Anglo-Irish Music: 1750-1800


Anglo-Irish Music: 1750-1800

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


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 Deumand 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 Maccabaeuswas 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 aCollection 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. TheAcademy 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.”



[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.

Thomas Rosingrave, who returned to his native city in February, 1753, conducted a performance of the operaPhoedra and Hippolitus at the Fishamble-street Music Hall, on Tuesday, March 6th, 1753.[6] On April 20th Samson was performed under Dubourg’s leadership. Five years later Arne and Tenducci had a short season in Dublin.

Crow-street Music Hall disappeared in 1757, and on its site was built Crow-street Theatre, which opened on October 23rd, 1758, under the control of Spranger Barry and Harry Woodword. The opening play was She Would and She Would Not, and Sam Lee was appointed musical director. Crow-street soon proved a formidable rival to Smock-alley Theatre, and, in addition, the Dublin citizens of that period had attractions at Mosse’s (the Rotunda) Gardens, Marlborough Bowling Green,[7] and Ranelagh Gardens.[8] Of course, the Anacreontic and Philharmonic concerts were also well supported, whilst Lord Mornington’s Academy of Music was patronised by the élite.

Dubourg still led the State Band at Dublin Castle, and composed numerous birthday odes. Walker gives the following anecdote of Handel’s friend:—

“Dubourg often wished to enjoy, unobserved, the sports of an Irish Fair. An opportunity of gratifying this wish occurred while he was on a visit to a Mr. Lindsey’s, in the town of Dunboyne, near Dublin, where one of the greatest Fairs of the Kingdom is annually held. Having disguised himself as a country fiddler, he sallied forth amongst the tents another Crowders. He was soon engaged, and a company of dancers stood up. But though he exerted himself to play in character, that is, discordantly, there was still a sweet charm in his playing that fixed his audience with rapture. At length the crowd pressed and gazed so upon him that he thought it but wise to retire.”

It was whilst on a visit to Dubourg that the great violinist, Geminiani, died, on September 17th, 1762, at his lodgings in College-green. Dubourg, who had been appointed Master of the King’s Band of Musick in 1752, returned to London early in 1765, where he died, July 3rd, 1767, and was buried in Paddington churchyard.

In 1759-1760 Kane O’Hara, at the request of Lord Mornington, wrote his charming burletta of Midas, which was first performed at the private theatre attached to the residence of the Right Hon. William Brownlow, at Lurgan, in April, 1760, and afterwards at Crow-street Theatre.[9] Private theatres were all the rage from 1752 to 1782, and at one memorable performance of the Beggar’s Opera, at Carton, in 1761, the caste was as follows:—Captain Morris (Macheath), Lord Charlemont (Peachum), Rev. Dean Marlay (Lockit), Thomas Connolly (Filch), Miss Martin (Polly), Lady Conolly (Lucy), the Countess of Kildare (Mrs. Peachum), Viscount Powerscourt (Mrs. Slammeckin),Miss Vesey (Jenny Diver), and Miss Audley (Coaxer).

In 1762 the Passerini family delighted Dublin with their serenatas, and they gave a fine performance of Pergolesi’sStabat Mater in the Fishamble-street Music Hall. This was the year memorable for Arne’s Artaxerxes, produced at Covent Garden, on February 2nd, 1762, the part of Mandane having been specially written for his pupil, Miss Brent, who married Thomas Pinto, the violinist, four years later. John O’Keeffe tells us that Arne and Tenducci were delighted with the reception accorded Artaxerxes in Dublin, on March 28th, 1765, at Smock-alley.[10]

In 1764 the Professorship of Music was founded in Trinity College, with the Earl of Mornington as first Professor, and the degree of Mus. Doc. was conferred on both Mornington and his friend, the Right Hon. Charles Gardiner, M.P. Gardiner was a distinguished musical amateur, and he died on November 15th, 1769, leaving issue Luke, created Baron Mountjoy in 1789. Between the years 1764 and 1771 the degree of Mus. Doc. was conferred on Richard Woodward, Samuel Murphy, and Sampson Carter. Lord Mornington resigned the Professorship in 1774, and the chair remained vacant till 1847, when Dr. John Smith was appointed.

On the death of George Walsh, in 1765, his son Henry was appointed Organist of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, whilst Richard Woodward was appointed to Christ Church, being also made Master of the Choristers of both cathedrals. Henry Walsh was a good executant, but was delicate in health, and he only survived his father four years, dying in 1769.

