Traces in Dublin
The premiere of Handel’s „Messiah“
One of the glories of German music, Handel’s oratorio “Messiah” was first performed in Dublin at the New Music Hall in Fishamble Street at noon on April 13th 1742.
George Frideric Handel (Georg Friedrich Händel), born in Halle in Upper Saxony, emigrated to London when he was 27 and had great success with his Italian operas. By 1741, when he composed “Messiah”, Italian opera was out of favour and his fortunes were on the wane. An old friend, the musician Matthew Dubourg, arranged for him to be invited to Dublin by three charitable societies, for a series of six concerts.
Handel arrived in November 1741 and took rooms at 26 Lower Abbey Street. He gathered an orchestra and chorus, mainly from the city’s two cathedrals and worked with them on “Messiah”. Public rehearsals generated great interest: the notice for the first performance urged ladies not to wear hoops and gentlemen to “come without their swords” to save space. With Handel both conducting and playing an organ, the Dublin audience expressed its “exquisite delight”.
The world has largely endorsed its taste ever since and the performance is still regarded by Dubliners as one of the greatest moments in their city’s cultural history. It is remembered by an open air concert on Fishamble Street every April 13th.
The New Music Hall on Fishamble Street does not longer exist. Today, you can only see a stone arch which marks the location of the entrance to the former venue.
The premiere of the “Messiah” is remembered by Our Lady’s Choral Society with an open air concert on Fishamble Street every April 13th.
- Cole, Hugo. “Handel in Dublin.” Irish Arts Review (1984-1987), vol. 1, no. 2, 1984, pp. 28-30.
- “First Performance of Handel’s ‘Messiah’.” The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, vol. 5, no. 99, 1852, pp. 37-38, 43.
- Grattan Flood, W.H. “Fishamble St. Music Hall, Dublin, from 1741 to 1777.” Sammelbände der Internationalen Musikgesellschaft, vol. 14, no. 1, 1912, pp. 51-57.
- Howard, H. Wendell. “Handel’s Messiah in Dublin.” Logo: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, vol. 10, no. 2, 2007, pp. 58-67.
- Sheehan, Vernon. “Rejection and Rehabilitation: Why Handel’s Messiah was premièred in Dublin.” History Ireland, vol. 23, no. 2, Mar./Apr. 2015, pp. 8-9.
- White, Harry. “Handel in Dublin: A note.” Eighteenth-Century Ireland / Iris an dá chultúr, vol. 2, 1987, pp. 182-186.