Messiah continues to be the choir’s signature work. OLCS has the privilege of performing Messiah excerpts at the site where the oratorio premièred in 1742, as well as in the National Concert Hall of Ireland. For many people living in Dublin, Christmas does not begin until they have heard at least one performance of OLCS singing Messiah.
See our gallery of photos from past performances of Messiah in the Street and read about how it all came to pass below.
When the 250th anniversary of Messiah’s first performance came round in 1992, by Paul Kenny
When the 250th anniversary of Messiah’s first performance came round in 1992, I was very much aware that each year on the day April 13th, a Mr. Casey, one of the last remaining local residents of the area, whose house overlooked the site of “Mr. Neal’s Musick Hall,” would open his windows and play a recording of Messiah into the street below.
Having undertaken lots of research in preparation of the anniversary, I decided it was an occasion in the history of the city that should be properly marked. As a member of Our Lady’s Choral Society, who have presented the work annually to packed audiences since the choir’s foundation in 1945, I badgered, begged and pleaded with Proinnsías Ó Duinn, our Musical Director and at that time conductor of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, to bring the choir to Fishamble Street at 12.00 noon on the day, the time of the original performance, and at least let us sing the Hallelujah Chorus to mark the anniversary.
The choir enthusiastically got behind the idea and we arrived to find many hundreds if not nearer 2,000 people, mainly locals but also many visitors gathered to celebrate the event with us. We sang about 45 minutes of music from the score on this occasion, all choral excerpts. My dream was fulfilled and the event was a tremendous success. Little did I realize that it would still be happening 17 years later, but why not? It’s something of which we can be justly proud and we should celebrate.
The following year and the next, we were back, and again the audience gathered for what was becoming an annual event. After several years, the fledgling Temple Bar Properties took an interest and eventually took on the organizing of the event. In subsequent years, the original keyboard accompaniment has given way to a small instrumental ensemble, and each year since 2000 we have been joined by various soloists: Lynda Lee, Robin Tritschler, Eamonn Mulhall, Maria De Moel, Paul Byrom, and Emmanuel Lawler among others.
Our audience too has been faithful despite the often inclement weather, which can be so unpredictable. We’ve sung in glorious sunshine, cold winds, driving rain, hail and even snow on one occasion, but while our scores may have ended up a little on the soggy side, our spirits and hearts were filled with joy and pride, and “and he shall reign” has taken on another connotation on these occasions!
MESSIAH DAY, as it has come to be known, is now a fixture in the calendar of Our Lady’s Choral Society and of Temple Bar Cultural Trust. I am so delighted that what I had originally intended to be a once-off 250th-anniversary-day event in 1992 has continued and establish itself as an annual celebration marking the premiere of a work which is so beloved throughout the world but particularly so here in Dublin and which has guaranteed Dublin’s place in music history.
Paul Kenny, member of Our Lady’s Choral Society.