It is highly natural
to look to the period immediately following the restoration of the
Stuarts in order to find the first mention of such a thing as a
concert in Edinburgh; nor are we surprised to discover that it is in
the Palace of Holyrood, and there in the tennis-court by the
Watergate, that both the drama and the concert of the Scottish
metropolis may be said to have taken origin.
It is almost certain that, previously to the arrival of the Duke of
York in 1679 as Commissioner from King Charles 11. to his Scottish
Parliament, theatrical representations had taken place under royal
patronage in this same tennis-court of Holyrood.
VIi., in 1592, certainly permitted an English company of actors sent
to Scotland by Queen Elizabeth to play here; and there are some who
contend that on their visit in 1601, Shakespeare himself was a
member of this company, which included his friend Burbage, and that
therefore, in all probability, Shakespeare acted along with him in
this very place. There are descriptions in Macbeth explicable only
on the supposition that Shakespeare did actually in his flesh see
portions of Perthshire and Elgin. This company went to Perth, and
some maintain it travelled even further north.
These were, of course, not by any means the first courtly revels
that Holyrood had seen, for Queen Mary had got up a masked ball in
which, to the everlasting scandalisation of her subjects, some of
the ladies of the household had appeared in complete male costume.
This, no doubt, was dramatic, but not ‘legitimate drama.1 The Duke
and Duchess of York (Mary d’Este) and their daughter Anne (the Lady
or Princess Anne, later Queen Anne) were in the habit of acting
along with the household such pieces as Dryden’s Indian Emperor and
The Spanish Friar in the tennis-court, no doubt in presence of the
nobility and gentry who at that time constituted the society of
Edinburgh and Canongate.
Dryden himself notices the emigration to Edinburgh of certain lights
in the literary and artistic world when he says :—
‘Our brethren have from Thames to Tweed departed, To Edinburgh gone,
or washed or carted.’
In addition to plays, concerts seem to have been given, if not in
the tennis-courtj then under the direct patronage of the. ducal
‘set.’ I5ut the earliest distinct mention in Old Edinburgh records
of a concert of music seems to be one quoted by Chambers in his
Domestic Annals of Scotland'.—‘A man named Beck, with some
associates, had now (1694) erected a concert of music.’
The fact that in the following year, 1695, there was given at
Holyrood on St. Cecilia’s Day, November 22nd, a fairly ambitious
instrumental concert, with more amateurs than professionals in it,
proves to us that music had had others than Beck to woo it with
Of this festival concert we have two accounts—the earliest from the
pen of William Tytler of Woouhouselee, who wrote in 1792/ and a much
later one by Robert Chambers in his Domestic Annals.
Tytler calls his paper, ‘On the fashionable amusements and
entertainments in Edinburgh in the last century, with a plan of a
grand concert of music on St. Cecilia’s Day, 1695.’
Although the author had certainly not been present, he had, writing
in 1792, sources of information for ever lost to us now, in which
connection it may be mentioned that he knew Andrew Dickson, the Duke
of York’s golf-c.addie on Leith Links.
The article, a gossipy and readable one, begins by saying that a
hundred years before, i6qo, there was a great taste for music in the
Scottish metropolis, and contrasts that condition with the ‘present
languid spirit of music.’ The orchestra was made up of over thirty
performers, nineteen of whom were gentlemen of the ‘first rank and
fashion, ’while the eleven professionals were ‘masters of music.’
The players were divided thus: of first violins, seven; of second
violins, five; of flutes, six; of hautbois, two; of violoncellos and
viol-da-gambas, five; and there was one harpsichord. The pieces
played were chiefly nwtetti of Bassani and the. sonatas of Corelli.
Amongst the amateurs were Lord Colville of Ochiltree, Lord Elcho,
Mr. John Middleton (afterwards General Middleton), Sir John Pringle,
Mr. Seton of Pitmedden, Mr. Falconer of Phesdo, Mn Carse, Keeper of
Parliamentary Records, and a Mr. W. Thomson. These gentlemen are
described as skilled in music, and goud players on the violin,
harpsichord, flute, and hautbois.
The concert was arranged and conducted by Henry Crumbden, a German,
‘long,’ says Chambers, ‘the Orpheus in the musical school of
Amongst the gentlemen, Christie of Newhall played the viol-da-gamba,
Seton of Pitinedden one of the first violins. Robert, Lord Colville
of Ochiltree, a great musical enthusiast, is reported to have
‘understood counterpoint well.’ His instruments were the harpsichord
and organ, and while in Italy he had gathered together a very large
collection of music. Defoe in his poem Caledonia, Fartin., thus
alludes to him:—
‘The God of Musick joyns when
And all the Muses dance to Haddington’s essays.’
He died unmarried in
1728, having been a peer for fifty-seven years.
Sir Gilbert Elliot of Minto, another Scottish amateur, was the first
to introduce the German flute into Scotland.
Amongst the professionals was Daniel Thomson, one of the king’s
trumpeters, father of William Thomson, a boy at the time of the
concert in 1695. William Thomson in 1725 published in London the
first collection of Scots songs set to music, the appearance of
which is believed to have created the English rage for Scottish
music which did undoubtedly exist from this date onward. The volume
is entitled, Orpheus Caledonius, or, A Collection of the best Scotch
Songs set to musick by W. Thomson, London: engraved and printed for
the author at his house in Leicester Fields.
