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HomeSearchGetRecordSacred Harmonic Society (1837-1881)

Collection Description

Collection Title
Sacred Harmonic Society (1837-1881)
Unique Identifier
A collection of programmes/wordbooks for performances given by the Sacred Harmonic Society at Exeter Hall and St. James’s Hall, London, between 1837 and 1881, held with a selection of undated wordbooks for performances given by the Sacred Harmonic Society at the first of these venues.

These were generally performances of music from oratorios, with a particular emphasis on the music of Handel. With the exception of those in 1881, all performances took place at Exeter Hall in the Strand.

1. Programmes/wordbooks
The information provided in parenthesis below is derived from handwritten annotations to these programmes: with one exception (see below), it is not clear on what basis these suggestions have been made.

Relatively few of these documents include any detailed information regarding the performers involved: that which is given is reproduced below. A number contain brief historical notes/introductions to the works performed and/or a summary of the plot/narrative: the latter is generally referred to as the 'Argument'.

[12 July 1837]: A Grand Selection of Sacred Music, the second part consisting of Handel, Israel in Egypt (with a lengthy article entitled General Observations on Vocal Music, written by Lowell Mason and originally published in the Musical World).

[no date]: Handel, Deborah (with a brief historical introduction and a plot synopsis). This item carries handwritten annotations indicating the appearance of the vocalists Miss Rainforth, Miss Dolby, Miss Lucombe, Mr Leffler, Mr Gear, Mr W. Seguis and Mr Jos. Walker.

[7 February 1838]: George Perry, Belshazzar’s Feast (cantata) and Fall of Jerusalem (oratorio), with Mrs E. Seguin, Mr H.R. Bishop, Mr Horncastle, Mr Leoni Lee, Mr Parry Jun., Mr Robinson and Mr Edward Taylor (vocal), a ‘band’ described as ‘complete in every department’ and a ‘numerous’ chorus ‘comprising above 100 Performers, assisted by the Young Gentlemen of Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral, under the Direction of Mr J. Surman’. The programme includes a complete list of the instrumental performers, led by Franz Cramer and conducted by Mr Perry.

[15 March 1844]: Handel, Saul, with Miss Cubitt, Miss Dolby, Miss Rainforth, Mr Bennett, Mr Machin, Mr Peck and Mr Phillips (vocal), Mr Miller (organ) and a ‘band … complete in every department’, led by Mr Perry and conducted by Mr Surman (with a brief historical introduction and some handwritten annotations indicating the division of the vocal forces).

[no date, June 1845]: Handel, Athaliah. This document, which is missing certain pages, includes a historical introduction (signed by T.B) which provides some comments on the relationship between Handel’s oratorios and the development of English concert life. The only indication of the performers is to be found in an advertisement for publications of the work which cites Miss Birch and Miss Rainforth, Herr Staudigl and Master Sullivan, and Mr Manvers and Mr Young (vocal).

[6 March 1846]: Engedi, an oratorio adapted by Henry Hudson to the music of The Mount of Olives, composed by Ludwig van Beethoven. Also, Mendelssohn, Hymn of Praise (Lobgesang). The only indication of performers comes in an advertisement for the works performed, which cites Miss Birth, Mr Hobbs, and Mr Phillips.

4 March 1847: A Selection of Anthems and Cathedral Music (with historical notes on the composers whose music was performed).

9 and 16 July 1847: Louis Spohr, The Fall of Babylon, with Miss Birch, Miss Poole, Miss Dolby, Mr Lockey, Mr Howe, Mr Weiss, Mr J.A. Novello and Mr H. Phillips (vocal), Mr Miller (organ) and an instrumental ensemble led by Mr G. Perry, conducted by Dr Spohr.

22 June 1849: Mendelssohn, Athalie/Handel, Dettingen Te Deum, with Misses A. and M. Williams, Miss Dolby, Mr Bartley, Mr Phillips and Mr T. Williams (vocal) and Mr Brownsmith (organ), conducted by Mr Costa (with a brief historical introduction to both works, credited to ‘W.H.H.’).

[30 June 1854]: J. Henry Griesbach, Daniel (first performance), with Miss Poole, Madame Clara Novello, Mr Herberte and Herr Formes (vocal) and Mr Brownsmith (organ), conducted by Mr Costa (with a brief plot synopsis).

[15 February 1856]: Michael Costa, Eli, with Mr Weiss, Mr Sims Reeves, Madame Rudersdorff, Mr Montem Smith, Mr Thomas and Miss Dolby (vocal) and Mr Brownsmith (organ), conducted by Mr Costa (with a brief plot synopsis).

[24 May 1878]: Rossini, Moses in Egypt (with a historical introduction by ‘W.H.H.’). The annotations to this programme cite the Musical Times of June 1878 (p.328) as the source for the suggested dating.

25 March 1881: Handel, Coronation Anthem ‘The King shall Rejoice’; Cherubini, Requiem Mass; and Mendelssohn, Athalie, with Mr Willing (organ), conducted by Michael Costa (with brief historical notes on each of the works performed, a list of the orchestral ensemble and an advertisement, with programme, for the next concert in the series, to be given on 8 April 1881).

10 June 1881: J. Benedict, The Legend of St Cecilia (conducted by the composer) and Rossini, Stabat Mater, with Mr Willing (organ), conducted by Michael Costa (with a brief historical introduction and a list of the orchestral ensemble).

2. Undated wordbooks
Handel, Deborah (with a historical introduction by ‘W.H.H.’).
Haydn’s Third Service 'Praise Jehovah' (cantata), adapted to the music of Mendelssohn, Lauda Sion; and Spohr, The Last Judgement.
Mendelssohn, St Paul (with a brief plot synopsis).
Handel, Solomon (with a historical introduction).
Handel, Zadock the Priest, Gounod, Messe Solennelle, and Beethoven, The Mount of Olives (with a very brief historical introduction to each piece. The last of these is in fact more substantial and is signed by ‘W.H.H’).
Chevalier Sigismond Neukomm, David.
Joseph Haydn, The Seasons (with a historical introduction and plot synopsis).
Handel, Samson (with a historical introduction and synopsis, as well as some brief numerical annotations, the meaning of which is unclear).
Selection of Sacred Music, as a tribute to the memory of the Late Duke of Wellington, including Mendelssohn, Christus and the third part of Handel, Messiah (with a historical introduction to the Mendelssohn).
J.S. Bach, St. Matthew Passion, trans. Helen F.H. Johnston (with a historical introduction by ‘W.H.H.’).
Date range of collection
1837 - 1881
Accumulation Dates
Suggested Audience
Not Specific
Associated Places

Location Details

British Library, Music Collections
96 Euston Road London NW1 2DB
Open Map
020 7412 7772
020 7412 7751
Visiting Information
Reprographic services
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Collections Overview
For details of other collections held at the same location: See the location record

Additional Collection Information

Accrual Status
Related Publications
Management Information (Type)
Collection Owner(s)
Collection Creator(s)
Collection Collector(s)
Collection Custodians(s)
Associated Collection(s)
Cardif University (Prifysgol Caerdydd)Royal College of Music LondonMuseums, Libraries and Archives Council