Harmony in the streets as sun shines for Handel


RAIN, FOREVER and ever. It was a thought on Dublin’s Fishamble Street yesterday afternoon as the bells of Christ Church rang loud while grey clouds gathered above and the crowds below.

“ . . . . forever and ever . . .” hummed an expectant spectator as the all-female Dublin Handelian orchestra tuned up on a sheltered stage while the Our Lady’s Choral Society and the Armagh choir waited on the street below, exposed as Lear, before the unpredictable elements.

A young man sat on a balcony above it all, a hood over his head against the April chill. A girl in a blanket joined him. A Dublin man, who did not wish to be named, had been there for all 21 performances of Our Lady’s Choral Society since 1992. It has been held in memory of the first performance of Handel’s Messiah there in 1742. “There’s about 20 left of the originals. I knew them all,” he said of the 1992 Our Lady’s Choral Society group.

Gráinne Miller of the Temple Bar Trust said how delighted they were to be part of the event with conductor the “irrepressible Proinnsias Ó Duinn”. She introduced Lord Mayor Andrew Montague when Christ Church got in the act with a single gong announcing 1pm. He spoke with pride of the fair city and its heritage “in which nothing is more important than Handel’s Messiah”. Fr Paul Ward, director of Our Lady’s Choral Society, reminded the crowds that the society had been there every April 13th for 21 years “through rain, snow and shine”.

He reminded people that at 1.30 this afternoon the choir would perform some of Handel’s most beautiful compositions in Adam and Eve’s Church on Merchant’s Quay. The concert will be free but donations will be accepted for Dublin’s homeless.

And he too introduced “the irrepressible” Ó Duinn, who referred to difficult times and said “if rain and snow didn’t stop us, finances won’t stop us either”. And the tenor sang “Thy rebuke hath broken my heart . . . ”.

The sun shone bringing welcome shadows. Ó Duinn explained how Handel had come to Dublin at the invitation of the then lord lieutenant and business men. That first performance of Messiah in Dublin made £400, he said, which was used to help the poor. “In those days the poor were jailed if they didn’t pay their debts,” he said. “And now it’s the rich who are being jailed.”

“Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron. Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel,” sang Andrew Boushell. Then it was time for Hallelujah. “And he shall reign forever and ever . . .” sang the hundreds, Hallelujah. . .” Soon Ó Duinn had the choir and onlookers throwing their arms to heaven with every Hallelujah. “Hallelujah in the sky,” he called. How they cheered at the end!