It contains fifty songs, and is dedicated to the Princess of Wales,
afterwards Queen Caroline; seven of the tunes are attributed to
Rizzio, but in the second (1733) edition this is omitted. William
Thomson had a very fine voice, and was often invited to the Court to
sing Scots songs there.
Through the courtesy of the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s
Remembrancer, search in the records of the Exchequer Office at
Edinburgh has discovered that ‘Daniel Thomson, musician in
Edinburgh,’ received his commission as State Trumpeter dated 28th
To give any account, however fragmentary, of the history of musical
literature in Scotland is outside the scope of this work, but we may
notice the works produced by other two musicians who played in that
long-forgotten St. Cecilia Festival concert.
Of Adam Craig, Mr. Tytler says he ‘was reckoned a good orchestra
player on the violin and teacher of music. I remember him as the
second vioiin to M'Gibbon in the Gentlemen’s Concert.’ (This was the
concert in Steil’s tavern and in Mary’s Chapel.)
In 1730, Adam Craig published at Edinburgh lA Collection of the
Choicest Scots Tunes, adapted for the Harp or Spinnet, and within
the compass of the Voice, Violin, or German Flute, by Adam Craig,
Edinburgh, 1730. R. Cooper, fecit. Entered in Stationers’ Hall.’
It is dedicated ‘To the Honourable Lords and Gentlemen of the
Musical Society of Mary's Chappell,’ as the ‘generous encouragers
and promoters of music.’ Craig died at the Borough rnuirhead, near
Edinburgh, in September 1741, and was buried in Grey friars’
Churchyard, the following being a copy of the entry of his interment
from the books of the records, kindly extracted by Mr. J. G.
Ferguson, Keeper of the Records:—
‘Sep. 3rd, 1741.
Adam Craig. Musician.
4. D. P. E. ye corner Foulis Tombr'
William M‘Gibbon, the son of a performer in this concert, Matthew
M‘Gibbon, was a violinist and composer born about the beginning of
the eighteenth century. Between 1740 and 1755, M'Gibbon issued three
books of collections of Scottish tunes, as well as a set of sonatas
or solos for a German flute or violin. M'Gibbon, who had studied the
violin under Corbet !n London, was leader of the Gentlemen’s
Concerts in Edinburgh. William M'Gibbon also wrote dances and flute
music. Robert Fergusson has a poem which makes reference to the
death of William M'Gibbon. The following is the entry of interment
from the Greyfriars’ records:—
‘1756. October 5th.
Mr. William M'Gibbon. Musician.
4. L. P. E. Drummond’s Tomb.’
For a complete history of Scottish musical literature consult
Stenhouse, Lyric Poetry and Altzsi: of Scotland} We are still in
point of date in 1695, nor do we find any mention of music till at
the end of the second decade of the following century, if we except
the mention of a concert in the tennis-court arranged by a Mr. Abel
in 1705 under the patronage of the Duke of Argyll. In 1718, of those
who played in 1695 there were still alive and in Edinburgh only Adam
Craig, second violin at the Gentlemen’s Concerts, and William
M'Gibbon, now leader and first vio’.in, reported as playing Corelli,
Geminiani, and Handel with great skill.
In the Edinburgh Con rant for July 12 th, 1720, we find a quaint
paragraph to the effect that Mr. Gordon, who had lately been
travelling in Italy for his improvement in music, was daily expected
'n Edinburgh, accompanied by Signor Lorenzo Bocchi, who is
considered the second master of the violoncello in Europe and the
fittest hand to join Mr. Gordon's voice in the * consorts ’ with
which he designs to entertain his friends before ‘the rising of the
This Mr. Gordon evidently remained in Edinburgh after his arrival
with Bocchi, for we are told that in May 1722 he was invited by
several Glasgow gentlemen to give a ‘consort’ in that city.
This he did, and immediately afterwards he published ‘Proposals for
the improvement of music in Scotland, together with a most
reasonable and easy scheme for establishing a pastoral opera in
Without doubt the period from 1695 to about 1725 is, relatively
speaking, destitute of musical incident. But the reason is not far
to seek: the times were socially very unsettled: in comparatively
few years a series of changes effected not without much heartburning
had swept over Edinburgh, giving her ciuzens much graver things to
think of than plays or concerts.
The affable Duke of York—for he had always treated the Scottish
nobility with courteous consideration—had left Holyrood to assume
the crown left him by his gay brother; and thus by 1685, James, Duke
of York, was James the Seventh and Second—papist and bigot.
By 1688 the Revolution had occurred, and William and Mary ascended
the throne of Great Britain. by 1702 Queen Anne had begun to reign.
The years that closed the seventeenth and ushered in tne eighteenth
century were years full of too much political fermentation to afford
the necessary tranquillity for the growth of any very generally
shared artistic life in the Scottish capital.
