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Saint Cecilia's Hall in the Niddry Wynd
Chapter VI Various Accounts of the Old Edinburgh Concerts


We shall now search chronologically through contemporary and recent literature for allusions more or less direct to these old concerts, both those in St. Mary’s Chapel and those in St. Cecilia’s Hall.

I. Allan Ramsay in The City of Edinburgh’s Address to the Country (1716) thus alludes to the Musical Club:—

‘And others can with music make you gay,
With sweetest sounds Corelli’s art display,
While they around in suftest measures sing,
Or beat melodious solos from the string.’

Allan Ramsay has a poem, ‘To the Music Club’ (1721), which contains the following lines:—

‘While vocal tubes and comfort strings engage
To speak the dialect of the Golden Age,
Then you, whose symphony of souls proclaim
Your kin to heav’n, add to your country’s fame,
And show that music may have as good fate
In Albion’s Glen as Umbria’s green retreat,
And with Corelli’s soft Italian song,
Mix “Cowdcnknowes” and “Winter nights are long.”
Nor should the martial Pibroch be despised:
Own’d and refin’d by you, these shall the more be prized,
Each ravished ear extols your heavenly art
Which soothes our care and elevates the heart.’

The following; poem is full of local allusions, and is attributed to Allan Ramsay:—

AN EPISTLE TO JAMES OSWALD ON HIS LEAVING EDINBURGH
(From the Scots Magazine, October 1741.)

‘Dear Oswald, could my verse as sweetly flow
As notes thou softly touchest with the bow,
When all the circling fair attentive hing
On ilk vibration of thy trembling string,
I’d sing how thou wouldst melt our souls away
By solemn notes, or cheer us with the gay,
In verse as lasting as thy tune shall be,
As soft as thy new polish’d “Danton me.”
But wha can sing that feels wi’ sae great pain
The loss for which Edina sighs in vain?
Our concert now nae mair the ladies mind,
They’ve a’ forgot the gate to Niddery’s Wynd;
Nae mair the “Braes of Ballandine” can charm,
Nae mair can “Fortha’s Bank” our bosom warm,
Nae mair the “Northern Lass” attention draw,
Nor “ Pinky-house” gi’ place to “Alloa.”
Alas! no more shall thy gay tunes delight,
No more thy notes sadness or joy excite,
No more thy solemn bass’s awful sound
Shall from the Chapel’s vaulted roof rebound.
London, alas ! which aye has been our bane,
To which our very loss is certain gain,
If they thy value know as well as we,
Perhaps our vanished gold may flow to thee.’

II. Mackay in his Journey through Scotland3 writes of the concert, and says he was at several1 consorts in Edinburgh, ’and declares that he had never seen in any country an assembly of greater beauties.’ This journey was made in 1723.

Mackay was, apparently, a better judge of good looks than of good music, but he could have been no judge at all of spelling.

III. Maitland’s Account of the Origin of the Musical Society of Edinburgh.

Maitland is talking of St. Mary’s Chapel in the Niddry Wynd:—

‘At present it is the hall belonging to the Wrights and Masons, and the upper part is employed by the Musical Society, who hold their weekly concerts therein, of which erection I shall subjoin the following account.

‘Certain gentlemen of this city having in the year 1728 proposed to erect a Musical Society in Edinburgh for the diversion of themselves and friends, the motion was so well approved of that it was readily agreed to by a number of lovers of harmony, who, forming themselves into a fraternity, met and agreed on the following regulations for their better government.

‘At Edinburgh, the 29th March 1728, we, the members of the Musical Society held weekly in Mary’s Chapel in Niddry’s Wynd, either now subscribing or who shall subscribe on or before the second Wednesday of June next, being resolved for our mutual diversion and entertainment to continue the same and to render it perpetual, have agreed and do hereby agree to assemble ourselves weekly in the said place for the performance of concerts of music as we have already done for these twelve months past, under the following articles and regulations which are hereby declared to be the fundamental laws of the Society to which we do respectfully submit:—

“(1) That the Society shall consist of a number of members not exceeding seventy, unless it shall afterwards appear necessary in a general meeting to increase the number.