From Gilbert’s History of the City of Dublin we learn that, in 1766, the “Amicable Catch Club” held their meetings at the Phoenix, in Werburgh-street, “which appears to have been closed after the death of its proprietor, James Hoey, in 1773.” Another musical body, called the Mecklenburgh Musical Society, gave concerts in the Fishamble-street Music Hall in 1768, assisted by the choirs of both cathedrals, and were patronised by Lord and Lady Townsend.

Tommaso Giordani and his brother brought an Italian opera company to Dublin in 1762, and played with much success at Smock-alley Theatre. So pleased was Tommaso with the Irish metropolis that he remained in it for some years as Conductor of the State Music. On August 1st, 1769, his Ode (words by Gorges E. Howard) was performed at the Rotunda, “with much applause,” in presence of Lord and Lady Townsend.[11]

It may be well here to give a programme of a fashionable concert in Dublin at this period. The following is a copy of a music-making at Fishamble-street Music Hall, in aid of the Lock Hospital, on Tuesday, January 31st, 1769, and repeated on February 4th:—

“Mr. Pope’s Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day, set by Dr. Murphy. Between the first and second acts of the Ode will be introduced an Interlude of Catches and Glees, preceded by a Medley Overture, namely,

“First Catch: ‘Jack thou’rt a toper,’ for three voices. Set by Mr. H. Purcell.
“First Glee: ‘Gently touch the warbling lyre,’ for four voices. Harmonized by Dr. Hayes.
“Second Catch: ‘Good neighbours, be quiet,’ for four voices. Set by Dr. Arne.
“Second Glee: ‘Fair and Ugly,’ for three voices. Set by Dr. Travers.
“Third Catch: ‘Hark ye, my dear,’ for three voices. Set by Dr. Arne.
“Third Glee: ‘Old I am,’ for three voices. Set by Dr. Travers.
“Fourth Catch: ‘Here lies Judge Boate,’ for four voices. Set by Dr. Hayes.
‘The Interlude to end with a grand chorus of ‘God Save Great George Our King.’

“The catches and glees to be accompanied by instrumental parts, composed on purpose by Dr. Murphy, and performed in a manner quite new, and much approved of. The principal vocal and instrumental performers are the first in this Kingdom. The whole to conclude with a grand ball, where the ladies and gentlemen will appear in fancied habits [fancy dress] of Irish manufacture, and all the rooms will be illuminated with different coloured wax lights.”

On March 16th (St. Patrick’s Eve), 1770, there was another great fancy ball at Dublin Castle, given by Lord and Lady Townshend, and all the guests were commanded to appear in dresses of Irish manufacture. Not long afterwards Michael Arne (son of Dr. Arne) gave a performance of Cymon at Crow-street Theatre,[12] and spent the autumn of that year in Cork, where several concerts were given under his direction.



[6] He died at Salthill (Kingstown) in 1766.

[7] In August, 1752, George A Stevens gave his celebrated monologue entertainment at Marlborough Green.

[8] The Ranelagh Gardens (the mansion house of which was previously an episcopal residence) were established by Mr. Hollister, a London organ builder, consisting of “a great tavern, gardens, and a theatre for Burlettas,” with a good orchestra. This was in 1760 The Discalced Carmelite Nuns acquired Ranelagh in 1806, and opened the mansion house as St. Joseph’s Convent, in 1807.

[9] Midas abounds in Irish airs. The vocal score of it was published by Walshe, of London, 1764, a copy of which is in my musical library. From O’Keeffe we learn that the original caste included Mr. Robert Corry, Mr. Vernon. Mr. Robert Mahon, Mr. Oliver, Captain Morris, Miss Elliott, Miss Polly Young, and Miss M’Neill.

[10] Tenducci’s singing in Dublin of “Water Parted” was magnificent. He introduced Irish airs at some of his performances, and “at his benefit had 30, 40, and 50 guineas for a single ticket.”—(O’Keefe’s Recollections, p. 139 )

[11] The Castle Ode, words by Benjamin Victor, and music by Richard Hay, was sung on June 4th, 1776, being the King’s birthday.

[12] Arne composed Cymon in 1767. It contains a song by John O’Keeffe, set to an old Irish tune, namely, “Fatima’s Song.”