For many were the sources of unrest abroad there were the Jacobites
just rising into existence, ready to recall the abdicated James; the
Whigs staunch in their support of the Protestant Succession—was it
not the collision of these parties that stained the Garry blood-red
at Killiecrankie?—there were very numerous religious disturbances,
protests and persecutions, that made the martyr’s cry as common as
the peewit’s upon the moors of Scotland, that kept up a constant
supply of heads for the Tolbooth and the Nether Bow Port; and there
had just occurred the Union, than which no political proposal had
ever before so shaken the whole nation to its deepest depths with a
more genuine alarm,—little wonder then that music did verily
languish in the old metropolis.
For at this time, whatever happened either in London or in
Scotland’s remotest glen at once affected her capital. Four monarchs
within twenty years—that could not but affect her somewhat; the
Scottish Privy Council in that grim old subterranean chamber—with
cultured Rosehaugh, scheming Queensberry, and wily old Tarbat—taking
cognisance of every psalm sung by every old Cameronian in the wilds
of Galloway,— all these things kept Edinburgh, the seat of
Government, of Law, of Ecclesiastical Congress, in a state of
By 1710 or so, things had quieted down somewhat: the Edinburgh of
Queen Anne was beginning to establish its reputation for learning,
legal lore, culture, wit, and conviviality; and hence, with a return
to more tranquil conditions, we find the sweet science of music
claiming her own. It was not to be expected that her harmonies could
co-exist with the discords of political and ecclesiastical strife.
About this time a number of gentlemen, musical amateurs, had been in
the habit of assembling in the long evenings of the northern winter
to practise pieces on their violins in one of the taverns patronised
by the majority of their ‘set.’ For Edinburgh has always been
dominated by ‘sets’—legal, ecclesiastical, medical, professorial,
artistic, and so on; and each had its own ‘seat of election’ in a
tavern, or club-house, as we would now call its modem
Their name is legion, these out-of-the-way, almost subterranean,
dimly lighted taverns—one noted for its particular kind of ale,
another for its good-looking landlady, another for the eccentricity
of its host, another for its oysters and porter, another because on
such-and-such a day in each week, such-and such a club would get
drunk in it.
The names of some of them are of the web and woof of Old Edinburgh
story: Dawnie Douglas’s, headquarters of the ‘Crochallan Fencibles’;
Johnnie Dowie’s of Liberton’s Wynd, called the ‘Coffin,’ and a
‘howff’ successively of Fergusson and Burns; Lucky Fykie’s ‘ o’ the
Patter-ra’’; the ‘Star and Garter,’ kept by Cleriheugh in Writer’s
Court—the Cleriheugh’s of Guy Afannering, and the scene of
Councillor Pleydell’s 'high jinks’; Steil’s or the ‘Cross Keys’;
Fortune’s, and a score of others. The mention of a tavern called the
‘Cross Keys’ brings us to the establishment in 1725 of the first
musical society in Scotland, with the title, naturally enough, of
‘The Musical Society of Edinburgh.’
Now, there were in Old Edinburgh two taverns with the sign of the
‘Cross Keys,’one Fortune’s tavern in Old Stamp Office Close, the
other Steil’s or Steel’s in the Old Assembly Close, as we now call
it, or Steil’s Close, as it was then called.
We have no great difficulty in deciding in which of these two houses
of entertainment the old amateur orchestral society used to meet,
because the house known about 1760 to 1770 as ‘Fortune’s tavern of
the Cross Keys’ was at the earlier epoch (1725) the town residence
of the Earls of Eglinton.
On the other hand we have, relatively speaking, not a little direct
evidence as to the other ‘Cross Keys,’ kept by one Patrick or ‘Pate’
Steil, who was not only a performer on the violin, but maker of that
instrument and a judge of musical instruments in general. His tavern
(the original fabric of it) perished in a great lire in 1708, but of
course the close was rebuilt: it was therefore the old tavern of
Steil’s that Dr. Archibald Pitcairne, who died in 1713, praises in
Latin poems upon the houses of public entertainment in the Edinburgh
of his day. ‘ At one time,’ he says, ‘ you may be delighted with the
bowls of Steil of the Cross Keys.3 Pitcairne was a poet, and
presumably artistic and a Bohemian; he therefore would find
congenial company at a place where the landlord, who was musical,
had guests who were also amateur musicians. Dr. Pitcairne, a fervent
admirer of the ladies, could meet them here, for it is recorded that
ladies were guests at the concert in Steil’s tavern, since ‘ it was
a point of re-union for the beau monde of Edinburgh in days while as
yet there were neither theatres nor balls.’
More, however, is known as to Patrick Steil himself. John Reid in
his New Lights on Old Edinburgh—a book which does not belie its
title so far as our present topic is concerned—assures us that from
title-deeds to Old Edinburgh properties, ‘Robert Mylne of Balfargie’
and 'Patrick Steil, Merchant Burgess,’ were about the year 1681
heritable proprietors of certain houses west of Writer’s Court. In
other words, Steil was not a nobody in Queen Anne’s Edinburgh.
It would be strange if Allan Ramsay, a poet and a convivial man, had
not something to say of this Steil’s. He does indeed mention a
Steil’s as a tavern that he knew, but he leaves us no clear idea as
to which close or wynd it was hidden in; yet as the name cannot have
been common, we are proliably not far wrong in thinking that Ramsay
too has written of Pate’s.
