacred Poems—the music being edited by Lampe, then in Dublin.[4]

The Moravians, too, issued a Hymn Book, by Rev. John Cennick, in 1750, but without music. In 1752 there was a Collection of Psalms for New St. Michan's, printed in Dublin, with music, a copy of which is in the British Museum. It is of interest to add that O'Carolan and other Irish composers were drawn on for the tunes of the Methodist Hymn Book. In 1750 Pasquali published in Dublin his Triumph of Hibernia, introducing some Irish airs, whilst in the same year Lampe published a new collection of songs, ballads, etc., entitled The Ladies' Amusement. This volume was printed by "James Hoey, at the sign of the Mercury, in Skinner-row, Dublin, for the author," and was for sale at "Mr. Mainwaring's musick shop," in College-green. Under date of November 3rd, 1753, Mainwaring advertises "all the new Hymns set to musick, by John F. Lampe."

In 1750, Garret Wesley, only son of Lord Mornington, was a musical prodigy. Mrs. Delaney, in one of her gossipy letters, under date of October 15th, 1748, writes:—

"Last Monday we set out for Dangan, Lord Mornington's. . . . My godson, Master Wesley, is a most extraordinary boy; he was thirteen last month; he is a very good scholar, and whatever study he undertakes he masters it most surprisingly. He began with the fiddle last year; he now plays everything at sight."

The future Earl of Mornington was born on July 19th, 1735, and at fourteen years old was an excellent violinist and organist. In 1753 he took some lessons from Thomas Rosingrave and Dubourg, but both masters informed him that he already knew all they could teach him. He graduated B.A. of Dublin University, in 1754, proceeding to M.A. in 1757.

In 1757 he founded the Academy of Music, an aristocratic body whose aim was to relieve distressed families by small loans. In this he was ably seconded by his friend Kane O'Hara. There were three grades of members, all of whom were to be non-professionals, namely, Academics, Probationers, and Associates; and the meetings were to be held weekly, on Wednesdays, at 7 o'clock, at Fishamble-street Music Hall. Once a month an invitation concert was given by special ticket, and once a year a grand performance was announced for a stated charity. This performing body consisted of a President (Lord Mornington), four Vice-Presidents, and a Secretary. The Academy was the first to introduce ladies into the chorus—an innovation that has incorrectly been claimed for Dr. Arne. In 1757 the masque of Acis and Galatea was performed by "male and female amateurs of the first rank," for the benefit of the Charitable Loan Fund. Thus originated the Charitable Musical Loan, which was supported by music till 1765, and was formally incorporated in 1780.[5]

From the Calendar of Ancient Records of Dublin we learn that in 1752 the "band of the city music" was reorganised, and Samuel Lee was appointed Bandmaster at a salary of £40, said allowance to be petitioned for yearly, "with a certificate from the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs that they had employed such band and were satisfied with their behaviour and attendance." The band consisted of Messrs. Samuel Lee, William Jackson, John Clark, James Forster, Rowland Jacob, Frederick Seaforth, George Fitzgerald, Thomas Kelly, Callaghan MacCarthy, and George Wade; and, in 1753, the corporation increased the allowance for the "city music" to £60 a year. Samuel Lee, in addition to being an excellent violinist, kept a music shop at the Little Green, and published a good many songs. One of his publications was called Lee's Masque, consisting of four songs in each number, "price, a British sixpence."

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NOTES

[1] Blaydon's Theatrical Dictionary (1792).

[2] On February 3rd, 1752, by command of the Duke of Dorset, Handel's Joshua was given for the Hospital for Incurables—Dubourg being conductor.

[3] This was Pietro Castrucci He was in his 85th year.

[4] Lampe, who married a sister of Mrs. Arne, died at Edinburgh, on July 25th, 1751, and Charles Wesley wrote a hymn on his death; " 'Tis done! the Sovereign Will's obeyed!" Pasquali also died at Edinburgh in 1757.

[5] This society must not be confounded with the Charitable Society "for the support of decayed musicians" which was founded in 1752 by Bartlett Cooke and the orchestra of Smock-alley. In 1794 it was incorporated as the "Irish Musical Fund Society," and still flourishes.