“(2) That for the preservation of order and the management of the affairs of the Society there shall be a governor, deputy-governor, treasurer, and five directors elected in a general meeting of the subscribers hereby appointed to be held upon the second Wednesday of June next ensuing at five o’clock in the afternoon, in the hall, and afterwards to be annually elected in general meetings of the Society hereby appointed to be held at the same place and at the same hour upon every second Wednesday of June yearly thereafter, and that the said election shall proceed by way of ballot.

“(3) That upon the second Wednesday of June ensuing, in the said first general meeting and every general meeting yearly thereafter, before proceeding to the election of the said officers of the Society, every member shall pay a guinea into the hands of Mr. Robert Lumisden, our present cashier, or into the hands of the treasurer for the time being, towards defraying the annual charge of the Society and the augmenting its stock.

“(4) That a book shall be kept wherein shall be recorded the minutes of procedure in the said general meetings, and likewise the matters which shall occur in the ordinary course of administration of the governor and directors, which, being fairly entered into the said book, shall be duly signed by the governor or deputy-governor, and four of the directors hereby appointed to be a quorum.

“(5) That the Society, being thus regularly constituted with a governor and directors, shall after the said first general meeting proceed to consider the requests of those who desire to be received and admitted as members of the Society, and that the question ‘ Admit or not ’ shall be determined in a meeting consisting of the governor or deputy-governor and quorum of directors and fifteen members, by the majority of voices declared after the manner of ballot. That the member admitted shall pay into the hands of the treasurer a guinea to serve as his contribution for that year wherein he enters, and that a record of such admission and payment shall be duly entered :ito the book of the Society, and signed as aforesaid.

“(6) And to the end that the yearly contribution of the members may be paid regularly and without trouble to the treasurer, every member neglecting to pay the same as directed by the third article, shall eo ipso not only forfeit all right in the Society, and be no longer deemed a member thereof, but is hereby declared to be :ncapable of being again received as a member upon any after application, unless he shall justify such a cause of admission as excuses him from the apparent contempt, and may induce the Society to admit him anew, according to the fifth article, upon payment of such additional contribution as to the meeting assembled for his re-admission shall seem fit.

“(7) That a concert of musick shall be performed every Friday during the time of session, which shall begin precisely at six o’clock in the afternoon in summer, and at half an hour after five in the winter.

“(8) That there shall be no dividend made of any money arising from the yearly contributions or otherwise, without the consent of the governor and directors and two thirds of the members.

“(9) That it shall belong to the governor and directors to appoint concerts for the entertainment of the ladies at such times as they shall think proper; that the tickets by which the ladies are to be admitted shall be issued by the treasurer, not exceeding the number of sixty (except on the Feast of St. Cecilia), to be purchased from the treasurer by the members of the Society alone, at the rate of half a crown each, upon the Wednesday immediately preceding the concert, and if any are to be returned it shall only be on the day-following, before one o’clock in the afternoon.

“(10) That the management of every matter and thing, whether touching the performance of musick or the execution of the rules and orders of the Society contained either in these articles, or found afterwards convenient to be agreed to for the better government of the Society, shall be the province of the governor and directors.

“(11) That the treasurer shall fit his accompts yearly with the governor and directors some time in the month of March.

“(12) That the governor, deputy-governor, and directors shall have the privilege of inviting one or two of their acquaintances to share of the musick performed in the said concerts other than those to which ladies happen to be invited, to which none but members are to be admitted, unless in some very particular case it shall appear reasonable to the governor and directors to allow of the same.”

Maitland continues:—‘The above contract and articles are subscribed by the seventy members aforesaid. This Society was so highly approved of, that many persons of distinction applied to be admitted members. But the place of meeting not being capacious enough to admit a great number, a few years after the erection of the Society, thirty persons were admitted, whereby the members were increased to one hundred in number, who continue to meet as aforesaid to divert themselves and friends in the most agreeable and delightful manner with both vocal and instrumental musick by a number of the best performers.’