Another eminent musician, Thomas Pinto, sought a friendly home in Dublin in 1773, and was leader of the band at Crow-street from 1774 to 1779. At Smock-alley, on November 26th, 1772, a comic opera, The Milesian, composed by an Irishman, John M’Dermot, was produced.

The veteran Irish violinist, Samuel Lee, who had an extensive music publishing business at No. 2, Dame-street, and a coffee house in Essex-street, died “at his house in Dame-street,” on February 21st, 1776, described inWalker’s Magazine as “a great Professor in Musick.”

Surely, Dublin could boast of its musical celebrity in 1774. At a typical concert given by amateurs, the orchestra included:—Violins—Count M’Carthy, Right Hon. Sackville Hamilton, Very Rev. Dean Bayly, Deans Burke and Hamilton, Surgeon Neale, E. B. Swan, Mr. Conner, and Dr. Hutchinson; bassoons—W. Deane, Colonel Lee Carey; ‘cellos—The Earl of Bellamont, Sir John Dillon; flutes—Lord Lucan, Captain Reid, Rev. J. Johnson; harpsichord—Right Hon. W. Brownlow, Lady Freke, Miss Cavendish, Dr. Quin, and Miss Nicholl. Among the vocalists were Lady Russell, Mrs. Monck, Miss O’Hara, Miss Stewart, Miss Plunket, etc.

Charles Clagget was a most remarkable Irish musician of this period, being particularly famed as an accompanist on the violin, and as an ingenious inventor. A good memoir of him will be found in Grove’s Dictionary, to which the reader is referred. Sampson Carter, Mus. Doc., and his younger brother, Thomas Carter (the composer of “O Nancy wilt Thou go with Me”), are also treated of in Grove. Richard Woodward, Mus. Doc., Organist of Christ Church Cathedral, died November 22nd, 1777, aged thirty-four. He was the son of Richard Woodward, Vicar Choral of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and was born in Dublin in 1744. His well-known canon, “Let the words of my mouth”—awarded the gold medal of the Glee and Catch Club, in 1764 [13]—is inscribed on his monument in Christ Church Cathedral. He also wrote much sacred music, including a service in B flat and seven anthems, and published a folio volume of cathedral music, dedicated to Archbishop Smyth, which is marked Op. 3, and was printed by Peter Welcker, of London, in 1771.

Among the theoretical works on music issued in Dublin, a volume of one hundred and forty pages of letterpress, with fifty-one pages of musical illustrations, may be cited. This work is entitled, Two Essays on the Theory and Practice of Music. . . . by the Rev. John Trydell, and was printed for the author by Boulter Grierson, King’s Printer, at Dublin, in 1766. It contains “the rules of harmony, composition, and thorough bass, as also a new and short method of attaining to sing by note.’ Dublin printing and bookbinding was unsurpassed at this period, as is admitted by Horace Walpole.[14] A rare volume, entitled The Gentleman’s Catch Book, was edited and published by Henry Mountain, a distinguished Dublin violinist, in 1778, the dedication being to “the Hibernian Catch Club.” Mountain published a good deal of music from No. 20, Whitefriar-street, after which he removed to 44, Grafton-street.

We find an Irish clergyman, Rev. Michael Sandys, M.A., as Organist of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, from 1769 to 1773. He was appointed Vicar Choral of St. Patrick’s in 1772, and resigned the organ appointment the year following, becoming Minor Canon and Dean’s Vicar in 1778. His successor was Dr. Samuel Murphy, who, as a boy, had sung at the original performance of Handel’s Messiah. Dr. Murphy was a brilliant organist, and also a distinguished composer. In 1777, on the death of Dr. Woodward, he was appointed to Christ Church Cathedral, and was also Master of the Choristers of both cathedrals. He died at Carrickmines, near Dublin, on November 25th, 1780.

On January 27th, 1777, the Fishamble-street Music Hall was opened as a theatre by Vandermere and Waddy, but the venture was short-lived. Thus, Dublin had at this date four theatres—Smock-alley, Crow-street, Capel-street, and Fishamble-street. The glories of the music hall where Handel performed disappeared after the death, in 1769, of Mr. Neale. Neale’s son, Surgeon John Neale, of Mary-street, was a marvellous amateur violinist, and was commanded by King George III. to play at a State concert in 1787.

