The Father of the American Band February 18 2009, 3 Comments


The Father of the American Band

By Jack Kopstein

Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore was one of the most famous bandleaders and musical impresarios in American history and touched the lives of music lovers all over America. He was often referred to as the “father of the American Band.” He was born in County Galway, Ireland, on Christmas day in 1829. . Most sources place Gilmore's birth in the town of Ballygar, but recent research by Frank Cipolla has suggested Mullingar as a more likely birthplace. The young Gilmore learned to play the cornet under a retired British bandmaster named Patrick Keating and was soon playing in the city of Athlone's Amateur Youth Band and singing in St. Peter's Catholic Church Choir.

At the age of 18, he joined a military band (possibly the 88th regiment Royal Connaught Regiment band 1841-1851 ) which was stationed in Halifax Nova Scotia Canada.

After a year in the service, he quit the military and moved to Boston where he quickly established a reputation as a gifted cornetist. At age 22, Gilmore was appointed leader of the Boston Brass Band, one of the best musical organizations in New England. (From the date of its formation in 1835, the Boston Brass Band had only been led by virtuoso keyed buglers: Edward (Ned) Kendall, Joseph Green, and Eben Flagg.) After three successful years with the Aston Brass Band, Gilmore moved to Salem where he was director of the Salem Brass Band, a position he held for five years. In 1859 Gilmore was invited back to Boston to direct the Boston Brigade Band, which was experiencing difficulties. With his usual energy and enthusiasm, Gilmore revitalized the organization and changed its name to his own. Gilmore's Band was similar to the Dodworth organization in that it was a large, flexible ensemble capable of providing music for almost any occasion. The band featured two woodwinds to each brass instrument, the same which is used in modern concert bands.

In 1855, he played the first promenade concert in America which became the forerunner of today's Boston Pops.

Gilmore wrote several songs, the most well known being When Johnny Comes Marching Home. He also composed the famous 22nd Regiment March (get it by the United States Marine Band - SOUND OFF - Altissimo! Disc on Demand)

From 1859 to 1863, Gilmore was co-owner of a Boston music store, Gilmore & Russell that sold band instruments. Later he was part owner in two instrument manufacturing firms: Gilmore, Graves & Co. (1864-1866) and Wright, Gilmore & Co. (1867-68).

In October of 1861, Gilmore and his band enlisted with the 24th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The bandsmen served with General Burnside in North Carolina until their discharge in August of 1862. Upon returning home, Gilmore gave concerts with his band and devoted much time to reorganizing militia and army bands.

Following the war, Gilmore organized two mammoth musical extravaganzas in Boston (1869 and 1872) that received national and international attention. He produced the World’s Peace Jamboree (1872) which had a 2,000 piece orchestra and 20,000 voice chorus. Johann Strauss Jr. was paid 100,000 to appear at these concerts which was the only time he appeared in America.

Gilmore was the music director for several momentous occasions including the July 4th Centennial in Philadelphia(1876), the Dedication of the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor 1886, and he was featured at the St Louis Exposition in 1878 as well as touring Europe the same year. From 1873 until the time of his death in 1892, Gilmore directed the superb 22nd Regiment Band of New York (also known as Gilmore's Band). This large ensemble of some 65 musicians, which toured the nation and the world, set a pa1ttern of instrumentation and a standard of musical performance that were emulated by many professional bands in the 1890s and early twentieth century including the Incredible Band of John Philip Sousa. Patrick Gilmore died following a concert at the St. Louis Exposition on September 24, 1892.