Such is Maitland’s account of the origin of an essentially amateur society, destined to wield by its distinguished patronage a most important influence over Scottish music to the end of the eighteenth century.

By the kindness of Mr. R. A. Marr, C-A., the well-known historian of the rise of choral societies in Scotland, we are enabled to publish a complete list of the members of the Musical Society of Edinburgh at a time when its constitution may be taken as quite typical (1775)-

Mr. Marr, in sending us this very rare pamphlet, w.ites:—‘The list as a record of names prominent in Edinburgh society of that period is a very complete and useful one.’

We reproduce it as Appendix No. III.

IV. Dr. Tobias Smollett on the Edinburgh Concert (1756).

There is, indeed, no elaborate reference in Humphry Clinker to the Musical Society of Edinburgh, but a quite unequivocal allusion to it occurring in one of the letters from Edinburgh is interesting.

It is dated ‘Edinburgh, August 8th,’ and 1756 is, as we know from other sources, the date of Smollett’s visit:-it is addressed to ‘Sir Watkin Phillips, Bart., of Jesus College, Oxon,’ and contains the following:— ‘ All the diversions of London we enjoy at Edinburgh in a small compass. Here is a well-conducted Concert, in which several gentlemen perform on different instru ments. The Scots are all musicians. Every man you meet plays on the flute, the violin, or the violoncello, and there is one nobleman whose compositions are universally admired.1

‘Our company of actors is very tolerable, and a subscription is now afoot for building a theatre, but their assemblies please me above all other public exhibitions.’

V. The Account in Defoe's ‘Tour Through Great Britain'

Daniel Defoe, sent to Scotland by Godolphin to further secretly or by any means in his power the union between England and Scotland, resided in Edinburgh on several occasions between 1706 and 1712. Defoe died in London on the 26th of April 1731, thirty-one years before St. Cecilia’s Hall was built, and yet there is an allusion to it in a work associated with Defoe’s name, the title of which is ‘A Tour through the whole Island of Great Britain, originally begun by the celebrated Daniel Defoe, continued by the late Mr. Richardson, author of Clarissa, and brought down to the present time by a gentleman of eminence in the literary world.’ Four volumes, London, 1769.

Leslie Stephen in his life of Defoe 2 gives the date of Defoe’s ‘ Tour as 1724 to 1726, so that it is quite clear the description of the hall is not by Defoe, but probably by the ‘gentleman of eminence in the literary world.’ It occurs ir. a letter dated 1768, and is as follows :—

‘The new concert-hall (built about three years ago) is an elegant room of an elliptical form, with a concave ceiling and a large skylight in the centre. From the ceiling depend seven handsome branches filled with wax lights. It is most commodiously fitted up with seats rising gradually above each other, and seems (upon the whole) one of the best calculated rooms for music that is (perhaps) to be met with in Britain. The roof, however, is thought to be rather too low, and the room is more warm than is agreeable in summer.’

VI. Captain Topham's Account.

The following is from the Letters from Edinburgh of a Captain Topham, an Englishman who resided in Edinburgh in 1774 and 1775 for a period of six months. He writes :—

‘One of the principal entertainments in Edinburgh is a concert which is sapported by subscription, and under the direction of a governor, deputy-governor, treasurer, and five directors, who procure some of the best performers from other countries, and have a weekly concert in an elegant room which they have built for that purpose, and which is styled St. Cecilia’s Hall. It is rather too confined, but in every other respect the best accommodated to music of any room I ever was in. The figure of it is elliptical, and the roof is vaulted, and a single instrument is heard in it with the greatest possible advantage. The managers of the concert have a certain number of tickets to distribute to their friends, so that none are admitted but the people of fashion.

Though the band is a good one in general, yet I cannot say much of the vocal performers. The natives of this country are not remarkable for their abilities in singing, and except in a few of the real Scotch tunes, I have never met with a voice that had either compass or an agreeable tone. But in order to make up this defiri-ency in their own countrymen, the managers take care to have some of the best singers from London and Italy.