Garret Wesley, first Earl of Mornington, Mus. Doc., died at Kensington on May 22nd, 1781. His most famous son, the Duke of Wellington, was born in Mornington House, Merrion-square, Dublin, on April 29th, 1769.[15] Two years later Lord Mornington built a new house in Merrion-st, which he renamed after himself, and where he resided until 1777. Though he resigned his Professorship of Music at Trinity College in 1774, he published his best works after that date, and gained prizes from the Catch Club in 1776 and 1777. In 1779 the Catch Club awarded him the prize medal for his glee, “Here in cool grot,” which was published by Anne Lee, of Dublin, in 1780. He also composed much sacred music, including his well-known Chant in E flat, the charm of which is almost destroyed in the version in general use—differing materially from the form as traditionally sung in the Dublin cathedrals. Lady Mornington survived till September 10, 1831. A fine edition of Lord Mornington’s Glees and Madrigals was edited by Sir Henry Bishop in 1846.

Michael Kelly in his Reminiscences tells us of the great taste for music in Dublin during the years 1775-1780. Kelly himself had commenced the pianoforte with Mr. Murland, and finished with Dr. Cogan, a distinguished Cork musician who was Organist of St. Patrick’s Cathedral from 1780 to 1806. Murland had a pianoforte factory some years later, and made a square instrument for Tom Moore. It is mahogany inlaid, dated 1808, and is now in the National Museum.[16] An early upright harpsichord, of about the year 1774, made by Rother, Dublin, is also in the Dublin Museum.

Kelly tells us that Dr. Cogan’s execution on the pianoforte was astonishing, and that “his compositions possess great merit.”[17] In 1778, when Michael Arne was in Dublin, he was possessed of a desire to study alchemy, and took a house at Richmond, near Clontarf. The result was disastrous, and when he was confined for a time in the Marshalsea, Kelly’s father sent him a loan of a pianoforte, in return for which kindness Arne gave lessons to Michael Kelly. Towards the close of April, 1779, Ryder, of Crow-street Theatre, re-engaged Arne and his wife for a revival of Cymon, for three nights, with the youthful Kelly in the caste. This proved successful, and, on the fourth night of the engagement, Lionel and Clarissa was produced for Kelly’s benefit, Pinto being leader of the band, and Bartlett Cooke as first oboe. Subsequently, on May 1st, 1786, Kelly created the parts of Basilio and Don Curzio in Mozart’s Figaro, at Vienna.

The era of the Volunteers, 1774-1784, was marked by band music, and almost every corps had a wind band. One of the favourite tunes was “The Volunteers’ March,” by Elford, dedicated to Lord Charlemont. Another Irish march was annexed by the Scotch and utilised for “Whistle o’er the lave o’t.” A third, popular in Munster, was “The Shamrock Cockade,” set to the Irish air of “Ally Croker.” After the rejection of Flood’s Reform Bill in 1784, the Volunteers collapsed, and the bands dissolved.



[13] This was the second Gold Medal awarded by the Hibernian Catch Club.

[14] Walpole to Montague, dated “Arlington-street, December 30th, 1761.”

[15] From the Baptismal Register in St. Peter’s, Dublin, it appears that Arthur Wesley was baptized in that church on Sunday, April 30, 1798. The Mornington family lived temporarily in Antrim House, Merrion-square, in 1769.

[16] As early as 1772, Ferdinand Weber, of Marlborough-street, commenced making square pianofortes. A beautiful specimen, dated 1774, was exhibited at the Cork Exhibition in 1902. It was purchased by John Philpot Curran for his daughter Sarah, the fiancée of Robert Emmet. Strangely enough, it was described as “a spinet or harpsichord,” though, undoubtedly (as the late Mr. Hipkins informed me), it is an early square pianoforte.

[17] Cogan published various anthems. In 1788 appeared six sonatas for pianoforte and violin (Op. 2), followed by harpsichord lessons and songs, and in 1792 he printed his concerto in E flat.—(British Musical Biography.)

