ALTHOUGH GEORGE Friederich Handel’s Messiah is one of the most universally loved of all choral works, its popularity has an extra intensity in Ireland as the country feels a certain ownership of it.
Messiah was first performed in Dublin, following a series of concerts organised by Handel in December 1741 and February and March 1742 at the Great Music Hall, Fishamble Street.
The success of the events encouraged the composer to hold a charity concert, in April, where he intended to present Messiah. The Mercer’s Hospital, and the Charitable Infirmary, and prisoners' debt relief were to benefit from the money raised by the shows.
Messiah, which tells the story of Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection, was premiered on April 13 and performed by St Patrick’s and Christ Church cathedral choirs with soloists Christina Maria Avoglio and Susannah Cibber.
Some 700 people attended and in order to ensure everyone had a seat and some comfort, men were requested to remove their swords, and women were asked not to wear hoops in their dresses. The performance earned rave reviews from the press, while a Dublin clergyman, Rev Delaney, was so overcome by Susanna Cibber’s singing he leapt to his feet and said: “Woman, for this be all thy sins forgiven thee!”
Messiah was the first work performed by the much loved Galway institution The Galway Baroque Singers. The choir was founded by conductor Audrey Corbett following many requests to perform Handel’s celebrated work. The Corrib Singers, along with members of Cois Cladaigh and the St Augustine’s Choir, came together to perform the work in December 1983 and so popular was the event, they did it again the following year, and from this The Galway Baroque Singers came into existence.
To mark the GBS’s 30th anniversary, the singers and musical director Audrey Corbett, will perform Messiah in Galway Cathedral on Friday December 20 at 8pm. The choir will be joined by the National Sinfonia Orchestra with conductor Proinnsias O’Duinn. The guest soloists are Colette Boushell (soprano ), Paula Murrihy (alto ), Andrew Boushell (tenor ), and Jeffrey Ledwidge (bass ).
Tickets are €20/15 from Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop, Middle Street.