‘At present they have some tolerably good ones, who are not quite so admired as a Gabrielli or a Tenducci would be,— the latter of whom, before he fled from Great Britain, resided here a considerable time, and was one cause of introducing that rage for Italian music which is now so predominant.

‘Indeed, the degree of attachment which is shown to music in general :n this country exceeds belief. It is not only the principal entertainment, but the constant topic of every conversation ; and it is necessary not only to be a lover of it, but to be possessed of a knowledge of the science, to make yourself agreeable to society. In ain may a man of letters, whose want of natural faculties has prevented him from understanding an art from which he could derive no pleasure, endeavour to introduce other matters of discourse, however entertaining in their nature : everything must give place to music.

‘Music alone engrosses every idea. In religion a Scotchman is grave and abstracted, in politics serious and deliberate : it is in the power of harmony alone to make him an enthusiast. What a misfortune, it is to the country, and how trifling does it appear to a stranger, to find so many philosophers, professors of science, and respectable characters disputing on the merits of an Italian fiddle and the preciseness of a demi-quaver, while poetry, painting, architecture, and theatrical amusements, whose province it is to instruct as well as to amuse, here couch beneath the dominion of an air or a ballad, which at best were only invented to pass away a vacant hour or ease the mind from more important duties.’

VII. Hugo Arnofs Account.*

We give it in full:—

‘Oftht Concert.—The Musical Society of Edinburgh, whose weekly concerts form one of the most elegant entertainments of that metropolis, -was first instituted in the year 1728.

‘Before that time several gentlemen, performers on the harpsichord and violin, had formed a weekly club at the Cross Keys tavern (kept by one Steil, a great lover of musick and a good singer of Scots songs), where the common entertainment consisted in playing the concertos and sonatas of Corelli, then just published, and the overtures of Handel.

‘That meeting becoming numerous, they instituted in March 1728 a society of seventy members, for the purpose of holding a weekly concert. A governor, deputy-governor, treasurer, and five directors are annually chosen by the members for regulating the affairs of this Society. Its meetings have been con tinued since that period much on the same plan, only the place where they are held has been changed from St. Mary’s Chapel to their own hall. These meetings are only interrupted during three or four weeks of the vacation, in the months of September and October.

‘The present concert-hall, which is situated in a centrical part of the town, was built a.d. 1762. Tne plan was drawn by Sir Robert Mylne, architect of Blackfriars-bridge, after the model of the great opera-theatre at Parma, but on a smaller scale, and the expense was defrayed by voluntary subscription among the members.

‘The musical room is reckoned uncommonly elegant. It is of an oval form, the ceiling a concave elliptical dome, lighted solely from the top by a lanihorn. Its construction is excellently adapted for music; and the seats ranged in the room in the form of an amphitheatre, besides leaving a large area in the middle of the room, are capable of containing a company of about five hundred persons. The orchestre is at the upper end, which is handsomely terminated by an elegant organ.

‘The band consists of a maestro di capella, an organist, two violins, two tenors, six or eight rifitnos, a double or contra base, and harpsichord; and occasionally two French horns, besides kettledrums, flutes, and clarinets. There is always one good singer, and there are sometimes two, upon the establishment.

‘A few years ago the celebrated Tenducci was at the head of this company. The principal foreign masters at present in the service of the Musical Society are: first violin, Signor Puppo; second, Signor Corri; violoncello, Schetky; singers, Signor and Signora Corri. All of these are excellent in their different apartments. They have salaries from the Society according to their respective merits.

‘Besides an ordinary concert, in honour of St. Cecilia, the patroness of music, there are usually performed in the course of the year two or three of Handel’s oratorios. That great master gave this Society the privilege of having full copies made for them of all his manuscript oratorios.