In 1779 Giordani and Lini took the Capel-street Theatre as an opera house, but they became bankrupt in1781,[18] and both returned to London. In January, 1782, Richard Daly produced O’Keeffe’s Son-in-Law at Smock-alley Theatre. This play (first given in London by Colman in 1779) was rendered attractive by the number of Irish airs introduced into it, especially a few of O’Carolan’s.[19] O’Keeffe himself tells us that Dr. Arnold arranged the airs of many of his songs, and found no small difficulty with them. Sir John Stevenson (who was appointed a stipendary at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, July 20th, 1775, in which year he gained the Catch Club’s prize for his glee, “One night while all the village slept,”) composed some airs for O’Keeffe’s Dead Alive in 1780, which was performed with success in June, 1781. This play was followed by The Agreeable Surprise, in which Irish airs are largely drawn on, having been supplied by Vernon to Dr. Arnold. O’Keeffe’s opera of the Banditti (November, 1781) contains “Ceann dub dilir” and “Sa Muirnin dilir“—the latter air being until then only known by its Irish words. This opera was revised and renamed The Castle of Andalusia, with two new airs by Giordani. The Poor Soldier (1783) was arranged by Shield, mostly to O’Carolan’s airs, chosen by O’Keeffe.

In April, 1784, Daly produced Gluck’s opera, Orpheus and Eurydice, with Tenducci and Mrs. Billington as the stars. On July 9th of the same year the famous “Douglas” riot occurred, when the Duke of Rutland was present on a command night at the Theatre Royal—Home’s Douglas being the play. At the rising of the curtain the audience insisted on the “Volunteers’ March” being played by the orchestra, which was accordingly done; but no sooner did Home’s fine tragedy begin than the whole house, to mark their disapproval of the Viceroy’s recent action in refusing to sanction the petition of the Dublin Corporation in favour of Reform, would not allow the play to proceed, and the Duke of Rutland had to retire, to the accompaniment of the “Volunteers’ March.”

Kane O’Hara, the author of Midas (1760), The Golden Pippin (1772), The Two Misers, Tom Thumb (1780), etc., died at his house in Dublin, June 17th, 1782. He was a fine musician, and is praised by Michael Kelly. From the year 1778 he was totally blind, but kept up to the last his interest in music. With him died the Academy of Music.

In 1783 Mr. Robert Owenson opened Fishamble-street as a “National Theatre,” the inaugural piece being Jephson’s The Carmelite, followed by O’Keeffe’s Poor Soldier. Lady Morgan, Owenson’s daughter, tells us that “the overture consisted of Irish airs, ending with the ‘Volunteers’ March,’ which was chorussed by the gallery to an accompaniment of drums and fifes.” This venture was short-lived.

From 1780 to 1786 concerts were held twice a week during the summer season in the Round Room, Rotunda, for the benefit of the Rotunda Hospital. For these concerts the very best talent was procured, and Irish musicians who were forced to go abroad to become prophets, came back at handsome fees. Andrew Ashe, who had been principal flute at the Brussels Opera House, appeared at these concerts in 1782, and, in 1791, was engaged by Salomon for the Hanover-square concerts.

On May 3rd, 1787, a Handel Commemoration was given in St. Werburgh’s Church by “amateurs of the highest distinction,” including Sir Hercules Langrishe, Baron Dillon, Surgeon John Neale, Lady Portarlington, and Hon. Mrs. Stopford. In the following year, on April 12th and April 16th, a similar festival in honour of Handel was given in Christ Church Cathedral in aid of local charities, and on both occasions “the ladies laid aside their hats, feathers, and hoops.”

In November, 1787, Richard Daly reopened Smock-alley and Crow-street, both of which houses had been renovated and decorated—Crow-street, in particular, being practically rebuilt. To the band of Smock-alley, on the initiative of Mr. Bartlett Cooke, as before stated, is due the establishment of the Irish Musical Fund Society for the relief of distressed musicians. In 1794 it was incorporated, and we read that “such was the feeling excited in the House of Commons upon that occasion that the Speaker and all the officers relinquished their fees.”

About the year 1781, Catholic services, in consequence of Lord North’s Relief Bill, began to attract attention by reason of the introduction of organs, and, in many places, small orchestras. The earliest book on the Church Plain Chant, was printed and published in 1782 by an Irishman, John P. Coghlan, in London. In Part II. of this rare publication are Anthems, Litanies, Proses, and Hymns “as sung in the public chapels at London.” The book is in three parts, and contains two settings of the Tantum Ergo by Stephen Paxton; also motets by Samuel Webbe.

