World’s Columbian Exposition Concerts
in 1893

by Roger Lee Hall



Stoughton Musical Society President, Sanford W. Billings, proudly proclaimed they had

responded to the cordial invitation to present American music of the olden days to the gaze of the world.  In this act it has surpassed every other musical organization in this country.

Over 2,000 people came to hear the Stoughton Musical Society give two concerts at the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition in August of 1893.

They were the only chorus to perform music from early New England at the Chicago World's Exposition. They appeared in Colonial costumes and were well received by the audience and critics.

In an article in the Chicago Tribune from August 13, 1893, this was the pre-concert announcement:

The most interesting announcement made for the current week by the Bureau of Music, and one having historical significance, is that regarding the series of concerts that will occur in the Music Hall on *Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. This is the oldest singing society in America and was organized November 7, 1786, under the name of the 'Stoughton Musical Society,' with a membership of twenty-five, all men. Women were not admitted as members until the year 1844; it was also voted, however, that their supper was to be paid for out of the general treasury . The music to be given will include examples from all the composers whose hymns were sung in days past, as well as more modern works by Lowell Mason and his contemporaries. There will be a chorus of 100 and soloists. To enhance the historical interest of the event the singers will appear in costume. A number of rare interest will be a solo and chorus entitled 'Ode to Columbia's Favorite Son,' by Oliver Holden. This ode, which was first sung upon the occasion of Washington's visit to Boston in 1789, will be given now for the second time, and is the best of the many amazing odes to Washington.

* = two concerts, not three





The two concerts on August 14 and 15 were performed in the Music Hall [shown at left] at the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition.





This is the complete program from the World's Columbian Exposition concerts with music by New England composers performed by the Stoughton Musical Society chorus and soloists, conducted by Leander Soule, the orchestra under the direction of violinist, Edwin A. Jones:


1a. +TURNER (pub. in 1802)-- Abraham Maxim
1b. +INVITATION (pub. in 1793)-- Jacob Kimball
1c. +CONTENTMENT (pub. in 1805)-- John Cole

2. Duet: ARRAYED IN GOLDEN LIGHT -- Oliver Shaw

3a. + EMMANUEL (pub. in 1790)-- William Billings
3b. + NEW BETHLEHEM (pub. about 1800)[1799]
-- Edward French
3c. + MAJESTY (pub. about 1790)[1778] -- William Billings

4. Trio: + OMEGA -- Oliver Holden, pub. about 1793

5a. + AUSTRIA (pub. in 1790)-- Nahum Mitchell
5b. + GREENWICH (pub. in 1793)-- Daniel Read
5c. + HEAVENLY VISION (pub. in 1786)-- Jacob French

6a. Solo and Chorus:
ODE TO COLUMBIA'S FAVORITE SON (1789) -- Oliver Holden
6b. + CHESTER (pub. in 1770)-- William Billings
6c. + ODE ON SCIENCE (pub. in 1798)-- Jezaniah Sumner


8. + EASTER ANTHEM -- William Billings

9. + CHINA (pub. in 1788)-- Timothy Swan

10a. + NEW JERUSALEM (pub. in 1802)-- Jeremiah Ingalls
10b. + DAVID'S INVITATION [LAMENTATION] -- William Billings
10c. +MOUNT VERNON (pub. in 1803) --
John Cole [Oliver Holden]

Lowell Mason

12. Anthem: + JEHOVAH'S PRAISE (pub. about 1837)--
Edward L. White

+ = included in The Stoughton Musical Society's Centennial
Collection of Sacred Music
(Boston: Ditson & Company,
1878/reprint with a new Introduction by Roger Hall, DaCapo Press, 1980).


After their return, the Stoughton Sentinel newspaper announced,

the attendance at the two concerts was a matter of surprise to the Exposition people.  It was larger than had been attracted to the Theodore Thomas symphony concerts.

Local newspaper reporter Lemuel Standish, who also went on the trip to Chicago, wrote this description in the Stoughton newspaper on August 19, 1893:

One hundred and ten members of the Stoughton Musical Society made a busy, bustling crowd in the Lowell station of the B&M [Boston & Maine] system in Boston on Friday evening last. The crowd was a remakable one in several ways. The passing stranger would be first struck with the appearance and makeup of the party. They were all fine appearing , well balanced people, of good address, and attractive personality. They were a good natured party also. They were also remarkable for the purpose which drew them together. To travel 1,200 miles to give two concerts of music is a remarkable feat, but taking in connection with this the fact that they were the chosen representatives of the oldest musical organization in the country made this gathering yet more remarkable.



For more information see these AMP links:

Dedication Concert (1881-1981)

New England Harmony : Six Early Composers

New England Music Archive

Singing Stoughton

Stoughton Musical Society's Centennial Collection

Stoughton music series



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