Somewhere a Voice is Calling


American Irish Musical Interpreters, 1850 - 1975

Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore, 1829-1892: Father of the American Concert Band
P.S. Gilmore with baton, ca. 1882. (Michael Cummings Collection of P.S. Gilmore, John J. Burns Library, Boston College) The most important bandleader before John Philip Sousa, P.S. Gilmore was born in 1829 and spent his youth in Ballygar, County Galway, Ireland. After immigrating to Boston in 1849, P.S. Gilmore rose to prominence as a bandmaster, concert organizer, and composer, becoming one of the premier American musical figures of the 19th century.

P.S. Gilmore was inspired by the musical precision of British army bands he had heard in Ireland, where he learned to play the E-flat cornet from the bandleader Patrick Keating. P.S. Gilmore quickly established himself in Boston as an outstanding soloist, and led the Boston Brigade Band and the Salem Brass Band. As a bandleader, he undertook a succession of ambitious projects, guiding his bands in innovative musical directions.

Gilmore's band playing
Grand March from Tannhaiiser

P.S. Gilmore helped reshape the traditional military brass band into a civilian performing entity, incorporating woodwinds and performing orchestral repertoire. During the Civil War, his band accompanied the 24th Massachusetts Regiment to the front. His wartime compositions included "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," inspired in part by "Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye,” an Irish anti-war marching song.

His grand 1864 concert for the inauguration of the Louisiana governor inspired P.S. Gilmore to create the 1869 National Peace Jubilee, near what is now Copley Plaza in Boston. A 30,000 seat coliseum was specially built for the event. Exterior view of Coliseum for the National Peace Jubilee, Boston, 1869. (Michael Cummings Collection of P.S. Gilmore, John J. Burns Library, Boston College)Gilmore’s 1872 World Peace Jubilee in Boston seated 50,000, marking the end of the Franco-Prussian War and featuring premier European ensembles, including the American debut of “waltz king” Johann Strauss and his orchestra.

Several popular traditions we enjoy today began with P.S. Gilmore and his band, such as the Fourth of July concerts on the Boston Common. In 1873, P.S. Gilmore became leader of the 22nd New York Regiment Band, and it is his band that began the practice of greeting the New Year in Times Square. On land leased from P.T. Barnum, he established Gilmore's Garden, later named Madison Square Garden.

In 1891, Gilmore and his band made a few commercial recordings for Thomas Edison, and the recordings proved so popular that the band continued recording for many years after Gilmore’s death in 1892.

PDF File For more information on P.S. Gilmore, see the select bibliography created for this exhibit.



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