Centennial Hymn, 1876. John Knowles Paine, 1839-1906. Music Division, Library of Congress. Call number: M1630.P
Centennial Hymn was published in 1876 by J. E. Ditson & Co., Philadelphia, and republished in 1930 as Whittier's Centennial Hymn by Oliver Ditson, Boston. The vocal score was also published in two periodicals as part of the centennial celebrations—the Philadelphia Enquirer (May 10, 1876) and the Atlantic Monthly (June 1876).
Paine's Centennial Hymn was one of three works commissioned for the opening ceremonies of Philadelphia's 1876 Centennial Exposition, the first world's fair to be held in the United States. The premiere performance on May 10, 1876, was presented by a chorus of 800 singers and an orchestra of 150 players under the baton of Theodore Thomas.
Centennial Hymn is a setting of John Greenleaf Whittier's six-verse poem of the same name. The musical material is strophic, the text setting is syllabic, and the length is a mere twenty-four bars of choral singing. A trumpet fanfare introduces the hymn, and an optional orchestral interlude is situated between the verses. Paine marks each of the initial four-bar phrases and the final eight-bar phrase with fermatas, in the manner of J.S. Bach's chorale settings.