A grand jubilee for universal peace
BEATING of drums and blaring of trumpets resounded through Boston streets. National bands from Europe, together with the United States Marine Band, marched past crowds welcoming them to the first World's Peace Jubilee and International Music Festival. There was the British Grenadier Band of London, the Kaiser Franz Regiment Band of Berlin, the Garde R'epu-blicaine of Paris, and the Irish National Band of Dublin. For several days before the parade, visitors and musicians poured into Boston by train, boat, and horseback. Hundreds of orchestra players and thousands of choral singers came from the other New England states, the South, and the West. All came to celebrate peace in the world now that the Franco-Prussian War was over in Europe. It was June of 1872.Skip to next paragraph
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On every corner were fiddlers, singers, whistlers, trumpeters, Scottish bagpipers, German brass bands, or Italian organ grinders with their monkeys.
Meanwhile, far out on the newly filled land near the Exeter Street shore of the Back Bay, an enormous concert hall called the Coliseum (with as many seats as the ancient amphitheater in Rome) was rising higher every day. Ever since early spring, when a wind-storm blew down its supporting arches, workmen had been redoubling their efforts to complete the huge temporary structure in time for the opening on June 17.
Everyone knew that before the seats could be set up for the concert audiences, the Coliseum had to be prepared for dancing at the Jubilee Ball. But who had the idea for a world's peace jubilee and why was all this going on in Boston?
It was a popular Boston bandmaster, Albert Gilmour, who had come from Ireland when a young man. He had promoted the National Peace Jubilee in 1869, which brought together singers and orchestra players from the North and South in a musical festival to celebrate peace after the long War Between the States. Gilmour began to dream of a world's peace jubilee and international musical festival.
New York music critics viewed Gil-mour more as a showman than a great musical director and were not interested in having the jubilee in New York City, so he settled on Boston as the place for the celebration. President Grant gave Gilmour a letter addressed to American diplomatic representatives in European countries. In it he recommended that they help Gilmour in his plans to bring to Boston the national bands of Europe to play in the proposed event.
Gilmour even persuaded the composer Johann Strauss to come with full orchestra to take part.
Thus it was that on June 15, 22,000 privileged guests, including President Grant, gathered for an evening of dancing, with Johann Strauss conducting his orchestra. Finally on June 17, people flocked to the Coliseum. They walked from horsecars on Washington Street and over the flat new land from downtown Boston. Others came on bicycles, in carriages, and still others crossed the Back Bay from Roxbury in little boats.
Everyone was in a festive mood. Some stopped at the booths that lined the road to buy souvenirs, toy drums, trumpets, bandsmen's caps and flags, and lemonade at 5 cents a glass.
As they approached the gigantic Coliseum, they were greeted with the view of flags of many nations flying from the roof, and above them all a banner proclaiming ``Universal Peace.''