In April, 1789, Giordani composed a Te Deum for the recovery of King George III., which was sung for the first time at the conclusion of High Mass in the old chapel of Francis-street, Dublin, by Archbishop Troy. At this performance were present the leading Catholics, and also many distinguished Protestants, e.g., the Duke of Leinster, the Earls and Countesses of Belvedere, Arran, and Portarlington, the Countesses of Carhampton and Ely, Lords Tyrone, Valentia, and Delvin, Messrs. Grattan, La Touche, etc.

In 1789 the Fishamble-street Music Hall was taken by the Honourable Society of King’s Inns, who relinquished it, however, in less than two years, when it was again acquired as a Private Theatre, by the Earl of Westmeath and Frederick E. Jones, the opening performance, on March 6th, 1793, being the Beggar’s Opera and the Irish Widow.

Dr. Langrishe Doyle (Organist of Armagh Cathedral from 1776 to 1780) who was appointed Organist of Christ Church Cathedral in 1780, was given the post of Organist of Trinity College Chapel in 1781. He was a very brilliant Irish musician, and in 1784 was elected a full Vicar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. His powers began to fail in 1804, and he was given an assistant on November 25th, 1805, in the person of William Warren, his nephew.

Music was patronised by the Earl of Camden, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and in 1795 he knighted William Parsons, Mus. Doc., Master of the King’s Band of Musick, who often visited Ireland. Stevenson, who obtained Mus. Doc. of Trinity College in 1791, was at this date coming into prominence, but he did not receive his knighthood till 1803—being the second musical knight.

Timothy Geary (also known as Thomas Augustine Geary) was a very promising Irish composer. Born in Dublin in 1773, he graduated Mus. Bac. in 1792, and wrote some glees, duets, and songs (most of which were sung by Dr. Spray). He was drowned in November, 1801.

On August 12th, 1797, Frederick E. Jones purchased Daly’s patent of Crow-street Theatre—Smock-alley having been closed three years previously.[20] Unfortunately, the political atmosphere from 1795 to 1800 did not make for harmony in any sense of the word, and hence many distinguished Irish musicians obtained their triumphs elsewhere. Tom Cooke, who was leader of the band at Crow-street in 1798, was afterwards a great star in London. John Field, who was a boy pianist in 1798, and was afterwards apprenticed to dementi, invented the Nocturne. William Southwell patented the Irish damper action for pianofortes in 1794, and subsequently invented the cabinet piano. Henry Mountain was leader of the band at Covent Garden, and was praised by Haydn. Andrew Ashe was leader of the Bath concerts in succession to Rauzzini. John Moorehead was a marvellous Irish violinist and composer, and played at the Worcester Festival in 1794. Thomas Carter was musical director of the Royalty Theatre, Goodman’s Field’s, and composed the comic opera Just in Time, in 1792, for Covent Garden. Another Thomas Carter, of Dublin, was musical director of the Calcutta Theatre, but returned to London in 1793 where he died in 1800.[21] John Mahon was a famous clarinet player, and performed at the Birmingham Festivals from 1802 to 1811.

Probably one of the best evidences of the cultivation of music in Ireland in the latter half of the eighteenth century is the number of music publishers and musical instrument makers in Dublin at that period. In 1800 there were ten flourishing music shops, namely, Rhames, Gough, Hill, Hime, Lee, Holden, M’Calley, M’Donnell, Power, and Southwell, nearly all of which were music-publishing firms. There were also eight harpsichord and piano manufacturers, and three makers of wind instruments—also makers of pedal harps, Irish harps, bagpipes, and fiddles, and two organ builders. The two Protestant Cathedrals could boast of as fine services as in any English place of worship. As yet the Catholics were only just emerging from the Catacombs. And, on August 1st, 1800, the royal assent was given to the iniquitous Act of Union, one effect of which was the disappearance from Dublin of the Lords and Commons—patrons of music and the drama.



[18] On June 24th, 1782, the Irish State Lottery was first drawn at the Opera House in Capel-street.

[19] On January 1st, 1779, John Lee, of Dublin, published the fourth edition of Carolan’s Old Irish Tunes, price, 3s. 9d., at No. 70, Eustace-street.

[20] On the site of Smock-alley Theatre stands the Church of SS. Michael and John, which was opened in 1815.

[21] For notices of both the Carters see the new edition of Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1904).

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About Gerard Hannan

Media Student at MIC/UL in Limerick, Ireland. Worked as a Broadcaster/Journalist in Limerick for over 25 Years and has also published four local interest books.

Posted on January 24, 2013, in History and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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