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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


High Street I ST. CECILTA?S HALL. 25 I years, and in June, 1749, died in a cottar?s humble dwelling at Idragal, seventeen years after her abduction on that evening of January from her house in Niddry?s Wynd. On the east side of Niddry?s Wynd, at the foot thereof, and resting on the Cowgate, was St. Cecilia?s Hall, an oval edifice, having a concave ceiling, and built in 1762 by Robert Mylne, the architect of Blackfriars Bridge (lineal descendant of the royal master-masons) ?after the model of the opera at Yarma,? says Kincaid. The orchestra was placed over the north end, and therein was placed a fine organ. It was seatqd for 500 persons. The Musical Society of Edinburgh, whose weekly concerts formed one of the most delightful entertainments in the old city, dated back to the otherwise gloomy era of 1728. Yet from ? Fountainhall?s Decisions ? we learn that so far back as 1694 an enterprising citizen named Beck ?erected a concert of music? somewhere in the city, which involved him in a lawsuit with the Master of the Revels. Even before I 7 28 several gentlemen, who were performers on the harpsichord and violin, had taken courage, and formed a weekly club at the Cross Kys tavern, ?kept,? says knot, ?by one Steil, a great lover of musick, and a good singer of Scots songs.? Steil is mentioned in the Latin lyrics of Dr. Pitcairn, who refers to a subject of which he was fully master-the old Edinburgh taverns of Queen Anne?s time. At Pate Steil?s the common entertainment consisted in playing the concertos and Sonatas of Corelli, then just published, and the overtures of Handel. A governor, deputygovernor, treasurer, and five directors, were annually chosen to direct the affairs of this society, which consisted of seventy members. They met in St. Mary?s Chapel from 1728 till 1762, when this hall was built for them. Fc: some years the celebrated Tenducci, who is mentioned in O?Keefe?s ? Recollections? in 1766 as a famous singer of Scottish songs, was at the head of the band ; and one great concert was given yearly in honour of St. Cecilia, when Scottish songs were among those chiefly sung. When the Prince of Hesse came over, in 1745, with his 6,000 mercenaries, to fight against the Jacobites, he was specially entertained here by the then governor of the Musical Society, Lord Drummore, Hugh Dalrymple. The prince was not only a dilettante, but.a good performer on an enormous violoncello. ?? Few persons now living,? says Dr. Chambers in 1847, ? recollect the elegant concerts that were given many years ago in what is now an obscure part of our ancient city, known by the name- of St. zecilia?s Hall,? and still fewer may remember them On the death of Lord Drummore, in 1755, the iociety performed a grand concert in honour of his nemory, when the numerous company were all lressed in the deepest mourning. In I 7 63 the concerts began at six in the evening ; n 1783 an hour later. To the concertos of Corelli and Handel in the iew hall, were added the overtures of Stamitz, Bach, Abel, and latterly those of Haydn, Pleyel, ind the magnificent symphonies of Mozart and Beethoven. The vocal department of these old :oncerts consisted of the songs of Handel, Arne, ;luck, and Guglielmi, with a great Infusion o f jcottish songs, for as yet the fashionables of Ediniurgh were too national to ignore their own stirring nusic, and among the amateurs who took the lead is choristers were the wealthy Gilbert Innes of stow, Mr. Alexander Wight, advocate, Mt. John Russell, W.S., and the Earl of Kellie, who on one Iccasion acted as leader of the band when perbrming one of six overtures of his own composition; and though last, not least, Mr. George rhomson, the well-known editor of the ? Melodies >f Scotland.? A snpper to the directors and their friends it Fortune?s tavern always followed an oratorio, where the names of the chief beauties who had yaced the hall were toasted in bumpers from ;lasses of vast length, for exuberant loyalty to beauty was a leading feature in the convivial meetings of those days. ?Let me call to mind a few of those whose lovely faces at the concerts gave us the sweetest test for music,? wrote George Thomson, who died in 1851, in his ninety-fourth year :-??Miss Cleghorn of Edinburgh, still living in single blessedness ; Miss Chalmers of Pittencrief, who married Sir CVilliam Miller of Glenlee, Bart. ; Miss? Jessie Chalmers of Edinburgh, who married Mr. Pringle of Haining; Miss Hay of Hayston, who married Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo, Bart. ; Miss Murray of Lintrose, who was called the Flower of Strathmore, and upon whom Burns wrote the song, Brjhe, hlythe, and merry was she, Blythe was she but and ben; And blythe in Glenturit glen? low. Blythe by the bank? of Earn, She married David Smith, Esq., of Methven, one of the Lords of Session; Miss Jardine of Edinburgh, who married Home Drunimond of Blairdrummond, their daughter, if I mistake not, is now Duchess of Athole; Miss Kinloch of Gilmerton, who married Sir Foster Cunliffe of Acton
Volume 2 Page 251
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