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Dublin: 18°C Monday 15 August 2022
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'It's a big discovery': How a lost piece of music composed in 1701 found its way back to the Dublin stage

‘Welcome Genial Day’ – an ode to King William III – has not been performed in Dublin for centuries.

The piece is set to be performed for the first time in centuries at Christ Church Cathedral
The piece is set to be performed for the first time in centuries at Christ Church Cathedral
Image: DPA/PA Images

A RECENTLY REDISCOVERED piece of music that was composed more than 300 years ago will be heard in Dublin for the first time in centuries tonight.

The Irish Baroque Orchestra is set to perform ‘Welcome Genial Day’, something which has not been done since the 18th century, at Christ Church Cathedral tonight.

The piece – written in 1701 by baroque composer Richard Leveridge – was only recently rediscovered in a manuscript in London, having been forgotten for years.

“It’s a pretty big discovery, especially from an Irish perspective,” Dr Estelle Murphy, who identified the piece and its composer, tells TheJournal.ie.

“The piece is one of earliest-surviving odes that were written for Dublin. Before this, 1705 was the earliest work we had, but now we know there are older ones.”

Murphy explains that the ode was written to celebrate the birthday of King William III, who was the British monarch at the time.

Celebrating the King’s birthday was an annual event in London and Dublin, and the piece would have been performed in front of the Lord Lieutenant – the King’s representative in Ireland – in Dublin Castle.

“The gentry and the aristocracy would all have been invited,” Murphy, a lecturer in musicology at Maynooth University, says.

“There’d have been a big ball and a big feast, usually there’d have been a play put on and a lot of celebration: they’d have fireworks, bonfires, discharge of artillery, and that kind of thing.

“Basically, they were trying to show they were loyal to the monarch in London.”

The ode was rediscovered in a manuscript in London, but it wasn’t until Murphy matched the handwriting with Leveridge’s in another manuscript that its identity became known.

After that, she also discovered the text for an old poem by Leveridge in Dublin City Library in Pearse Street, which proved to be an exact match for the poetry in unidentified manuscript.

“That gave me ‘dual confirmation’ that the lost piece was by Leveridge,” Murphy explains.

“Before that it was just lying there for years, and no one knew who wrote it or anything about it.”

The ode’s rediscovery has helped to highlight the cultural exchange that was happening between Dublin and London at the time, something that has not always been easy due to the lack of pieces available from the era.

“There’s a fascinating amount of activity that was going on at that time that nobody really knows about,” Murphy adds.

“To have a piece like this crop up and be performed is a really great goal to have achieved.”

Details about the performance, including how to buy tickets, are available here.

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