Fishamble Street echoes again to Handel's 'Messiah'

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MORE THAN 250 YEARS after one of the most cosmopolitan and flamboyant celebrities of the era conducted the world premiere of his most famous composition, the event was recreated on almost the exact same spot.

Our Lady’s Choral Society conducted by Proinnsías Ó Duinn, with guest soloist Ross Scanlon, and the National Sinfonia, performed the most popular sections of Handel’s Messiah, to an audience of upwards of 1,000 people on Fishamble Street in Dublin’s Temple Bar.

April 13th, 1742, was when George Frideric Handel performed the religious oratorio in Neal’s Musical Hall on Fishamble Street.

Some 258 years later the building is long gone, but the audience was probably much larger as they stood for an hour to hear the passionately sung excerpts. It was the main event of what has become known as Handel’s day, held in Dublin every year and organised by the Temple Bar Cultural Trust.

It was a delightful surprise for more than a few.

“It’s a miracle,” Alan Johnson from Yorkshire in England said.

Alan and his wife Margaret were in Dublin just for the day, having arrived on a cruise ship. They were heading towards Christ Church Cathedral, accidentally came across the performance and joined in with the singing.

“I learnt the words of the Messiahwhen I was 18 and have been singing it for 60 years,” said Margaret. Alan’s father and grandfather were professional singers, his uncle was a singer at the Cathedral of St John Divine in the New York, the couple’s youngest grandchild was born on Handel’s day and is called Frederick and their London flat is near the Foundling Museum where the original score of the Messiahnow resides.

Dubliner Barbara Slattery was equally enthralled. She had always intended to come along and finally made it this year. “It’s wonderful, it’s free and we need more of this.”

Dublin Lord Mayor Emer Costello described it as a “magical thing” which “shows the city off in a good light and shows the huge appetite for this type of cultural event”. Minister for Culture Mary Hanafin said: “Most people associate the Messiahwith Christmas, but now in April is the right time of year. It’s an Easter event.”

Ó Duinn gave a little history of Handel and his contemporary Bach, born just four weeks apart, not far from one another, but who never met. Handel came to Dublin after an invitation to perform some benefit concerts for the poor and sick.

At the time he was writing “another oratorio, which he had with him under his arm, nearly complete and he completed it here”, Ó Duinn told his attentive audience.

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