Conclusion (2) - A History of Irish Music

William H. Grattan Flood
Chapter XXVIII (concluded) | Start of chapter

George Alexander Osborne was born in Limerick on September 24th, 1806, and was originally intended for the Church, but fixed on music as his profession. His father was organist and lay vicar of Limerick Cathedral, and so, as a youth, Osborne occasionally acted as assistant, having acquired a knowledge of the organ as well as the piano. In 1825 he went to Brussels, where he found a patron in the Prince de Chimay, and in 1830 he removed to Paris, where he completed his studies under Pixis, Fetis, and Kalkbrenner. From 1831 to 1843 Osborne was one of the principal musicians in the French capital, and enjoyed the friendship of Chopin, Berlioz, and others. In 1842 he gave his assistance to Balfe at a concert given in the Erard Salon, and in 1844 settled in London, where he became Director of the Royal Academy of Music, and was recognised as one of the most esteemed teachers in London till he retired in 1889. Commencing with three trios in A (1844), G and E (1845), for piano and strings, Osborne published an enormous quality of music, including numerous duets with de Beriot, and piano pieces like "La Pluie des Perles," "Romance sans Paroles," etc. His ballad of "Pat Molloy," composed for Boucicault, is still sung. He died November 16th, 1893.

Sir Robert Prescott Stewart was born at No. 6 Pitt-street, Dublin, on December 16th, 1825, and was educated as a chorister of Christ Church Cathedral. In 1836 he wrote a complete service in B flat, and in 1843 an anthem, "Plead thou my cause." So conspicuous was his ability that, in 1844, he was appointed Organist of Christ Church Cathedral, and of Trinity College Chapel, and in 1852 he succeeded Mr. White as Organist of St. Patrick's Cathedral. From 1846 to his death he was conductor of the Dublin University Choral Society, the members of which subscribed the necessary expenses attending the performance of his exercise for the degrees of Mus. Bac. and Mus. Doc., in 1851, also presenting him with his graduate's robes and a jewelled baton. His "Inauguration Ode" for the Cork Exhibition, in June, 1852, and his "March" for the Dublin Exhibition of 1853 were not ephemeral works, whilst his cantata, "The Eve of St. John," produced on April 12th, 1861, was of more than average merit. For the Birmingham Festival of 1870 he composed an "Ode to Shakespere," for solo, chorus, and orchestra, In 1871 he was appointed Professor of Music in the University of Dublin, and in 1872 he was knighted by Earl Spencer. His glees and arrangements of Irish airs are exceedingly clever, and he wrote some fine organ fantasias. As an executant on the organ Stewart was in the very first rank, and his extemporisation was phenomenal. He died in Dublin on March 24th, 1894, and a brass tablet was placed to his memory in Christ Church Cathedral. At length, on March 8th, 1898, a fine statue on Leinster Lawn, Dublin, was unveiled by the Viceroy, Earl Cadogan—truly a national monument to a distinguished Irish musician.

Augusta Mary Anne Holmes was born of Irish parents in the Rue de Berri, Paris, on December 16th, 1847, and attracted attention as a piano prodigy and singer of her own original French songs, from 1858 to 1865. Her mother died early in 1857, and she then began to study music seriously, publishing some pieces under the nom de plume of "Hermann Zenta." After a course of instruction from Lambert, Franck, Klose, and St. Saens, she bounded into favour with Hero and Leander, at the Opera Populaire, in 1874, a success which was followed up with the orchestral piece "Les Argonautes," performed at the Concerts Populaires on April 24th, 1881. However, her greatest triumph was the symphonic poem "Irlande," the product of an inborn Irish sympathy. It was first heard on March 2nd, 1882, and was given at the first Feis Ceoil, in Dublin, on May 18th, 1897, described by Jullien as "a creation of great worth, evincing by turns a charming tenderness, ardent passion, and masculine spirit." Then came "Pologne" in 1883, and the ode "Pro Patria" in 1888, after which, in 1895, her opera La Montagne Noire was produced at the Grand Opera, Paris. She became a Roman Catholic in 1902, and died January 28th, 1903.[8]

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford was born at 2 Herbert-street, Dublin, September 30th, 1852, and studied under R. M. Levey, Miss Meeke, Miss Flynn, and Sir Robert Stewart. His first composition was a march in D flat, which was played at the pantomime of Puss in Boots, at the Theatre Royal, during the Christmas of 1860-1. On the first production of Mendelssohn's Elijah, in Dublin, on December 9th, 1847, Stanford's father sang the part of the "Prophet" with signal success, and in August, 1849, he played the cello at the Viceregal Concert given in honour of Queen Victoria's visit. The young composer went to London in 1862, and took lessons from Arthur O'Leary. Matriculating at Cambridge in 1870, he became organist of Trinity College, and took his B.A. degree in 1874, being then conductor of the University Musical Society. From 1874 to 1876 Stanford studied at Leipzig under Reincke, and in 1877 at Berlin under Kiel. In 1878 he married Miss Jennie Wetton, and proceeded M.A., settling down at Cambridge for the succeeding sixteen years. His three operas, The Veiled Prophet (1881), Savanarola (1884), and The Canterbury Pilgrims (1884), placed him in the forefront of "British" musicians, whilst Shemus O'Brien (1896) is of too recent date to need eulogy. In 1883 and 1888 he was given the honorary degree of Mus. Doc. by the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge respectively, and in 1887 he was appointed Professor of Music in the University of Cambridge in succession to Sir George Macfarren. His symphonies, masses, and suites are of European fame, and he has edited three collections of Irish airs. In January, 1901, he was appointed conductor of the Leeds Festival, vacant by the death of Sir Arthur Sullivan, and in June, 1902, he was knighted, For the Leeds Festival (October, 1904) he composed a Violin Concerto and five "Songs of the Sea."