‘An occasional concert is sometimes given upon the death of a governor or director. This is conducted in the manner of a concerto spirituals. The pieces are of sacred music, the symphonies accompanied with the full organ, French horns, clarinets, kettledrums. Upon these occasions the audience is in deep mourning, wh’ch, added to the pathetic solemnity of the music, has a noble and striking effect upon the mind.’ (One of these funeral concerts—which have certainly no present day equivalent—we have alluded to on p. 154. This was the one in memory of Lord Drummore, given on the 27th of June 1755, the whole company being dressed in the deepest mourning. By the kindness of Mr. Marr we have been enabled to reproduce the title-page of the programme, or, as we would now say, ‘book of words,’issued for this funeral concert, which precious relic is part of Mr. Marr’s valuable musical collection.)

‘The music generally performed is a proper mixture of the modern and ancient style. The former, although agreeable to the prevailing taste, is not allowed to debar the amusement of those who find more pleasure in the old compositions. In every plan there are one or tw o pieces of Corelli, Handel, or Geminiani.

‘Among the number of members, which is now increased to two hundred, there are many excellent performers who take their parts in the orchestra especially in extraordinary concerts, where sometimes

FUNERAL CONCERT
Performed by The GENTLEMEN of
THE
MUSICAL SOCIETY
Of EDINBURGH,
On the DEATH of
The Lord DRUMMORE,
Their GOVERNOR.
27th JUNE, MDCCLV.

a whole act is performed solely by the gentlemen-members.

‘Formerly some of the members of this Society instituted a catch-club which met after the concert. On the great concert in honour of St. Cecilia the governor and directors were in use to invite a few of their friends and strangers of fashion to an entertainment of this kind after the concert, where select pieces of vocal music were performed intermingled with Scots songs, duets, catches, and glees. There were many excellent voices in the catch-club who sung each their part at sight, and the easy cheerfulness which reigned in this select society rendered their meetings delightful.

‘When the Prince of Hesse was in Scotland in 174546, his Highness and several of the nobility were elegantly entertained by Lord Drummore, then Governor of the Musical Society, and the gentlemen of the catch-club. The prince was not only a dilettante, but a good performer on the violoncello. The Scots songs and English catches were to him a new and an agreeable entertainment.

‘The selection of company which for some years gave high spirit and repute to this joyous and convivial club by degrees relaxed: it of course became numerous and expensive, and at last broke up.

‘Company are admitted to the entertainments of the concert by special tickets which are not transferable, which serve for the night only upon which they are granted; and in the admission, which is always gratis, except at the benefit concerts given for the emolument of performers, a preference is constantly shown to strangers.

‘By a uniform adherence to the spirit and rules of the Society, and strict economy in the management of their funds, the Musical Society has subsisted these fifty years with great honour and reputation, and at present it is esteemed one of the most elegant and genteel entertainments conducted upon the most moderate expense of any in Britain.’

In the appendix to his History, Arnot says that in 1763 the concert began at six o’clock in the evening, and in 1783 at seven o’clock: finally a compromise was made, and 6.30 was the hour fixed on. Arnot writes:—"The barbarous custom of “ saving the ladies,” as it was called, after St. Cecilia's concerts, by the gentlemen drinking immoderately to “save’’ his favourite lady, is now given up—indeed they got no thanks for their absurdity.’

Chambers describes this custom. It was merely a particular form of toast-drinking in which a man, challenged as to the charms of his ‘lady,’ dranK deeper to her in the next toast, and so ‘ saved ’ her (by damning himself, as our friends the teetotalers would tell us).

VIII. Kincaid’s Account of the Hall.

Kincaid, the well known Edinburgh printer of Bibles —as printer to the King in Scotland—has left us a brief, but not wholly accurate, account of St. Cecilia’s. He wrote in 1787, and his words are :—

‘Concert Hall.—This, otherwise called St. Cecilia’s Hall, was built in 1762 under the direction of Sir Robert Mylne, architect of Blackfriars Bridge, after the model of the opera theatre of Parma. The building stands on the east side of Niddry’s Wynd, near the Cowgate, and will now be close by the same side of the South Bridge. The room is excellently adapted for music, being oval, having a concave ceiling of the same form; the seats are ranged round the room in such a manner as to leave a large area in the middle. The orchestre is at one end, and has an elegant organ.’ tively small oval light in the centre of the oval ceiling, like the single eye of a cyclops.

