‘If you want to know who we are’ Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society 1913-2013: A centenary history


From the Introduction … 

It could almost be an examination question. ‘Account for the survival and continued artistic success of the Rathmines and Rathgar Musical society between 1913-2013?’ (History, Leaving Certificate, 2013)


In his or her response on why this organization has outlived two world wars, a war of independence, a civil war, a cold war and more than a few invasions of Afghanistan, the discerning and well-informed student might be expected to refer to the ‘three C’s’ – not lower, middle and upper on the piano keyboard – but, ‘continuity, competence and camaraderie.’


Readers who persevere to the end of this volume will come across a number of recurring names. It would be tedious now to anticipate their introduction into the narrative but it was their constant presence and guidance that gave the R&R the kind of continuity that secures permanence.


What this commemorative record sets out to establish is that it was by no means inevitable that the fledgling musical society that began its life in Rathmines on 23 April 1913 was destined to last at least a hundred years. Had a number of dedicated people not brought the professionalism of their workplace into their hobby the R&R, as it soon became known, would have gone the way of the Austro-Hungarian empire.


However. No amount of administrative stability or aptitude would have sustained the R&R had the whole project not been approached with a certain joi de vivre. Companionship and laughter have been at the heart of this one-hundred year odyssey. Continuity and competence may have shaped the structure and the engine of the vehicle but camaraderie provided the propulsion.


Up to the date of publication, and including the centenary Mikado at the National Concert Hall in November 2013, the R&R has staged 292 separate productions, compilations or entertainments at the Queen’s, Olympia or Gaiety Theatres, and the National Concert Hall over a one-hundred year period. That oeuvre has included critical and financial flops, deficient productions that have still managed to avoid deficits, as well as acclaimed and exceptional shows worthy of many professional companies.


What follows is an attempt to record the triumphs and disasters and to convey some sense of why the Rathmines and Rathgar musical society remains in existence and continues to offer outstanding entertainment and the (very) occasional letdown. While it has become an institution on the Dublin music scene it has refused to atrophy and has always managed to re-invent itself when the urgent need for change has arisen.