But Patrick Steil was more than a landlord and a musician: he was in
1681 one of the captains in the ‘Trained Bands’ of Edinburgh. It is
recorded that he had assigned to his care ‘ The west side of
Warriston’s Close and ending with Archibald Douglas on the west side
of the Old Provost’s’ (Fleshmarket Close).
Further, on one occasion during Steil’s captaincy, the trained bands
met in the tavern in question in Steil’s Close. This had been
previously known as ‘ Durie’s Close,’ from its having contained the
mansion of Sir Alexander (iibson of Durie, Lord Durie, wnose house
stood on the site on which the Assembly Rooms were afterwards
At a still earlier date, in the middle of the sixteenth century,
this same close had been known as ‘Little’s Close,’ from Clement
Little, brother of the well-known provost of that name. Perhaps the
most recent mention of this tavern under the up-to-date spelling
‘Steel’s’ is in Omond’s life of Fletcher of Saltoun The author
conjectures that the Scottish patriot may have been arrested in this
tavern on the eve of his duel with the Earl of Roxburgh. Fletcher of
Saltoun was a great friend of Pitcairne; and as Pitcairne was an
habitual of Steil’s tavern, it is most likely that they met in this
place—no great distance from the Parliament Hall, whence Fletcher
had just come to take rest after passing through one of its
stormiest Union debates.
But finally, Chambers has no doubt whatever as to Steil’s being a
tavern frequented by politicians, and the scene of the founding of
the Musical Society of Edinburgh, for, writing of the exciting days
just before the Union was consummated, he says —
'Politicians met in taverns to discuss the affairs of State. One
situated in the High Street, kept by Patrick Steil, was the resort
of a number of patriots who urged on the “Act of Security” and
resisted the Union, and the phrase “Pate Steil’s Parliament ”
occasionally appears in the correspondence of the time. It was in
the same place that the weekly concert was commenced.’
This was in 1725 : to whom then does the following announcement in
the Caledonian Mircury of February 1729 have reference?—‘A sale by
auction of the haiil pictures, prints, music-books, and musical
instruments belonging to Mr .John Steil.’ Very probably to a son or
other relative of Patrick, who had, we may suppose, assumed the
business on the death or retirement of Steil the elder. The mention
of the music is too significant to allow us to imagine that it was
the property of any other family of Steil.
Signor Bocchi had been in Edinburgh for some years previously to
1726, and not idle either, for we read in the Caledonian Mercury of
February 22nd, 1726, that ‘ Signor Lorenzo Bocchi has published an
opera of his own composition by subscription, containing twelve
sonatas or solos for different instruments, viz. a violin, flute,
violoncello, viol-de-gamba, and Scots cantate with instrumental
parts after the Italian manner, the words by Mr. Ramsay, with a
Thorow Bass for the Harpsichord. Subscribers may have their copies
at Mr. John Steill’s any time before the first of March ensuing.’
This is the same work that figures in Allan Ramsay’s poems as ‘A
Scots Cantata, music by L. Bocchi.’ The Caledonian Mercury, June
1729, mentions a concert of Bocchi’s in the ‘Taylois’ Hall,’ Cowgate.
By 1728 the Society had become sufficiently established to give
weekly performances of vocal and instrumental music.
They were henceforth to be known as the ‘Gentlemen’s Concerts,’ but,
as we have seen, ladies were frequently guests. At this time the
society numbered about seventy persons, not indeed all of them
amateur, for they had engaged such professionals as could be
procured to assist them in rendering on violin and harpsichord the
sonatas of Corelli, and the just-published concertos and overtures
But by this time the Society had evidently found their old quarters
in Steil’s tavern too confined, for in this year they moved to a
place better suited to their purpose—St. Mary’s Chapel in the Niddry
Wynd. In the first two chapters we mentioned this old place, long
ago demolished; but it is to the concert here that Ramsay alludes n
the lines on the fly-leaf of this book:—
‘Our concert now nae mair the ladies
They’ve a' forgot the gait to Niddery’s Wynd’;
and it is this St.
Mary’s Chapel that he describes when he writes of Oswald :—
'No more thy solemn bass’s awful sound Shali from the ChapeVs
-vaulted roof rebound.’
From the account by Maitland which we give in Chapter vi., it
appears that in 1728 the Musical Society or Club was re-organised
and its membership extended. Here then, from 1728 to 1762, did all
that was brightest and best in Scottish music flourish m peace; here
it was that the newly-published oratorios of Handel were performed
for the first time in Scotland. Thus Adam Craig in 1730 dedicates
his Collection of Scots Tunes for the Spinet to the lords and
gentlemen of the Musical Society of St. Mary's Chappell. It is to
this period of the existence of the Musical Society— the St. Mary’s
Chapel period—that the musical publications of Maclean, Oswald,
M'Gibbon, Barsanti, and Bremner belong.
Maclean’s is ‘dedicated to the Honourable the Governor and Members
of the Musical Society.’ Oswald’s collections were published by him
after he left Edinburgh for London, which move was the cause of
Ramsay’s lament for him, a portion of which we have already quoted.
