Panel at the Society for Musicology

The  meeting of the Society for Musicology in Ireland on 13 June heard  a panel contribution on material from Marsh’spresented by Dr Kerry Houston, DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama; Dr Triona O’Hanlon, a recent Research Fellow in Marsh’s; and Sue Hemmens, Deputy Keeper of Marsh’s.

The panel explored the role of the vicars’ choral of St Patrick’s and Christ Church Cathedrals in the dissemination of sacred and secular vocal repertoire in Dublin from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century. Apart from fulfilling their cathedral duties, various members of the Colleges’ of vicars’ choral participated in charity performances, held membership in music societies and were engaged as copyists by music organisations and institutions.

One of the Vicars Choral in the eighteenth century, John Matthews, became a major copyist at both St Patrick’s and Christ Church cathedrals.

Kerry Houston explored sources in Matthews’ hand for a verse anthem, Hear my prayer, by  the Salisbury composer, Thomas Norris, which are to be found in Dublin and Oxford. The links between these centres of musical activity and the exchange facilitated by the Vicars Choral were illustrated by this case study. One copy of this anthem is now held in Marsh’s, in a score book copied by Matthews.

Sue Hemmens described four score books copied by Matthews now held in Marsh’s Library, which travelled with him to successive posts in Winchester, Salisbury, Durham and, finally, Dublin. One of these is a score of Handel’s Messiah, which has been studied in detail for its record of variant performance practices. Matthews was meticulous about keeping accounts: payment details from the scores show the costs of copying and of binding the works (as in the image from the Messiah score shown here), and name the binders employed.

Triona O’Hanlon presented her research on the Hibernian Catch Club, which was founded by the Vicars Choral of both cathedrals. Still in existence today, it is thought to be Dublin’s oldest music society, dating back to c.1680. Hundreds of items of sheet music belonging to the Hibernian Catch Club are now held in Marsh’s, together with the records of the society, which show that the Club and its members facilitated the dissemination of works published and printed in London as well as that of works composed, published and printed in Dublin during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

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