The Bureau of Music arranged elaborately for the entertainment of the visitors at the Exposition, due to a large appropriation. The general public was very much interested in band music, so the best bands in America, and some of the greatest foreign bands, played at the Fair. Of the latter the highly regarded at the time- Garde Republicaine band of Paris played in September. The Mexican band of 63 pieces was present in August. The British Grenadier Guards Band trilled fairgoers during their six weeks' stay. The Berlin Philharmonic Band, under the celebrated conductor, Von Blon, played master works of the German composers. Among the American bands was the world-renowned Sousa organization and the Boston, Innes, Sorrentino, Conterno, Weber, Creatore, Ellery, Haskell Indian, and other bands. A St. Louis band had a permanent engagement lasting throughout the Exposition. There were two fine Philippine Bands and a Government Indian Band besides. Government Military Bands rendered concerts daily at the Government building.
There were six attractive band stands on the grounds and three bands were heard daily, concerts were given every afternoon and evening.
An orchestra of 80 carefully selected players gave concerts at stated times during the season in Festival Hall, which was excellently adapted for the purpose. Mr. Alfred Ernst, for nine years conductor of the St. Louis Choral-Symphony Society, was director. The programs were dignified, without being too severe, and the price of admission was 25 cents. Soloists of reputation were heard at some of the concerts.
When not used at Festival Hall, the orchestra played twice daily at one of The Pike concessions. Two famous European conductors lead the orchestra at the concession concerts. Josef Hellmesberger, of Vienna, conducted the orchestra until August 15, and Karl Komzak, also of Vienna, succeeded him, until the close of the Exposition.
The largest organ in the world, installed in Festival Hall, was played upon daily by celebrated organists. M. Alexandre Guilmant of Paris, unquestionably the foremost living organist of the day was one of the premiere musicans during the Fair.
Admission to all organ recitals is 10 cents.
Among the organists who performed on the great organ in Festival Hall are the following:
I. V. Flagler, Auburn, N. T., June 1, 2; H. J. Zehn, Charlotte, N. C., June 3. 4; H. H. Hunt, Minneapolis, June 6, 7; N. H. Allen, Hartford, June 8, 9; H. M. Dunham, Boston, June 10, 11; H. M. Wild, Chicago, June 13, 14; Mrs. M. C. Fisher, Rochester, June 15, 16; R. H. Woodman, New York, June 17, 18; G. M. Dethier, New York, June 20, 21; H. Parker, New Haven, June 22, 23; G. W. Andrews, Oberlin, June 24, 25; E. M. Bowman, New York, June 27, 28; W. Middleschulte, Chicago, June 29, 30; P. J. Reisberg, New York, July 1, 2; N. J. Corey, Detroit, July 4, 5; G. E. Whiting, Boston, July 6, 7; W. X. Steiner, Pittsburg, Pa., July 8, 9; G. Smith, New York, July 11, 12; F. P. Fisk, Kansas City, July 13. 14; W. J. Golph, Buffalo, N. Y., July 15, 16; J. W. Andrews, New York, July 18, 19; J. O'Shea, Boston, July 20, 21; J. J. Bishop. Springfield, Mass., July 22, 23; W. S. Sterling, Cincinnati, July 25, 26; S. N. Penfield, New York, July 27, 28; H. O. Thunder, Philadelphia, July 29, 30; A. I. Epstein. St. Louis, August 1, 2; A. Raymond, Boston, August 3, 4; H. Houseley, Denver, August 5, 6; C. S. Howe, New York, August 8, 9; S. A. Gibson, New York, August 10, 11; H. D. Wilkins, Rochester, August, 12, 13; A. Guilmant, Paris (date open); W. C. Carl, New York, September 26, 27; F. Dunkley, New Orleans, September 28, 29; E. C. Gale, New York. September 30, October 1; J. L. Browne, Atlanta, October 3, 4; H. N. Shelley, New York, October 5. 6; W. Kaffenberger, Buffalo, October 7, 8; F. York, Detroit, October 10, 11; W. McFarlane, New York, October 12, 13; R. K. Miller, Philadelphia, October 14, 15; E. E. Truette, Boston, October 17, 18; F. J. Benedict, New York, October 19, 20; J. A. Pennington, Scranton, October 21, 22; A. Ingham, St. Louis, October 24. 25; W. H. Donley, Indianapolis, October 26, 27; J. F. Wolle, Bethlehem, Pa., October 28, 29; W. C. Hammond, Holyoke, Mass., October 31, November 1; Miss G. Sans Souci, Minneapolis, November 2, 3; A. Dunham. Chicago, November 4, 5; R. H. Peters, Spartansburg, S. C., November 7; L. H. Lemare, Pittsburg, November 8, 9. 10; G. H. Chadwick, Chicago, November 11, 12; E. Kreiser, Kansas City, November 14, 15; L. L. Renwick, Ann Arbor, November 16, 17; S. Salter, New York, November 18, 19; L. Holloway, Baltimore, November 21, 22; H. B. Day, New York, November 23, 24; F. C. Chace, Albion, Mich., November 25, 26; A. Scott-Brook, Los Angeles, November 28, 29; C. Galloway, St. Louis, November 30.