The St. Mary’s Chapel period of the Edinburgh concerts is by no
means destitute of professional musicians, both British and foreign,
who sojourned here fora time and left their names in the city’s
Two of them, Lamps and Pasquali, entered Edinburgh to visit it, but
they died there and were buried within its gates.
Johann Friedrich Lampe was born in the year 1703 at Helmstadt in
Saxony, and died at Edinburgh on July 25th, 1751. In 1725, on coming
to England, he was engaged as ‘ bassoon-player at the Opera,’ where
Handel’s then quite new operas were being given.
In London he married Isabella Young, sister of Mrs. Thomas Augustine
Arne, and daughter of Charles Young, organist of All Hallows’,
Barking, London. A burlesque opera, entitled The Dragon of Watttzey,
which he composed about this time to words of Carey’s, was a
The Edinburgh Evening Courant of February 2ist, 1751, announced that
there was to be performed, a day or two later, ‘at the benefit of
Mr. Storer, in the Concert Hall in the Canongate, a burlesque opera
called The Dragoti of Wantley. The Musick composed by Mr. Lamp.’
Lampe, accompanied by his wife, arrived in Edinburgh in 1750 on
their way from Dublin, whither they had gone in 1748.
Lampe attempted to introduce in Edinburgh open-air concerts, which
doubtless were as common in his day in the ‘Fatherland’ as in ours,
but from his very announcement it would seem that he had misgivings
as to the success of the al fresco under our grey sky. His
advertisement in the Edinburgh Evening Courant of June 3rd, 1757,
is:—‘Mr. Lampe proposes to hold his first concert to-morrow, the 4th
June, in Heriot’s Gardens at 6 in the evening, in case the weather
is not unfavourable.’
But Mrs. Lampe was not silent, as the following announcement from
the same newspaper testifies, March 12th, 1751:—‘For the benefit of
Mr. Lampe, at the Concert Hall in the Cowgate on Wednesdaj 13th,
will be performed a concert of music, after the first part of the
concert, Shakespeare’s King John.
To which will be added (gratis) the opera of operas called Tom Thumb
the Great. The music performed by Mr. Lampe; the part of Tom Thumb
to be performed by Mrs. Lampe. To begin at 6 p.m.’
On 26th March 1751, Lampe conducted in the same place a performance
of Ac is and Galatea, in which Mrs. Lampe took one of the vocal
Lampe published a good deal one way and another. Besides composing
many single songs which he collected in the Lyra Britannica, he
published in 1737 ‘A plain, compendious method of teaching Thorough
Bass after the most rational manner, with proper rules for
Lampe died in Edinburgh on 25th July 1751, and was buried in the
Canongate Churchyard on the 28th.
The following is extracted from the Canongate register of burials in
the Register House:—
‘Lamp. July 28th, 1751.
‘John Frederick Lamp, Music Master, in his own and Butcher’s B(urial)
p(lace). Fever. 48.’
It would be hard to beat this for official brevity.
By the side of this grave a tall mural tombstone was erected; but as
it faces the west, the lettering is, after nearly a century and a
half, very difficult to decipher.
Surmounting the stone are two angels, now not only wingless, but
with their once plump limbs fractured, who face each other and hold
between them an open book, on the left page of which is written
‘John Frederick Lampe,’ on the right some bars of music. The
inscription runs thus:—
‘ Here lye the mortal remains of John Frederick Lampe, whose
harmonious compositions shall outlive all monumental register, and
with melodious notes through future ages perpetuate his fame till
time shall sink into eternity.1 ‘ His taste for moral harmony
appears throughout all his conduct. He was a most loving husband,
affectionate father, trusty companion . . .’ but what else he was is
entirely wiped from the stone by ‘Time’s effacing fingers.’ Brown’s
Dictionary of Musicians (1883), however, continues it thus:—
‘On the 23rd of July, in the forty-eighth year of his age, he was
summoned to join that heavenly concert with the blessed choir above,
where his virtuous soul now enjoys that harmony which was his chief
delight upon earth. In vita felicitate dignos mors redditfelices.'
In 1751 two harpsichords of Lampe’s were advertised for sale.
Nicola Pasquau or Pasquale, and his wife Signora Pasquale, were
Italians, who figure somewhat conspicuously in the pre-Saint
Cecilian Hall days. Signor Pasquale seems to have been born about
1718, and to have first appeared :n London in 1743. In Edinburgh he
was engaged as 1 professional musician for the Gentlemen’s
Concerts.’ The Edinburgh Evening Courant of 9th October 1752
announces, ‘at Assembly Hall tomorrow, a grand concert of vocal and
instrumental music. Mr. Storer to take a vocal part; violin, Signor
Pasquale, and Signor Pasquale, junior, on the violoncello, “being
the first time of their performing in this kingdom.”’
The Pasquales were lodging in November 1752 at ‘Mr. Coustin’s in
Shoemakers’ Land, facing the Earl of Murray’s in the Canongate.’
Signor Pasquale conducted a benefit concert for Mr. Storer at the
Tajlors’ Hall, Cowgate, in December 1752.
