September 15, 2001
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Last time we visited Petrograd in 1920, as the new Soviet Union pulled out all the stops to present a summer of staged Communist blockbusters. They were following a long line of such entertainments, from Roman triumphs in the Coliseum on down to the Wild West shows of Buffalo Bill. We don't know exactly what the ancient Romans listened to as their chariots paraded around the arena, but music is usually an integral part of most spectacles. Often it is the spectacle.

One such event had its beginnings in Athlone, Ireland. It was there in the late 1830s or early 1840s that young Pat Gilmore first heard a professional marching band perform, during a protest rally. His parents had been grooming him for the priesthood, but he felt the beat and never looked back. He emigrated to the U. S. in 1849, became famous as a cornetist and formed his own band in 1857. When the Civil War broke out in 1861 he and his band joined the Massachusetts 24th Regiment, but by the following year they were back in civilian life, as were all regimental bands. He continued to conduct and compose, writing When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Seeing Nellie Home and other hits of the period. His band would play at the 1886 dedication of the Statue of Liberty, begin the first New Year's celebration in Times Square in 1888, and lay down some tracks (one track, actually) for Thomas Edison's new phonographic cylinders in 1901. He marched out of life in 1892, dying of a heart attack while on tour. The night of his funeral a young conductor-composer named John Philip Sousa dedicated a performance to his predecessor. Gilmore even got a brash mention in our own time, by a fictional band conductor name of Hill. Professor Harold Hill.

Aside from his other professional successes and that Johnny song, Gilmore was probably best known for his Barnum-like marvels of massed instrumentation. At the Civil War's end Lincoln asked him to produce a peace concert in New Orleans. The production used 500 musicians, 5,000 schoolchildren singing patriotic numbers, and a cannon to mark the beats. The results probably left Gilmore gratified but not satisfied, figuring nothing succeeds like excess. When his adopted home of Boston asked him to stage a Peace Festival in 1869, he was ready. He lined up financing, primarily out of the coffers of department store magnate Eben Marsh (of Jordan-Marsh fame). No existing building in the city could contain the 1,000 + musicians and 10,000 singers he envisioned, so he planned on building one of his own, 300 feet long by 100 feet wide, rising 100 feet above Boston Common. When objections to the site arose (it was voted down 10-2) he quickly changed his plans and built it on Copley Square. President Grant and his Cabinet were invited for the monster June rally. Next time we'll grab our invites and head up to the square to join Ulysses and his gang as they settle in for the giant whoop up. For now we'll give the maestro the final word as he explains how the occasion will come, "like a sunburst upon the musical world, shedding light where all had been darkness before, and revealing a new sphere of harmony, a fairer land of promise, and triumphantly realizing greater achievements in the divine art than were hitherto thought possible. It will ever be a memorable epoch in the history of music...a grand outburst of sacred song, an overwhelming outpouring of the people, a universal expression of joy and thankfulness."

For Classical 91.5 and 90-point-3, this is David Minor

 

 

Lst week's message brought a larger number than usual (meaning more than 1 or 2) of replies. I've decided to publish excerpts, with the writers' permissions, from a number of them, perhaps inaugurating a sometimes section called -

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FEEDBACK
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Terrorist Attack
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When thanking the unknowns who have labored so heroically, one group has not been mentioned, at least not prominently--the air controllers who, somehow, successfully managed to divert countless planes from NYC, Boston and elsewhere. How they did it and the pilots followed through is a minor miracle.

Wayne Mahood
mahood@geneseo.edu

 

 

 

Obviously the candlelight vigils and church services have been very helpful, strengthening the sense of community, and hope. Last night there was a community wide vigil on the high school football field. We all held candles and our (Unitarian) minister repeated something he used Thursday night at church -- 'raise your candles high, and I want you to look around and carry THIS image of all images this week, carry it with you forever'. With several thousand people there, it was indeed a very moving and hopeful image.

Paul Minor
MinorArch@aol.com

 

 

It may well be that we must respond to this attack militarily, however, even as we do so, some of us must keep in the back of our minds what happens after the fighting is done. The lessons of history on this are very clear. After World War One, we left Germany in a shambles, its infrastructure destroyed, its people starving. Germany responded through Nazism and came back to attack us. After World War Two, we built up our enemies, we rebuilt Germany and Japan, despite their treachery and they have since become our
closest allies. We forgot that lesson in Korea and Iraq. After their wars with us, both those enemies were left destitute, their people starving. Both now threaten our security and the World's peace. It may turn out that Iraq had a role in Tuesday's attack in which case, our own unwillingness to make peace with an enemy could well be one of the factors that led to our injury. Afghanistan was also left in this same condition, not by the U.S. but by the Soviet Union. However, the results for humanity are the same.

Joe DeMare
Electricity2@cs.com

 

Thanks to all.

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URL OF THE WEEK
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It's never been recorded that Gilmore, Liberatti, Conway, the Great Creatore and John Philip Sousa came to any town on any historic day, but would Professor Harold Hill lie to us? Not on your tintype !

We know about Sousa, and now something of Gilmore, but who were these other guys anyway? And what on earth is a piggin, milk pan, neck-or-nothin', tank town, iron clad leave, or a pinch-back suit? And when you went to the store for Bevo, Cubebs, PeeWees, Buster Browns, what department did you check out? Whether you're new to the musical The Music Man, or whether you know all the patter by heart but aren't quite sure just yet what it all means, take a look at Nancy West and Mike Jones's illustrated slang and biographical dictionary for the Meredith Willson hit musical at http://www.clipper.net/~nancyw/The_Music_Man.html
You won't find it in Rabelaisse, but it's probably here.

 

© 2001 David Minor / Eagles Byte

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