Arts > Hallelujah for Dublin

01 December 2016 | by Mark Lawson

Hallelujah for Dublin


Soon after the death of Leonard Cohen, the attention of the cultural world turns to the other musician most famous for writing a chorus turning on the word “Hallelujah!” The big Christmas show at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is Nick Drake’s play All the Angels: Handel and the First Messiah (6 December-12 February).

Drake’s informative and thoughtful play, rewarded with a revival after a praised premiere last year, began from a reference in a book by the musical historian Richard Luckett to Handel, who had been stranded in Chester by the weather en route to the 1742 premiere, in a Dublin music hall, of his oratorio Messiah. In the days before he was able to sail to Ireland, Handel rehearsed the work above a Chester pub with a local choir.

“There was an account of him berating a singer who proved unable to ‘sight read’ as claimed,” says Drake. “The singer replied, ‘I never said at first sight’ – and I saw the dramatic potential immediately.”

In common with Peter Shaffer’s Mozart drama Amadeus (simultaneously revived at the National Theatre), Drake’s play reveals unpalatable aspects of the personality of the composer now on the core Classic FM playlist. Composers who wrote of, and for, the divine, both Handel and Mozart were often found monstrous by the rest of humankind.


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