‘The amount of light introduced into the room by this one vertical light, like the Pantheon at Rome, is remarkable. It is impossible to contemplate this room without concluding that he was an artistic and original man who designed it.

X. In a work published in 1829, dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, Bart., and possessed of the following ponderous title—‘Modern Athens, displayed in a Series of Views: or Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century, exhibiting the whole of the modern improvements, antiquities, and picturesque scenery of the Scottish Metropolis and its Environs, from original drawings by Mr. Thomas H. Shepherd, with historical, topographical, and critical illustrations11—St. Cecilia’s Hall is thus briefly alluded to :—

‘In 1728 a Musical Society was instituted in Edinburgh for weekly concerts, and this not only gave encouragement to the science, but created amateurs and professors. At first this Society assembled in St. Mary’s Chapel, but increasing in number and property, “ The Gentleman’s Concert,” as then called, built a hall in 1762 in imitation of the opera-theatre at Paris. Mr. Robert Mylne, the architect of Blackfriars Bridge, 1 London: Jones and Co., Finsbury Square, 1829.

London, was engaged to design the building. The great music-room was of an oval shape, lighted from the centre of a concave elliptical dome, and the seats were arranged amphitheatrically to accommodate an auditory of about five hundred persons. For some years this was a strictly private society, and visitors were admitted by complimentary tickets.’ (It would be charitable to believe that ‘Paris’ is a misprint for ‘Parma’: Peebles would have been quite as near the truth.)

XI. Lord Cockburn on St. Cecilia's Hall

‘For example, St. Cecilia’s Hall was the only public resort of the musical, and besides being our most selectly fashionable place of amusement, was the best and most beautiful concert-room I have ever yet seen, and there have I myself seen most of our literary and fashionable gentlemen predominating with their side-curls and frills and ruffles and silver buckles; and our stately matrons stiffened in hoops and gorgeous satin, and our beauties with high-heeled shoes, powdered and pomatomed hair, and lofty and composite head-dresses, —all this in the Cowgate, the last retreat nowadays of destitution and disease. The building still stands, though raised and changed, and is looked down upon from the South Bridge, over the eastern side of the 1 Memorials of My Time, p. 29.

Cowgate arch. When I last saw it, it seemed to be partly an old clothesman’s shop and partly a brazier’s.’ In the Journal} when enumerating the places of entertainment in Edinburgh in the end of last century, Lord Cockburn says :—‘St. Cecilia’s Hall, the concert-room in the Cowgate, which, when it was built in 1762, deserved the praise of Arnot for being “ situated in a centrical part of the town,”’ etc. etc.

In Grant’s Old and New Edinburgh the description is substantially that by Arnot and by George Thomson: the former we have quoted verbatim, and the latter we now proceed similarly to reproduce.

XII. George Thomson thus describes the scene of many of his happiest hours:—

‘The concerts of St. Cecilia’s Hall formed one of the most liberal and attractive amusements that any city in Europe could boast of. The hall was built on purpose at the foot of Niddry’s Wynd by a number of public-spirited noblemen and gentlemen, and the expense of the concerts was defrayed by about two hundred subscribers paying two or three guineas each annually; and so respectable was the institution considered, that upon the death of a member there were generally several applications for the vacancy, as is now ihe case with the Caledonian Hunt. The concerts were managed by a governor and a set of six or more directors, who engaged the performers—the principal ones from Italy, one or two from Germany, and the rest of the orchestra was made up of English and native artists.

‘The concerts were given weekly during most of the time that I attended, the instrumental music consisting chiefly of the concertos of Corelli and Handel and the overtures of Bach, Abel, Stamitz, Vanhall, and latterly of Haydn and Pleyel; for at that time, and till a good many years after, the magnificent symphonies of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, which now form the most attractive portions of all public concerts, had not reached this country. Those truly grand symphonies do not seem likely to be superseded by any similar compositions for a century to come, transcending so immensely as they do all the orchestral compositions that ever before appeared. Yet I must not venture to prophesy, when I bear in mind what a powerful influence fashion and folly exercise upon music as well as upon other objects of taste.