While resident these five years in Edinburgh, Pasquale and his
brother taught singing as well as the harpsichord, and they
announced1 that they would instruct ‘gratis any poor girl with an
extraordinary good strong voice.’
Pasquale composed twelve overtures for full band, music for two
violins, as well as songs, and was the author of a treatise on the
Art of fingering the Uarpsichvrd.
We insert part of a programme of a benefit concert for Signor
Pasquale :—‘ On January 17th, for the Benefit of Signor Pasquali, a
concert of vocal and instrumental music, the vocal part by Miss
Rodburne, the instrumental by Signor Pasquali and others.
Overture in Pharamond by Mr. Handel.
Song, “Caro mio ben perdona," by Signor Lampugnani.
Concerto on the German Flute, performed by Mr. M'Pherson.
Song, "When Charming Beauty,” in Noalis, by Signor Pasquali.
La Chasse, a new solo for the violin.
Full piece with Trumpets, French Horns, Kettledrums.
Song, “Tortido in voito a capital song—by Signor Pergolesi.’
Pasquale died at Edinburgh on the 13th, and was buried on the 15th
October 1757, in the Canongate Cnurchyard. The entry runs :—‘
Nicolla Pasquali, musician. South from Bishop Keeth’s B. P. Fluxes.
39.’ There is no stone to mark the spot—in all probability none was
erected over the stranger’s grave.
Contemporaneous with the Pasquales were Signor and Signora
Passf.rini, who were engaged by the Musical Society of Edinburgh,
i.e. the Gentlemen’s Concert of Mary’s Chapel, which engagement,
they announce in the Edinburgh Evening Courant of August 1872, ‘will
end with the current year.’ They had arrived before 1751, and in
July of that year were lodging in rooms at the ‘ first turnpike
below Black-friars’ Wynd.’
Passerini in 1752 advertises1 that he teaches singing, violin, and
‘Thorow Bass’ on the harpsichord, and he and the Signora announce
the same year that they are about to institute ‘concerts after the
manner of oratorios.’ A month or two later Mons. and Madame
Passerini advertise a ‘spiritual concert after the manner of
oratorios,’ these to be held twice every month. Passerini describes
himself as ‘concert-master of the Musical Society at Edinburgh.’
On 8th August 1752 they had a benefit concert in Mary’s Chapel, in
which Passerini played a ‘solo on the violin or viole d’amour.’
Signora Passerini and the following may be taken as a typical
programme; we give it in full:—
On Tuesday the 15th of August, for the benefit of Signor and Signora
Passerini, at Mary’s Chapel in Niddry’s Wynd, beginning at 5
I. Act.—Overture by Mr. Handel in occasional oratorios.
Signora Passerini’s English song, ‘Ye men of Gaza,5 in Samson.
Solo upon the violin or viole d’amour by Mr* Passerini.
a Signor Rochetti frequently sang duets at concerts about this
time—more than once at Mr. M'Pherson’s concert in the Assembly Hall.
‘Madam Passerini’ had a benefit concert of her own on 16th July 1751
in the Assembly Hall, on which occasion she sang ‘a duetta with Mr.
On December 25th, 1752,1 there is a quaint announcement by the
Passerinis that on the 26th inst. their sixth concert after the
manner of oratorios will take place at 6 p.m. (tickets 2s. 6d.), and
' the remaining three concerts will be still better than any which
Signor and Signora Passerini have performed here.’
The other musicians of this period, who have left little trace save
their names in the newspaper announce:
Mrs. Passerir.i’s English song, ‘Total Eclipse,’ in Samson.
II. Act.—Miss Meyer’s English song, ‘To make mankind' by Mr. Morgan.
Solo upon the violin or viole d’amour by Mr. Passerini.
Mrs. Passerini’s the fine cantata of Signor Pergolesi, never
produced in Edinburgh, ‘ Luce degli occhi miei.’
III. Act.—Mrs. Passerini’s Scots song, ‘Tweedside.’
Sinfonia by Signor Passerini.
New duetto by Signor Araya, ‘ A si te fui crudele.’ Tickets three
1 Edinburgh Evening Courant.
Attendants at concerts, may be comprised in the following list:—
1. Mr. Berry.
2. Mr. Davis.
3. Madame de Frene.
4. H. de Monti (author of The Self-Taught Musician : a Treatise on
5. Mr. Gordon.
6. Mr. M’Glashan (in 1770 in Berianger’s Close; in 1779 at foot of
7. Mr. M'Pherson (living in 1768 in Bell's Wynd).
8. Miss Meyer.
9. Signor Lampugnani.
10. Signor Pescatore.
11. Mr. Philips.
12. Miss Rodburne.
13. Signor Rochetti.
14. Mr. Rock.
15. Mr. Christian Rich.
16. Mr. and Mrs. Storer (in 1752 in Miln’s Land, Canongate).
17. Mr. Thomson.
During this pre-Saint Cecilian period we see then that besides in
St. Mary’s Chapel, concerts were held in—
1. The Taylors’ Hall, Cowgate.
2. The Assembly Rooms, Assembly Close.
3. The Concert Hall, or the New Concert Hall (Canongate Theatre,
The weekly gentlemen’s concert was not regularly advertised, but
only when it was decided to admit ladies as guests of the members.
