In the middle of May, while hurrying through O’Neill Library to one of my last classes of the semester, I noticed a sign for a new exhibit in the O’Neill Reading Room. Patrick S. Gilmore (1829-1892), “father of the American band,” gazed gravely out of the banner at the passing students, and I quickly caught the headline before hurrying towards the exit. A moment later, sudden recognition of the name P. S. Gilmore prompted me to stop and read the sign more closely. In 2000 and 2001, I had played clarinet in the Patrick S. Gilmore Society’s All-State Community Band at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade. Performing in this series had been an enriching experience for a young teenager. Now, over ten years later, I discovered the history behind the two concerts I had played, and about the historic bandleader for whom the Patrick S. Gilmore Society is named.
“Unsung Music Pioneer: Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore and the Peace Jubilees of 1869 and 1872” is the title of the O’Neill Library exhibit commemorating the 140thanniversary of the World’s Peace Jubilee and International Music Festival. This international event, organized and directed by Gilmore from June 17 to July 4, 1872, took place in a massive, specially-built coliseum in Boston’s Back Bay area. On view until July 10, 2012, the O’Neill Library exhibit draws from Burns Library special collections materials, highlighting Gilmore’s 1869 National Peace Jubilee and the 1872 World’s Peace Jubilee.
Born in Ballygar, Ireland in 1829, P.S. Gilmore’s broad-ranging contributions to American music culture range from composition (including “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”), to changing the standard repertoire for concert bands, to creating concert series and events that provide a sense of national and international musical community. Excerpts from the exhibit text offer an introduction to P. S. Gilmore’s role in the American concert band:
After immigrating to the United States in 1849, P. S. Gilmore settled in Boston, where he began his long and illustrious career as one of American’s foremost bandleaders and concert organizers … From the 1850s to the 1870s, Gilmore conducted some of the finest bands in the Boston area, including the Boston Brigade Band and the Salem Brass Band. Gilmore and his band established a yearly Fourth of July concert on the Boston Common, and created a summer promenade concert series for the city … In the latter half of the 19th century, Gilmore expanded public listening environments, broadened repertoire, and master-minded jubilee festivals of unprecedented scope.
The exhibit features selected items that were collected and researched over several decades by the Ballygar-born Milton resident Michael Cummings (1924-2011). The Michael Cummings Collection of P.S. Gilmore Materials, available for research use at the John J. Burns Library, documents milestones in Gilmore’s career as well as activities of the Patrick S. Gilmore Society, founded by Cummings in 1969.
The Patrick S. Gilmore Society web page states that between 1993 and 2002, the Society hosted a string of popular band concerts each summer on the Boston Esplanade, where community bands from throughout New England came together. Musicians from all over Massachusetts had warmly welcomed a junior high-school clarinetist into the All-State Community Band. Our ensemble performed in an iconic Boston musical location, emulating the Promenade Concerts that P. S. Gilmore instituted in Boston Music Hall (on the site now occupied by the Orpheum Theatre) beginning in the late 1850s. Both of the concerts I played in as a young clarinetist included performances of the national anthem, a piece that was also on the program for the August 3, 1861 concert in the “Gilmore’s Promenade Concerts” series.
Traditions that P.S. Gilmore created are still enjoyed today in public events such as the annual Fourth of July concert hosted by the Boston Pops. On the 140th anniversary of the World’s Peace Jubilee, the library is pleased to display original documents commemorating Gilmore and his dedication to peace and unity through the arts.
- Rachel A. Ernst, Graduate Student Assistant, Burns Library & Doctoral Candidate in the Department of English, Boston College
The blog post on P.S. Gilmore was written in consultation with exhibit curator Elizabeth Sweeney, Irish Music Librarian, John J. Burns Library. For more information about the P.S. Gilmore exhibit and the collection, please contact email@example.com.