World's Peace Jubilee, 1872 -- Boston Coliseum. Stereograph. Marian S. Carson Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Lot 13672, no. 1 [P&P]. Reproduction number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-17488 (digital file from original stereograph)
Buck composed his Festival Hymn, according to the octavo published by Oliver Ditson, for the "World's Musical Jubilee" of 1872. The formal title of this "monster" event staged in Boston by Patrick Gilmore was "The World Peace Jubilee and International Musical Festival." Gilmore had staged a very successful, large-scale Jubilee three years earlier in the same city. For the 1872 event, however, he increased the size of the performing forces to a chorus of 20,000 persons and an orchestra of 2,000, requiring 100 assistant conductors. He also imported military bands and virtuosos from Europe. Johann Strauss the younger headlined the event and wrote a special Jubilee Waltz for the occasion.
Buck's grand Festival Hymn for orchestra and chorus is published by Oliver Ditson with a piano reduction, which includes some orchestra cue indications. The chorus scoring is unusual in the octavo: the top stave is marked "soprano and alto," the next is designated "alto--tenor," and the last reads "tenor and bass." The middle line, written in the treble clef throughout, doubles exactly the tenor part on the bottom system written in bass clef. The texture is, therefore, only four parts.
The composer provides his own celebratory text that extols the power of music to unite nations. At the midpoint, Buck's music climaxes on the words "O blessed bond 'twixt the high and the lowly," which is answered more prayerfully, "Thy language is known to each nation." In the quietest moment women sing on a simple tonic triad, "O Music," which is answered by men, "O Peace." The women respond, "Happy blending of voices and hearts in sweet lays." The accompaniment then builds with continuous triplets to a fortissimo hymn of praise, "O Jehovah! Thou Sovereign of nations! Be Thy praises eternally chanted in music for evermore!"