‘When the overtures and quartetts of Haydn first found their way into this country, I well remember with what coldness the former were received by most of the grave Handelians, while at the theatres they gave delight.

‘The vocal department of our concerts consisted chiefly of the songs of Handel, Arne, Gluck, Sarti, Jornelli, Guglielmi, Paisiello, Scottish songs, etc.; and every year generally we had an oratorio of Handel performed with the assistance of a principal bass and a tenor singer and a few chorus singers from the English Cathedrals, together with some Edinburgh amateurs who cultivated that sacred and sublime music, Signor and Signora Domenico Corri, the latter our prima donna, singing most of the principal songs or most interesting portion of the music. On such occasions the hall was always crowded to excess by a splendid assemblage including all the beauty and fashion of our city.

‘A supper to the directors and their friends at Fortune’s Tavern generally followed the oratorio, where the names of the chief beaut'es who had graced the hall were honoured by their healths being drunk. . . .

‘The hall, built in 1762 from a design of Mr. Robert Milne after the model of the great opera-theatre of Parma, was an exact oval, having a concave elliptical ceiling, and was remarkable for the clear and perfect conveyance of sounds without responding echoes, as well as for the judicious manner in which the seating was arranged. In this last respect, I have seen no concert-room equal to it either in London or Paris.

‘The orchestra was erected at the upper end of the hall opposite to the door of entrance ; a portion of the area in the centre or widest part was without any seats, and served as a small promenade where friends could chat together during the interval of performance. The seats were all fixed down on both sides of the hall, and each side was raised by a gradual elevation from the level area backward, the rows of seats behind each other, till they reached a passage a few feet broad that was carried quite round the hall behind the last of the elevated seats so that when the audience was seated each half of it fronted the other—an arrangement much preferable to that commonly adopted of placing all the seats upon a level behind each other, for thus the whole company must look one way and see each other’s backs.

‘A private staircase at the upper end of the hall, not seen by the company, admitted the musicians into the orchestra, in the front of which stood a harpsichord with the singers and the principal violoncellist, and behind these, on a platform a little elevated, were the violins and other stringed and wind instruments, just behind which stood a noble organ. The hall when filled contained an audience of about four hundred. No money was taken for admission, tickets being given gratis to the lovers of music and to strangers.’

XIII. Sir Daniel Wilson, in the last edition (1891) of his Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time, thus speaks of St. Cecilia’s:—

‘Only six years before the commencement of the works beyond the North Loch, Sir Robert Mylne was employed to furnish the designs for St. Cecilia’s Hall in the Cowgate. It was built after the model of the great Theatre Farnese at Parma, and though now long deserted by the votaries of St. Cecilia, it was admirably adapted for the purposes of a concert-room, its oval form and elliptical ceiling, as well as the skilful arrangement of the seats, uniting to convey every note clearly and distinctly to the auditors. In this respect the great Music Hall of the New Town is decidedly inferior, notwithstanding the lapse of ahove eighty years since the building of St. Cecilia’s Hall, and the great attention devoted in the interval to the practical application of acoustics in architecture.’

Such are the descriptions of these bygone concerts; but it must not be imagined that the old hall was used for no other purpose than for the concerts of. the * Musical Society of Edinburgh.’

A study of old Edinburgh records clearly shows that St. Cecilia’s Hall in the Niddry Wynd, although the property of the governors and directors, was used for the following different kinds of concert or gathering:—

1. The St. Cecilia Concert of the Musical Society, usually on a Friday evening at 6 p.m.1 To this concert the public, as such, were not admitted; the members needed no tickets, they went ex officus, but each member (and all? the members were men—see Appendix III.) could obtain ladies’ tickets by applying for them personally or by written order.

Any member of the Musical Society could intro duce a guest of his own or some distinguished person visiting the town.

Such an announcement as the following has reference to this regular and, as it were, statutory concert of the great amateur society :—

Edinburgh Evening Courant, February 13th, 1768.