It would be unpardonable to pass over the name of Thomas Moore (1779-1852) whose "Irish Melodies" are world-famed, and who compelled drawing-room dames to listen to the old-folk melodies of Ireland, as adapted to his own matchless lyrics. Samuel Lover, too, ought not to be forgotten, though his best known songs were adaptations. The names of R. M. Levey (1811-1903) and J. W. Glover (1815-1899) are also associated with arrangements of Irish music. Joseph Robinson (1816-1898), as the founder of the Antient Concerts, and the youngest of four musical brothers, deserves honourable mention in any work dealing with Irish musicians. His eldest brother, Francis, was given the degree of Mus. Doc., honoris causa, and edited a collection of Irish melodies. Short memoirs of W. H. Kearns (1794-1846), M. R. Lacy (1795-1867), H. R. Allen (1809-1876), George A. Barker (1812-1876), Wellington Guernsey (1781-1885), R. W. Beaty (1790-1883), Joseph F. Duggan (1817-1900), J. J. Gaskin (1820-1876), W. J. Cordner (1826-1870), W. Vipond Barry (1827-1872), P. S. Gilmore (1829-1892), Joseph O'Kelly (1829-1885), Rev. Edward Synge, Mus. Doc. (1829-1895), and other Irish musicians will be found in Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and in Brown and Stratton's British Musical Biography. As vocalists, Catherine Hayes and Allan James Foley (Signor Foli) will long be remembered, whilst the songs of Piccolomini (Pontet), W. E. Hudson, Barker, Molloy and Harvey are occasionally heard.

It is risky to mention persons still living, but the following names are sufficient to prove that Ireland can still boast of musical sons and daughters, inheritors of the traditions of past ages—Mrs. Needham, Mrs. Milligan Fox, Mrs. Scott Ffennell, Dr. Annie Patterson, Miss Oldham, Mrs. Hobday, Mrs. Curwen, Sister Attracta Coffey, Archbishop Walsh, Bishop Donnelly, Sir Francis Cruise, Sir Francis W. Brady, Canon Torrance, Mus. Doc.; Rev. Professor Mahaffy, Mus. Doc.; Dr. Marchant, Dr. Charles Wood, Rev. M. Moloney, Rev. E. Gaynor, J. L. Molloy, R. F. Harvey,[9] J. F. Horan, Brendan Rogers, Vincent O'Brien, Rev. E. O'Keeffe, John Power, John F. Murray, C. K. Irwin, Mackay Glover, Rev. Dr. Collisson, W. H. Harty, P. Delaney, J. Seymour, R. O'Dwyer, D. Nunan, P. Goodman, Rev, W. Butler, S.J.; Rev. G. O'Neill, S.J.; Dr. Joze, Dr. Gick, Arthur O'Leary, Dr. Malone, Dr. Power O'Donoghue, Herbert Hughes, Owen Lloyd, Arthur Darley, W. H. Pelissier, Victor Herbert, Hubert Rooney, M. Connolly, F. Manly, St. John Lacy, Wm. Ludwig, Henry Beaumont, Madam Adelaide Mullen, P. J. Griffith, Norman O'Neill. Barton M'Guckin, Baron Crofton, Joseph O'Mara, Harold White, J. J. Johnson, John O'Donnell, Maud McCarthy, etc.

A word too might be expected on the various musical societies that flourished in Dublin during the nineteenth century, but I refer the reader to Appendix C, in which a list is given. In connection with musical societies it is only right to add that the annual music-makings at the Feis Ceoil and Oireachtas since the year 1897 have not a little influenced musical life in Ireland, whilst the various provincial and local Feiseanna have also contributed to the popularisation of Irish folk-songs in the native tongue.

Let me conclude with the hope that ere long a school of national Irish music will be founded. "If not," as Mr. A. P. Graves writes, "we shall assuredly forfeit our national birthright of song; for, Antaeus-like, our musicians have lost their power since they have been lifted from the touch of their native earth."



[8] On July 13th, 1904, a splendid monument was unveiled to her memory in the St Louis' Cemetery, Versailles. A weeping muse is represented holding a lyre, and on the monument there is inscribed an appropriate quotation from her choral symphony, "Lutece."

[9] Whilst the last pages were going through the press, Mr. Richard F. Harvey passed away, on October 28th, 1904, aged 84. He was a prolific composer, and was for many years organist of St. Kevin's (Protestant) Church, Dublin.