Acquiring Music Prints and Manuscripts

Hellier’s letters document attempts to procure wind and brass instruments from London.

Printed performance material for large-scale works was not common, and a trade of sorts existed between the people who owned parts. Handel’s Messiah, for example, was not published in full until 1767, and even then, only in score. The provincial performances of the work – at the Three Choirs meetings from 1757 or the Church Langton meetings from 1759 – were made possible by a trade network of manuscript parts.[1] One possibility for the supply of parts for Messiah was the Birmingham-born organist and composer Joseph Harris, who was organist at St Lawrence, Ludlow before moving back to Birmingham in 1771 to become organist at St Martin’s.[2] Harris’s Messiah manuscript, which was completed by 1766, included many of Handel’s alternate versions of arias and recitatives and contained oboe parts to the ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Worthy is the lamb’/‘Amen’ choruses.[3] The compendium nature of this manuscript would have enabled a wide variety of performances, with the flexibility to accommodate a range of soloists who would not necessarily have been the top-rank singers from London. Another example of the use of performance material can be seen in the two accounts of Hanbury’s Church Langton performances conducted by William Hayes.[4] In the latter, Hayes describes how he relinquished his normal charge of ‘two guineas for the use of each Oratorio, viz. for the score and parts, for the voices and instruments, which is extremely moderate’.[5]


The extensive Shaw-Hellier Collection contains manuscript and printed performance material.[6] Hellier was very active making music during his years of study at Oxford and the presence of his bookplate in many works reveals he not only purchased printed music but collected and assembled manuscript parts and scores. He also subscribed to printed collections, including John Alcock’s The Pious Soul’s Heavenly Exercise, 1756, and William Walond’s Mr Pope's Ode on St. Cecilia's Day, 1759. One item in the collection is a copy of the 1741 Walsh edition of excerpts from Handel’s L’Allegro, il penseroso ed il moderato with manuscript scores of the remaining material interleaved. Hellier’s bookplate on the printed title page is dated 1756, probably indicating the date of purchase. This compilation may have been prepared for a performance of the work at the Holywell Music Room given by the Oxford Musical Society in August the previous year, or in October 1758.[7] The musical society’s performances no doubt had a great influence over Hellier’s later performances in Wombourne and it’s likely he was a member during his period of study. In the adverts for the inaugural concert of the Wombourne organ in 1768, Hellier listed ‘the Grand Te Deum [=Dettingen], composed by Mr. Handel. And Purcell’s Jubilate; Also Part of the Messiah, and a Concerto on Organ. To conclude with the Coronation Anthem’. Hellier owned a set of manuscript parts and the printed score for Purcell’s Te Deum and Jubilate, manuscript parts for ‘Zadok the Priest’. and for the Dettingen Te Deum. The dispensation of vocal and instrumental parts is identical: clearly, the parts were prepared for a pre-arranged line-up of performers, and that Hellier decided to have parts made up specially. The copying is the work of a professional, and Hellier engaged the services of a copyist, probably based in London rather than Birmingham or Worcester. It is not known whether Hellier lent this music to anyone else, but he would often instruct Rogers not to loan other items, including instruments. Yet, the presence of the Stourbridge Musical Society parts suggests it is possible he reciprocated. Amongst his collection is a copy of Corelli’s Trio Sonatas bearing the inscription ‘W. Rudge’ on the title page:[8] could this be evidence of a reciprocal arrangement for Hellier loaning music for Rudge’s annual Wolverhampton concerts?[9]




Hellier owned a set of manuscript parts for Purcell’s Te Deum and Jubilate and a printed score. An examination of this material reveals the following dispensation of instrumental parts:


3 x violin I, 3 x violin II, 2 x viola, 1 x cello, 1 x Basso ripieno, 1 x Double bass part,

1 each of 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets and timpani.

The names and numbers of vocal parts are:

1 x ‘Canto Primo Principal’, 2 x ripieno sopranos, 1 x ‘Canto Secondo Principal’ and 1 x ripieno second soprano. 1 x ‘Alto Primo Principal’, 1 x alto ripieno, 1 x ‘Alto Secondo Principal’, 1 x Tenor 1,1 x  ‘Basso Primo Principal’, 1 x bass ripieno, and 1 x ‘Bass II principale part’.


His manuscript parts for ‘Zadok the Priest’ contained the same numbers as the Purcell, with the vocal parts, without solo sections being all ‘tutti’ parts, also making 3 soprano I, 2 soprano II, 2 alto I, 1 alto II, 2 tenor I, 1 tenor II, 2 Bass I and 1 Bass II parts.


Hellier’s manuscript parts for the Dettingen Te Deum were bound for each instrument along with L’Allegro, Arne’s ‘Rule Britannia’ from Alfred and Worgan’s ‘Hence, hence, fly hence’, and the Dead March from Saul and March from Judas Maccabeus.


[1] The first performance of Messiah at a Three Choirs meeting was at Gloucester in 1757.

[2] McGeary, ‘Joseph Harris, Birmingham organist (1744–1814), and his Messiah manuscript’.

[3] Ibid., p 173

[4] Hanbury, The History of the Rise and Progress of the Charitable Foundations at Church-Langton.

Hayes, Anecdotes of the Five Music-Meetings.

[5] Hayes.

[6] Shaw Hellier

[7] OJ, Saturday, 2nd August 1755; OJ, Saturday, 28th October 1758. Performances of Handel L’Allegro also took place as part of the Commemoration of Founders and Benefactors to the University, 3-5 July 1754 (OJ, Saturday, 22nd June 1754) and on Monday, 24th February 1755 (OJ, Saturday, 22nd February 1755).

[8] SH340 (Walsh, 1740)

[9] William Rudge held annual benefit concerts in Wolverhampton from at least 1766 until his death in 1781 (Perkins).