Thus, to take an example:—
Edinburgh Evening Courant, July 17th, 1749.—‘The Gentlemen of the
Musical Society have appointed a concert for ladies at Mary’s Chapel
on Friday next, the 21st inst., at 5 o’clock afternoon. The members
will please call for their tickets on Wednesday and Thursday next,
at Mr. James Carmichael’s writing-chamber in James Court, west entry
and fifth door downstairs. No more than sixty tickets are to be
given out, and no ladies to be admitted without tickets.’
The following announcement, dated January 16th, 1755, must have been
Amen-ed by more than one male voice:—
‘We hear that on Tuesday last Signor Pasquali had a general rehersal
of the music that is to be performed at the Assembly Hall for his
Benefit, and as it is expected that the company will be numerous,
many ladies have resolved to go without hoops, as they did at the
last St. Cecilia’s Concert.’
In 1749 the fee for membership of the Musical Society was one
guinea; in 1752 it had risen to one and a half guineas ; by 1778 it
had risen to two guineas.
In 1762 the Musical Society of Edinburgh moved into its still larger
premises in St. Cecilia’s Hall in the same wynd, and remained in
that habitation and with that name until 1801, when it met for the
last time (February 17th) in the old hall to dispose of its
property. No concert had indeed been given in it since the spring of
1798. Care must be taken in reading Old Edinburgh records to
distinguish between St. Cecilia’s Concert Hall, the only
concert-hall of Edinburgh, and what was variously and mysteriously
called ‘The Concert Hall in the Canongate,’ or ‘The New Concert
Hall,’ as well as from ‘The Concert Hall in the Cowgate,’ or ‘The
Concert in the Taylors’ Hall.’
To explain fully what the Canongate or Cowgate ‘Concert’ was, would
be to enter into the history of the theatrical stage in Edinburgh—a
subject outside the limits of this work; but briefly, these
expressions may be said to have been used as ‘blinds’ or ‘decoys.’
The theatre in Playhouse Close, Canongate, had been built about 1746
as the first licensed theatre in Scotland, previously to which
theatrical companies had acted in the Taylors' Hall in the Cowgate—a
building in no way adapted for such a purpose.
But this was not the first theatrical venture in Edinburgh : every
one knows how Allan Ramsay in 1736 had ruined himself financially
(and the Town Council and clergy thought morally as well) by
refitt.ng at his own expense a building in Carrubber’s Close, known
as The Theatre.
The feeling on the part of the Town Council against ‘ stage-plays ’
was at this time so strong that the manager of the company either in
the Taylors’ Hall or later in the Canongate Theatre would advertise
‘ a concert of music’ on such-and-such a night. Every one knew that
a play was going to be acted; occasionally some purely musical
performance was given before the play began, oftener not. In this
way the edict of the Town Council forbidding plays was technically
evaded, but that acting went on was an open secret. This
peculiarity, however, requires to be borne in mind, else such an
expression as ‘the company belonging to the concert in Taylors’ Hall
seems quite unintelligible, when one knows there was, properly
speaking, only one concert-hall in the old city. This feeling on the
part of the clergy extended, it would appear, to musical as well as
to theatrical performances, for after the great fire of November
1824 one of the ministers of the city preached a sermon on ‘The
importance of hearing the voice of God,’ in which he attributed the
calamity to the Musical Festival of the previous 25th October. Many
people seriously thought that the fire was a judgment from Heaven on
account of so-called ‘sacred’ music having been performed at the
By the end of 1798 we can already hear the swansong of the dying
Society. On December 22nd, 1798, the Edinburgh Evening Courant
published the following: —‘The Governor and Directors of the Musical
Society hereby give notice that a general meeting of the Society is
to be held in St. Cecilia’s Hall on Monday, 24th December current,
at 2 p.m. ... for the purpose of finally determining whether the
Society shall be immediately dissolved or continued on the present
or any other plan.’
So our old friend the ‘ Musical Society of Edinburgh’ came to an end
by a decorous auto da ft after a continuous existence of
seventy-five years. From 1800 until 1815 we find few allusions to
public music in Edinburgh.
Stark’s Picture of Edinburgh was published during this very period
(1806), and it is therefore interesting to have the views of a
contemporary writer upon things musical:—
‘Perhaps at no period in the annals of Scottish music was this art
more universally cultivated than at present. It forms a general part
of modern education, and few are to be met with who cannot sing or
play upon one instrument or another. The decline is only in the
public exhibitions, and the want of proper encouragement to these
proceeds more perhaps from the manner in which they are conducted
and the pieces which are there performed, than from any want of
taste in the inhabitants of Edinburgh given up, subscription
concerts have been performed in the Assembly Rooms, George Street,
and at Corri’s Rooms (formerly Royal Circus). In one season no less
than two musical exhibitions were encouraged in Edinburgh. But this
was chiefly owing to a competition, and the result did not prove
much to the satisfaction of the rivals, although performers of the
first merit were engaged on both sides. One of these, under the
direction of Mr. Urbani, a well-known vocal performer, was held in
the Assembly Rooms, and the other under the superintendence of Mr.
