Mercer's Hospital Music Collection
Dr Tríona O’Hanlon, Dublin Institute of Technology
Mercer’s Hospital Music Collection is the first major research project to be published in the RISM Ireland database. This project, undertaken in collaboration with RISM Ireland and RISM UK, resulted from a DIT Conservatory of Music & Drama research scholarship. The scholarship to carry out doctoral research on the collection was awarded to Tríona O’Hanlon and supervised by Dr Kerry Houston.
Mercer's Hospital was opened on Stephen Street, Dublin in 1734 to deliver medical care to the city's poor and destitute. The contents of the Mercer's Hospital Music Collection provide primary evidence for the type of repertoire performed at the Mercer’s Hospital benefit concerts, established in April 1736 to provide important financial support to the hospital. The collection, currently on deposit at the Manuscripts and Archives Research Library, Trinity College, Dublin, is probably the largest surviving Irish collection of eighteenth-century music apart from those of St Patrick’s and Christ Church Cathedrals, Dublin. It contains fifty manuscript and seven printed volumes of music containing works by the following composers; George Frideric Handel, Maurice Greene, William Boyce, Henry Purcell, Arcangelo Corelli, Pelham Humfrey, Charles Avison, Francesco Barsanti, John Stanley and Michael Christian Festing.
Tríona’s research ‘Music for Mercer’s: The Mercer’s Hospital Music Collection and Charity Music in Eighteenth-Century Dublin’ is very significant in terms of source studies in an international context. It highlights performance practice issues in eighteenth-century Dublin, specifically in relation to service settings and orchestral anthems. Identification of the relationship between the Mercer’s sources and sources extant in other collections reveals the significance of the Mercer’s Hospital Music Collection within the wider context of surviving eighteenth-century manuscript sources, establishing links with materials in Irish and British libraries, providing significant information about the provenance of the Mercer’s Collection and how music was transmitted to Dublin during the eighteenth century. Tríona’s research also involved the examination of the hospital’s administrative records, housed at the National Archives of Ireland, Dublin, and the provision of two catalogues. Examination of the eighteenth-century hospital administrative records enabled Tríona to compile a comprehensive account documenting the management, organisation, format, content, repertoire and finances associated with the benefit concerts. A ‘Catalogue of Mercer’s Paper Types’ provides the first comprehensive analysis of eighteenth-century paper types in use in any collection of music extant in Ireland. The catalogue clearly illustrates how paper was used in eighteenth-century Dublin and how music was collated and stored. This catalogue serves as an index to the collection and provides a clear representation of the contents and layout of each surviving part-book through the use of collation diagrams.