The Commemoration of 1784 was followed by similar meetings at the Abbey, with more performers, in 1785, 86, 87, and 91. In the latter year the performers are said to have numbered 1068, but that number was probably made up by inserting the names of persons who performed alternately with others, so that the numbers engaged in any one performance did not much exceed those on the former occasions.
Norris, and Corfe, tenors; Bellamy, Champness, Reinhold, Matthews, and Tasca, basses. The orchestra at the Pantheon consisted of 200 performers selected from those at the Abbey, and also included Signor Pacchierotti among the principal sopranos. The total receipts were £12,736 12s. 10d., and the total expenses £5,450 6s. 4d., leaving a surplus of £7,286 6s. 6d., which, after retaining £286 6s. 6d. to meet subsequent demands, was divided between the [App. p.665 "Royal"] Society of Musicians (£6,000), and the Westminster Hospital (£1,000). A mural tablet recording the event was placed in the Abbey above Handel's monument. In 1785 Dr. Burney published a quarto volume containing an Account of the Commemoration, with a Sketch of the Life of Handel, and plates, one of which repre sents his monument. In this the inscription is altered to support the assertion in the Life (made upon the alleged authority of Dr. Warren, who is asserted to have attended Handel in his last illness), that Handel died on Good Friday, April 13, and not on Saturday, April 14, 1759. Assuming Burney to have believed the unsupported statement of Dr. Warren, made 25 years after the event, in preference to the unanimous contemporary testimony to the contrary, still he could not but have been conscious that in putting forth that engraving of the monument he was circulating a misrepresentation. The matter is important, as Burney's date has been generally accepted, but it is too lengthy to be further entered upon here. The evidence proving Saturday, April 14, to be the true date may be seen stated in the Introduction to the Word Book of the Handel Festival, 1862, and Notes and Queries, 3rd Series, iii. 421 [App. p.665 "see p. 651b"].
[ W. H. H. ]
HANDEL FESTIVAL. In 1856 Mr. R. K. Bowley [see that name] conceived the idea of commemorating the genius of Handel on the centenary (in 1859) of his death by performing some of his works on a scale of unprecedented magnitude. On Sept. 1, 1856, he communicated his idea to the Committee of the Sacred Harmonic Society, by whom it was favourably received. No building in London being large enough to contain the necessary orchestra, the attention of the Society was directed towards the Central Transept of the Crystal Palace (of which they had already had experience in the performance of the music at the opening of the Palace, May 10, 1854) as the most likely place to answer the desired end. The Directors of the Crystal Palace Company entered warmly into the project, and it was determined to hold a preliminary festival in 1857. A large orchestra was accordingly erected, with a grand organ, built by Gray and Davison expressly for the occasion. With the chorus of the Society as a nucleus, a choir of upwards of 1200 picked singers was formed in London, which was supplemented by others from the principal towns in the United Kingdom until the whole numbered 2000. The band, similarly constituted, numbered 396. The meeting, under the title of 'The Great Handel Festival,' was held on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 15th, 17th, and 19th June, 1857, with a public rehearsal on the preceding Saturday. The sole direction of the musical arrangements was committed to the Society, the Company taking charge of the other arrangements. The oratorios of 'Messiah,' 'Judas Maccabeus,' and 'Israel in Egypt,' were performed, the principal singers including Clara Novello, Miss Dolby, Mr. Sims Reeves and Herr Formes, and the conductor being Mr. (now Sir Michael) Costa, as conductor of the Society.
This festival having established the fact that the Central Transept of the Palace might be made a fitting locality for the Commemoration in 1859, it took place under the same management, on the 20th, 22nd, and 24th June, 'Messiah' and 'Israel in Egypt' again occupying the first and third days, the second being devoted to 'The Dettingen Te Deum' and a selection from various works. The band was augmented to 460, and the chorus to upwards of 2,700 performers; Mr. Costa was conductor, and the principal singers included Clara Novello, Sims Reeves, and Signor Belletti. The orchestra was improved by inclosing it with wooden screens, and covering it in with an enormous awning of oiled and hardened canvas. The three performances and the public rehearsal were remarkably successful, and attracted 81,319 visitors.This success led to the determination that similar festivals should be held periodically under the name of the Triennial Handel Festival. Six [App. p.665 "Ten"] have been held, viz. in 1862, 1865, 1868, 1871, 1874, and 1877 [App. p.665 "1880, 1883, 1885 (the festival of 1886 being anticipated in order that it might coincide with the bi-centenary of the composer's birth) and 1888"]. The first and third days have invariably been occupied by 'Messiah' and 'Israel,' the intermediate days being devoted to varied selections, including 'The Dettingen Te Deum' in 1871; the Coronation Anthems, 'Zadok the Priest' (1865), and 'The king shall rejoice' (1877); and the First, Fourth, and Second Organ Concertos respectively in 1871, 1874, and 1877. The singers who appeared at these festivals were the most eminent then before the public. The Sacred Harmonic Society has been solely responsible for the performances, which have been all conducted by Sir M. Costa as the conductor of the Society [App. p.665 "down to 1880, after this date the festivals were conducted by Mr. Manns"]. The band was augmented in 1865 to 495 performers, and the chorus in 1874 to nearly 3,200. The sonority of the orchestra was increased by the erection in 1862 of a boarded roof covering in the whole space occupied by the performers, and extending 24 feet beyond the front.
[ W. H. H. ]