‘The gentlemen of the Musical Society have appointed St. Cecilia’s Concert to be held on Friday, 19th inst., beginning at six o’clock in the evening. The members will please call for ladies' tickets at the usual place on Thursday.’

2. A concert held on some special occasion either to honour some individual or in commemoration of some high office-bearer in the Musical Society—as, for instance, that on St. Cecilia’s Day, November 22nd, or a funeral concert.

3. An oratorio, usually of Handel’s: thus Edinburgh Evening Courant, July 30th, 1768:—‘The gentlemen of the Musical Society have appointed an Oratorio to be performed on Friday, 15th August next, in St. Cecilia’s Hall. The members will please to call on Thursday for tickets at the usual place. Each member can only have two ladies’ tickets, and none will be given out but to a member himself or to his signed order.’

4. Concerts ‘by order’ of the governors and directors of the Musical Society—for instance, a concert of Tendueci’s on February 28th, 1769. These were concerts arranged by some musician, and the other professional musicians who took part did so as engaged by him, and not as officially belonging to the orchestra or in the pay of the Musical Society.

5. Benefit concerts for some distinguished professional musician. These were either ‘ by authority ’ or ‘by permission ’ of the governors and directors of the Musical Society.

6. Concerts ‘ by particular desire of several persons of distinction,’ who .may or may not have been members of the Musical Society—for instance, Tenducci’s on May 25th, 1768. This may be looked on as a St. Cecilia concert to which the public were admitted.

7. Concerts got up by some individual and held in St. Cecilia’s Hall, in the announcements of which there is no mention whatever of the Musical Society. The use of the hall, probably rented, must have been privately arranged for by the musician giving the concert.

As examples of this class of concert:—

Edinburgh Evetmig Courant', January 9th, 1768.

‘On Tuesday, 26th inst., Signor Arrigoni’s concert will be given in St. Cecilia’s Hall, Niddry’s Wynd. Tickets 2s. 6d., at Bremner’s music-shop. To com mence at 5 p.m.’

And the following :—

‘On December 17th, 1768, Mr. Gilson’s vocal and instrumental concert in St. Cecilia’s Hall is annopnced for December 20th. Tickets 2s. 6d., it Balfour’s coffee-house and Bremner’s music-shop.’

For concerts of classes three to seven the public could purchase tickets.

At some of these concerts many, probably all, the artistes in the town at the time would contribute something, as at ‘Mr. Thomson’s Concert,’ advertised on January 4th, 1769, when Tenducci, Madame Doria, and Mr. Gilson all assisted as vocalists, and when an overture by Lord Kelly, with clarionets, hautbois, German flutes, French horns, and kettledrums, was performed.

8. An occasional lecture, it would seem, was given in the old concert-hall, just as nowadays a conrert-room is sometimes used for purposes other than musical. The Edinburgh Evening Courant of March 27th, 1769, announces:—‘By particular permission, on Thursday, 30th March inst., Mr. Stayley will deliver a public lecture on the Art of Reading, with several pieces of music by the Principle (sic) performers, at 7 p.m. Tickets 2s. 6d.’

9. Meetings of the ‘ Ladies’ Academy ’: to this the following refers :—Edinburgh Evening Courant, November 21st, 1768:—‘On Monday next will be the second meeting of the Ladies’ Academy at St. Cecilia’s, and by desire of the governess will begin precisely at 12 o’clock. Subscribers’ tickets to be got of Mr. Tenducci. The next tickets are red, and no other tickets will be admitted but of that colour.’

Anything relating to the musical instruments of the place we welcome, especially after so long an interval. The organ mentioned several times by contemporary writers is thus alluded to by Sir John Graham Dalzell in his book on music in Scotland :1—

‘There was an organ in the Concert Hall in 1765, whereon, at the benefit of Doria, that musician was to perform a solo with a pastorale. An organ reckoned good in its time served many years there for performances: it was transferred to the Assembly Rooms, George Street, about the year 1800, and it was finally taken down to be employed, as far as might be, in other instruments seven or eight years ago.’


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