N. Corri, in the buildings of the late amphitheatre. The furmur of
these was obliged to be given up; and the annual concerts during the
winter are now performed solely at Corri’s Rooms.
‘For the last two years the annual concerts have been well
conducted, and met with very considerable patronage. Mr. Corri, with
an attention to the public highly meritorious, has spared no efforts
in procuring excellent performers, and the concerts during that
period have perhaps never been exceeded for variety in Edinburgh.’
Stark specially mentions ‘Fischer, Salomon, Jarnowick, and Cramer’
as being the chief lights at St. Cecilia’s in its later years.
In 1790 the professional musicians in Edinburgh formed themselves
into ‘The Edinburgh Musical Fund,’ which was a society to provide
relief for their widows and orphans: for several years thereafter it
gave an annual concert in St. Cecilia’s.
A letter in the Everting Courant of March 6th, 1809, does indeed
appear, urging the revival of the St. Cecilia concerts, but it
called forth no action. The nation was passing through deep waters
at this time in connection with our expensive Continental wars, and
all departments of aesthetic culture suffered a blight from which
some of them have recovered only within the last few years.
In 1815, however, a prolonged musical festival was carried out, an
account of which may be read in a little book by George Farquhar
Graham, entitled ‘ The First Edinburgh Musical Festival, held
between October 30th and November 5th.’
The following gentlemen, amongst others, acted as directors — Mr.
(later Sir) Walter Scott, Henry M'Kenzie (‘The Man of Feeling’), Sir
William Fettes, the Hon. Henry Erskine, Principal Baird, Gilbert
Innes of Stow,2 and Lord Grey.
The morning performances were to take piace ir. Parliament Hall,
while Corri’s Rooms were considered more suitable for the evening
ones. Six transferable tickets cost £3, 3s.
On the first morning (31st October) the overture to Esther, and
selections from Joshua, The Redemption, Jephtha, Samson, Judas
Maccabaus, and the Dettingen Te Deurn were to be given.
On the first evening, selections from Mozart’s La Chmensa di Tito by
Madame Macaroni, and the overture to Anacreon, were gone through.
On the second morning (1st November), the Messiah was given; on the
second evening, amongst other things, the overture to Zauberjiote.
On the third morning, ‘ Total Eclipse ’ (Handel) was an item; on the
third evening, a Grand Symphony (Mozart) and a March by Haydn were
part of the performance.
On the fourth morning, the overture to Samsen, the overture to Saul,
Beethoven’s Mount of Olives, and a piece of Pergolesi’s were given.
The detailed history of all the Musical Societies of Edinburgh since
1815 would fall far beyond the scope of this little work; but as
some may be interested to see how they connect with the famous
ancestor of them all, whose life-work we have been studying, we may
epitomise in the following manner1 what may be called the modern
In 1819, ‘The Edinburgh Professional Society of Musicians’ was
established; and in 1831, ‘The Philharmonic Society of Leith ’ was
inaugurated, being composed of both vocalists and instrumentalists
under the leadership of R. B. Stewart.
Between 1830 and 1835, In addition to the two above mentioned, there
were ‘The Choral Society’ and ‘The Edinburgh St. Cecilia Amateur
Orchestral Society.’ These two occasionally united their forces when
a more than usually ambitious concert was to be attempted.
This St. Cecilia Orchestral Society contained no professional member
except the conductor. At first it usually met in the Hopetoun Rooms
in Queen Street (now part of the Edinburgh Ladies’ College), but
later the Clyde Street Hall was the scene of its gatherings.
Practisings were held once a week—usually on Wednesdays, and not
earlier than 8 p.m. Each evening’s work overtook at least two
symphonies of Haydn, Mozart, or Beethoven, and two overtures of
Mozart, Rossini, or Auber.
Two names, very interesting to us now, occur in the list of
members—Sir Thomas Dick Lauder’s and Mr (now Sir) Douglas Maclagan’s.
Lord Barriedale was a member. This Society gave two concerts in the
season 1845-46 for the benefit of the Royal Infirmary, by the former
of which they handed over £152, 12s. 2d., and by the latter £71, 5s.
10d. to the funds of that noble institution.
Though the Assembly Rooms in George Street were built between 1783
and 1787, the Music Hall behind was not opened until 1843.
And now our sketch is finished, with the full sense that it is but
an unfinished sketch. We have told a tale of other days—days
differing in many respects from our own; but the same music that
rang out its sweetness when St. Cecilia’s was the new concert-hall
is still ours most fully to enjoy—such is the ever-freshness of true
A task taken up only from time to time, during holidays and on
occasions separated by long intervals of very different occupation,
must of necessity seem somewhat of a patchwork. Of this and many
other shortcomings the author is painfully conscious. More might
have been discovered by one with greater leisure, much might have
been better told: but not a line could have been written by any one
who loves more fervently Edinburgh—queen of cities—and her romantic
story. The holiday task has been a labour of love, and the labourer
will have been rewarded could he know that he has given him who is a
stranger to the city some fresh facts of interest, or him who has
the privilege of having been born within her gates or within sight
of her towers, one new link in the chain of old associations that
binds her sons throughout the world yet nearer to herself.