excerpt from 'Reminiscences of Michael Kelly' pp. 298-300 (531 words)

excerpt from 'Reminiscences of Michael Kelly' pp. 298-300 (531 words)

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Reminiscences of Michael Kelly

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urn:iso:std:iso:639:ed-3:eng

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298-300

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It was during the summer of [1787], that the commemoration of Handel took place. The last grand performances given at Westminster Abbey were on the 28th and 31st of May, the 1st and 4th of June : upon those four mornings, I sang there, but to give an idea of the effect of that magnificent festival is far beyond my power; indeed, it has already been described most elaborately by those more competent to the task. I can only endeavour to express the effect which it produced on me. When I first heard the chorus of the Hallelujah, in the " Messiah," and " For unto us a child is born," my blood thrilled with rapturous delight it was sublime ; it was, in the inspired words of the chorus, "Wonderful." The orchestra was led by the Cramers ; the conductors were Joah Bates, Esq. father of the present secretary of the Tax Office, Drs. Arnold and Dupuis. The band consisted of several hundreds of performers. The singers were Madame Mara, Storace, Miss Abrams, Miss Poole, Rubinelli, Harrison, Bartleman, Sale, Parry, Norris, myself, &c. and the choruses were collected from all parts of England, amounting to hundreds of voices. The King, Queen, and all the royal family sat opposite the orchestra ; the body of the church, the galleries, and every corner crowded with beauty, rank, and fashion : such was the rage to procure seats, that ladies had their hair dressed the night previous, to be ready to get to the Abbey in good time. The performers unanimously exerted their great talents to admiration; but what made an everlasting impression on me was, the powerful effect produced by Madame Mara, in the sublime recitative, " Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously ;" in that Her voice was heard around, Loud as a trumpet with a silver sound. I have often sung with her the recitative tenor part, "And Miriam the Prophetess took a timbrel in her hand;" and never heard her but with increased delight. No place could be more appropriate to give effect to the divine strains of Handel, than the spacious Abbey. His Majesty 's partiality for Handel's music was generally spoken of ; but I believe it was not universally known what an excellent and accurate judge he was of its merits. The fine chorus of " Lift up your heads, O ye gates," was always given in full chorus, and indeed intended to be so given by Handel. The King suggested that the first part of it should be made a semi-chorus, and sung only by the principal singers ; but when it came to the passage, " He is the King of Glory !" he commanded that the whole orchestra, with the full chorus, should, with a tremendous forte, burst out ; the effect produced by the alteration was awful and sublime. A strange coincidence happened at one of the performances: the morning, during part of the grand selection, was cloudy and lowering; but when the grand chorus struck up " Let there be light, and light was over all !" the sun burst forth, and with its rays illuminated every part of the splendid edifice. Every one was struck with the coincidence, and the effect produced by it.

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excerpt from 'Reminiscences of Michael Kelly' pp. 298-300 (531 words)

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