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Messiah on the Street

Messiah on the Street – A free concert for those who love Handel’s Messiah, we take a look at some of the more interesting facts about the piece and its first performance in Dublin

This Friday at 1 pm, people will be able to enjoy Handel’s Messiah for free on Fishamble Street to celebrate the 276th anniversary of the classic’s first performance on 13th April 1742 in Dublin’s Neal Musik Hall.   Fredrick Handel was already a celebrity in Britain and becoming a star across Europe at the time.  He had moved to Dublin for some 11 months in part to recuperate from illness and in part, to open his oratorio away from easily offended bishops back in London.  The Anglican church had taken offense at perceived blasphemy at previous religious operas.  Even still, otherwise liberal and fair minded, Dean Swift of St Patricks Cathedral, threatened banning any member of his choir that participate in the performance.   Eventually, after some negotiation, he relented and gave it his blessing.

The oratorio though substantial in size, its 259 pages long and contain some quarter of a million notes, only took Handel 24 days to compose the piece, meaning he was writing at a pace of 15 notes a minute!  Interestingly, there is no definitive form of the piece, Handel constantly made revisions pending on who and the size of the orchestra he was working with, Mozart himself, made revisions to the piece while diplomatically writing on the margins “these changes are not meant as an improvement”.

The first performance was a huge success with over 600 in attendance breaching the opera’s house’s comfortable capacity.  Women were asked to remove hoops from their dress and men to remove their swords to facilitate the high volume of patrons.     Three charities were to benefit from the performance these were prisoners’ debt relief, the Mercer’s Hospital, and the Charitable Infirmary. The takings were £400, meaning £127 for each of the nominated charities and resulting in the release of 147 indebted prisoners.  One report of the performance stated it was “… far surpass[ing] anything of that Nature which has been performed in this or any other Kingdom”.

Up to 120 singers from Our Lady’s Choral Society will join The Dublin Handelian Orchestra for a free performance of Handel’s Messiah in Dublin’s City Centre on Fishamble Street Dublin 2 on Friday the 13th of April, between 1 pm – 2 pm.  The event will be conducted by Proinnsías Ó Duinn; of choir, solo and orchestra performing choruses from Handel’s Messiah. Wrap up well!

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