IN October 1741 a new music hall designed by the Huguenot architect Cassels was opened in Fishamble Street in Dublin. This was one of the oldest streets in Dublin, appearing on Speed's map of 1611. Most of the houses in it were built of timber or "cage-work".
James Grattan, father of Henry Grattan, resided in Fishamble Street at the time Handel was in Dublin.
The Music Hall was the brainchild of William Neal, a publisher and printer who lived in Christchurch Yard. He thought it would be a good idea to have a music hall built which he could rent out to the public. Mr Neal was secretary to the Charitable Musical Society which was founded by Lord Mornington, a keen musician and father of the Duke of Wellington.
Mr Neal had heard about the approaching visit of Handel to Dublin and invited him to give a series of six concerts at his new music hall. Handel was overjoyed at the invitation as it would give him an opportunity to try out his new oratorio, Messiah.
• The whole of Messiah had been written in his home in Brook Street, London, between August and September 1741, a very short space of time considering the immensity of the work. He set about collecting artistes to accompany him on his Irish trip; among them was Mrs Cibber, a contralto and friend of Handel, who took rooms in-Aungier Street. Handel's arrival in Dublin on November 18 1741 was announced in Faulkner's Dublin Journal.
"On last Wednesday, the celebrated Dr Handel arrived here in the packet-boat from Holyhead, a gentleman universally known by his excellent compositions in all kinds of music, and particularly for his Te Deum, Jubilate, Anthems, and other compositions in church-music (of which, for some years past, have principally consisted the entertainments in the Round Church which have so greatly contributed to support the charity of Mercer's Hospital), to perform his oratorios, for
which purpose he hat h engaged 1\11Maclaine, his wife and several others of the best performers in the musical way".
Handel received a warm welcome on his arrival in Dublin. The Irish already knew and liked his music. As early as December 1725 some of the arias from his operas had been performed at a concert at Smock Alley Theatre. In 1734, his pastoral opera Ads and Galatea was performed in Crow Street Music Hall and later at the Theatre Royal in Aungier Street.
Handel took rooms at 26 Lower Abbey Street and got to work straight away. On December 8 and 12 an advertisement appeared in the Dublin Journal for Handel's six subscription concerts to be held in the new Music Hall. In fact, two series of six concerts were performed between December 23 1741 and 7 April 1742.
On Tuesday April 13 1742 the day of the actual performance, the following announcement appeared: "This day will be performed Mr Handel's new oratorio called Messiah. The door will be opened at II and the performance begins at 12. The stewards of the Charitable Musical Society request the favour of the ladies not to come with hoops this day to the Music Hall at Fishamble Street. The gentlemen are requested to come without their swords."
For the performance, the four soloists were Signora Avolio, Mrs Cibber, the Messrs Church and Rosingrave. Lord Bellamont and Dean Burke were the violincellists, Lord Lucan the flautist, Lady Freke, the Rt Hon W Brownlow and Dr Quin the harpsicordists, and Mr Maclaine the organist.
Mrs Cibber was really more an actress than a singer. By coming to Dublin, she was escaping from a broken marriage and ensuing scandal. As a test to see how an Irish audience would react to her, she had appeared in a play called The Conscious Lovers. The Irish people loved her, thronged her carriage and smothered her in flowers. There were 700 people crowded into the Music Hall while hundreds more waited in the street. Many of Handel's friends were in the audience. Among them was Dr, Patrick Delany, a celebrated confidante of Swift. Dr Delany was so moved by Mrs Cibber's rendering of He was despised that he stood up in his box at the end of the performance and exclaimed "Woman! for this thy sins be forgiven thee!"
The following review appeared in the Dublin Journal: On Tuesday last, Mr Handel's sacred grand oratorio, Messiah, was performed in the new Music Hall in Fishamble Street; the best judges allow it to be the most finished piece of music.
Words are worthless to express the exquisite delight it afforded to the admiring crowded audience. The sublime, the grand, and the tender, adapted to the most elevated, majestic and moving words, conspired to transport and charm the ravished heart and ear. It is but justice to Mr Handel that the world should know how he generously gave the money arising from this performance to be equally shared by the Society for Relieving Prisoners, the Charitable Infirmary, and Mercer's Hospital, for which he will ever be gratefully remembered as well as the gentleman of the two choirs, Dr Dubourg, and. Mrs Avoli and Mrs Cibber who all performed their parts to admiration, acted also on the same disinterested principles, satisfied with the deserved applause of the public and the conscious pleasure of promoting such useful and extensive charity.
On June 3, Messiah was performed again to a full house. The weather was unusually hot, and in order that no one would suffer unduly from the heat, Handel stated in an advertisement that "In order to keep the room as cool as possible, a pane of glass will be removed from the top of each of the windows." This was to be the last of Handel's public performances in Dublin.
From Ireland Today published by the Irish 'Department of Foreign Affairs.