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Philip MetresNovember 17, 2022

“For relief of the Prisoners in the several Gaols, and for the support of Mercer’s Hospital in Stephen’s-street, and of the Charitable Infirmary on the Inn’s Quay, on Monday the 12th of April, will be performed at the Musical Hall in Fishamble-street, Mr. Handel’s new Grand Oratorio, called the MESSIAH, in which the Gentlemen of the Choirs of both Cathedrals will assist, with some concertos on the Organ by Mr. Handel.”
—Newspaper notice, Dublin, 1742

“To harmony like his, celestial power is given
To exalt the soul from earth, and make of hell a heaven."
—From a performance review, 1743

Each Christmas my dad would wrestle
          with the old reel-to-reel

as if it were angel, grapple
          its dusty mouth open

until the orchestra would stir,
         the chorus rise. I’d hear

Mom groan, The Messiah, again?—
          its interminable

chorus of voices a Babel
         we could not knock down.

Like the old tower in Kildare,
         Conolly’s Folly, stone

by stone hauled by the hungry poor
          Irish mauled by the famine,

winter 1741.
         In the heart of Dublin

on Fishamble Street, the lovers
          of charity gathered,

some seven hundred souls, to hear
        Handel’s first Messiah

at which a priest leaped from his seat,
        literally moved to speak—

Woman, for this be all thy sins forgiven!
       Freed hundreds from prison,

this song. WONDERFUL. COUNSELOR.
       ALMIGHTY GOD. THE EVER-

LASTING FATHER, my father
      sang, finding a river

deep beneath his heart now surging,
        the dam so overflowing

I felt the music sting my eyes.
       Without moving my mouth,

I prayed such light would curl inside
        our voices when, at last,

they flowed out.

 

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