Some of the best Choral Societies in the land gave concerts of standard and modern works. Choral contests for large prizes took place the second week of July. In September, band contests took place. The aggregate amount of the prizes offered was 30,000 dollars.
Schools for children were heard in massed concerts in the Stadium, as well as in Festival Hall.
Occasionally, recitals will be heard in the small Recital Hall (situated in one of the wings of Festival Hall).
Reportedly the musical program at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago had been a disastrous failure. A musical elite had sought to elevate the taste of the public by presenting classical music and rejecting what it termed "primitive music." The Chicago Chronicle described the resulting music as "incomprehensible," and contended that people were justly angry at the "high-priced bands and orchestras tooting, banging and sawing at noisy productions unintelligible except to the elect."
In an attempt to avoid another fiasco, the St. Louis officials had consulted their Chicagoan predecessors. Curtis quotes from a retrospective on the fair by Professor Ernest Kroeger, Director of Programmes and Awards, in the World's Fair Bulletin 5 (September 1904): "The Chicago officials informed the St. Louis bureau in the most emphatic manner that a scheme of high-class music at any Exposition would be a serious mistake; that the crowd in attendance would not have it at all; that the energy, enthusiasm, and money spent in this direction would be largely thrown away." Accordingly, the fair directors promised "music for all at the World's Fair in 1904—brass bands and ragtime for the many" as well as music "for the most exclusive sort of virtuosos.""While ragtime was given short shrift, it was tolerated,"
Concerts at the six outdoor pavilions featured six different bands, including that of John Phillip Sousa. Although Sousa emphasized marches, he also programmed cakewalks, such as "At a Georgia Camp Meeting" and "Whistling Rufus," both by Kerry Mills. According to Jasen and Jones in That American Rag, "Although ragtime was not to Sousa's personal taste, he was showman enough to program some syncopated numbers in deference to the city's musical rage."
Tichenor also discussed the ragtime scene on the Pike. Herbert Spencer, schooled musician and composer of "Nonette Rag" and "Barbed Wire Rag" was in charge of music at the Irish Village. Arthur Marshall, famed ragtime composer and student of Scott Joplin, played at Old Seville restaurant and featured "Swipesy Cakewalk" until, overwhelmed by competition from the music at the adjoining Hagenbeck's Circus, he was replaced by a band.
Tichenor reported a ragtime piano-playing contest held in St. Louis during the fair, but not at the fairgrounds, probably at the Beaumont Hall near Tom Turpin's Rosebud Cafe.
Numerous ragtime compositions were written to commemorate the fair, but there is no evidence that they were performed there. In addition to "The Cascades," the most notable was probably James Scott's tuneful "On the Pike," with cover artwork surveying the celebratory scene, "especially dedicated to visitors of the 'Pike.'"
Some of this information is courtesy of the Rose Leaf Ragtime Club