Audience gives a hand with Handel


While He may reign forever, at least the rain stayed away for today’s annual Handel’s Day celebrations in Dublin.

With overcast skies and the wind playing havoc with the National Sinfonia’s sheet music, Our Lady’s Choral Society with guest soloist Ross Scanlon took it in their stride as they lifted the hundreds of people packed along Fishamble Street with a rousing performance of highlights from Handel’s Messiah.

Georg Friedrich Handel first performed the piece in the now-defunct Musick Hall Theatre on almost the same spot on this day in 1742, and the “Messiah on the Street” has become an annual event in Dublin’s cultural calendar since 1992.

Proinnsías Ó Duinn - who has been conducting the Messiah since the 1960s - interspersed the hour-long performance with snippets of history from  Handel’s life. He told the crowd that in his day Handel would have as famous as Bono and had he written his piece today he would be a multi-millionaire.

With sections of the crowd joining in as the choir sang, the street was treated to a surround sound of Hallelujahs..

For the finale Mr Ó Duinn accused the crowd of being “too passive” and challenged them to count the number of times the word Hallelujah was mentioned in the chorus. To make the task simpler he asked both the crowd and the choir to do a “Jane Fonda workout” and raise their hands every time the word was sung.

The first 20 proved easy enough, but when sections of the choir broke into different harmonies, the task became more and more difficult as a sea of hands rising and falling added a visual effect to the music.

Later this evening Mr Ó Duinn and the choir will give a concert of another pieces of Handel’s works, Alexander’s Feast, in the Button Factory on Curved Street from 6.30pm. They will be accompanied by the National Sinfonia and soloists Colette Boushell (soprano) Chloe Hinton (alto) Ross Scanlon (tenor) and Jeffrey Ledwidge (bass).

Other events organised by the Temple Bar Cultural Trust for the day included historian Pay Liddy giving a walking tour of 18th-century Dublin with a history of Handel’s time in the city.

Children from Harold’s Cross National School joined the Tullamore Classical String School to perform some of Handel’s other works at Cow’s Lane this morning.