January 1861: Saturday Evening Concerts – Miss Helen Kirk

An article on page four of The Glasgow Herald, on Monday the 7th of January, 1861, reads:





The hope which we expressed on Friday, that at the concert of last Saturday there should be a

crowded house to give a hearty welcome to the new contralto, Miss Helen Kirk, was, we are

happy to say, even more than realised. The City Hall was literally crammed from floor to

ceiling, and perhaps on no former occasion have so many people been packed into it. As

usual, the programme was commenced by Mr. Lambeth’s splendid performance on the

grand organ, of which he is so thoroughly master – indeed, a more finished organist it would

be difficult to find. Mr. Stembridge Ray next sung Mrs. Miller’s song of ‘A Thousand a-Year,’

which he did with admirable effect. The Brousil Family then played the Andante and Finale

of Mendelssohn’s symphony on Scotch Airs. The precision with which they executed this

beautiful music was deservedly highly applauded. Before Miss Kirk made her appearance,


The Chairman (Mr. Neil McNeill) stood forward and said: – About two years ago the

attention of the directors was directed to the young lady who makes her first appearance

before you this evening as one possessing a rich musical voice, and that, if properly educated,

might be useful to herself and an honour to the city. After due deliberation, an arrangement

was come to with her friends, and from that time till now she has been under the tuitionary

care of Mr. Lambeth, the city organist. She appears before you to-night, not as having perfected

her education, but as possessing such a knowledge of the science of music as we think justify

us in bringing her before the public from time to time. I am happy in being able to say that in

addition to her musical abilities, she is amiable in her disposition and modest in her behaviour.

I have only further to add, that it is the earnest wish of the directors that her musical career be

long, brilliant, and useful, reflecting credit on her teacher and all concerned.  (Applause.)


Miss Kirk received a most cordial and flattering welcome, the cheering being loud and prolonged.

It was enough, certainly, to send a debutante of ordinary presence of mind off her mental

equilibrium, but Miss Kirk did not exhibit any flurry, and proceeded with her song – Stephen

Glover’s ‘O for the bloom of my own native heather’ – as if she had been long in the habit of

appearing on the City Hall platform. The song was charmingly sung, and tended well to bring

out her rich alto notes. On being encored, she gave ‘My Nannie’s awa’,’ which she sang even more

beautifully than the other. One thing which is highly in Miss Kirk’s favour, and shows both her

natural talent and the care with which she has been taught, is that in every one of her songs she sings

thoroughly with the understanding; and she throws a depth of feeling into such pathetic pieces as ‘My

Nannie’s awa’,’ which fairly carries away the sympathies of the audience with her. Her next air was

‘Gloomy Winter,’ which brought out both her fine alto and pure soprano notes, the latter being

unusually high for a contralto voice. She was again encored; and so, indeed, were all her songs. The

other two which she gave were Linley’s ‘Ballad Singer,’ and Gabriel’s ‘Skipper and his Boy.’ Miss

Kirk must be highly gratified with the result of her first public appearance, and we hope that

throughout her career she will meet with the same success. Mr. Stembridge Ray sang a number of

pieces in the excellent style which characterises all his musical efforts; and the very clever

performance of the Brousil Family received due encouragement. Mr. Frederick Harley, as comic

singer, was much applauded and frequently encored. Mr. Banks presided at the piano-forte, and

Mr. Lambeth accompanied Miss Kirk.”



George Fairfull-Smith, August 2022.