The sublime, the grand, and the tender

Having recently attended a production of Handel’s Messiah, this snippet is a little background to one of the world’s most famous and recognisable oratorios.

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) wrote his Messiah in just 24 days, between 22nd August and 14th September 1741. It’s first performance was in Dublin on 13th April 1742. The venues was Neal’s Music Hall on Fishamble Street, a room which was designed to hold 600 people. However, anticipating the performance’s popularity, the announcement in Faulkner’s Dublin Journal ran:

The stewards of the Charitable Musical Society request the favour of the Ladies not to come with Hoops this day,’ and that ‘Gentlemen are desired to come without their swords.’

On 17th April, the Faulkner’s Dublin Journal printed the following:

On Tuesday last Mr Handel’s Sacred Grand Oratorio, the MESSIAH, was performed at the New Musick-Hall in Fishamble Street; the best judges allowed it to be the most finished piece of Musick. Words are wanting to express the exquisite Delight it afforded in the admiring crowded Auditorum. The Sublime, the Grand and the Tender; adapted to the most elevated, majestic and moving Words, conspired to transport and charm the ravished Heart and Ear. It is but Justice to Mr Handel, that the World should know, he generously gave the Money arising from this Grand Performance to be equally shared by the Society for relieving Prisoners, the Charitable Infirmary, and Mercer’s Hospital, for which they will ever gratefully remember his name.

The Messiah was performed over 56 times in England between 1743 and Handel’s death in 1759. King George II, who attended one performance, was so moved by the Hallelujah Chorus that he rose to his feet with the surrounding audience following suit. A tradition which persists in England to this day.

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