HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO “ON THE MALL” by Edwin Franko Goldman. June 25, 1923
Edwin Franko Goldman (1878-1956) was an American composer and conductor. One of the most significant American band composers of the early 20th century, Goldman composed over 150 works, but is best known for his marches. He founded the renowned Goldman Band of New York City and the American Bandmasters Association.
One of his most popular marches is “On the Mall” first published in 1923 by Carl Fischer. Goldman wrote a number of marches whose titles begin with words On the, with the first being “On the Green” in 1920.
On the Mall was composed for the dedication of the splendid new bandstand, the Naumburg Bandshell, in New York City’s Central Park, where the famous Goldman Band had given its summer concerts for many years. Elkan Naumburg (1835–1924) was a New York City merchant, banker, philanthropist and musicologist, best remembered for his sponsorship of the arts in Manhattan. From the last quarter of the nineteenth century, he used his wealth to promote public interest in symphonic and “semi-classical” music by helping to form and establish the Oratorio Society of New York and funding construction of the Bandshell in Central Park, which honors his name
The phrase “On the Mall” refers to the Mall in Central Park, New York City, where Goldman’s Band frequently performed. Goldman composed “On the Mall” possibly as early as 1922, but published the march in 1923 to honor Naumburg, who funded the construction of the new Bandshell.
Interesting enough, according to Goldman, he (Goldman) was not happy with the march and did not program it. He was contacted by the publisher to check on public reaction, but he was ashamed to admit he didn’t like it. However, Naumburg was anxious to hear the new work. Under pressure from his publisher and the Naumburg family who wanted to hear it, Goldman performed the work on June 25, 1923. It was an immediate hit. Goldman reported, “The spontaneous applause and enthusiasm of the audience really overwhelmed me. I couldn’t believe it. We were compelled to play it again and then even a third time. From then until this day, we have seldom given a concert without playing it as an extra request number.”
The march is known for its delightful melody where the band members sing La-la-la and then whistle the trio (third strain). It is predominantly sung by the band members and then repeated, after a break strain, with whistling. A great believer in public participation as Goldman toured with his band in countless venues, he encouraged audiences likewise in “On the Mall” to sing along and then whistle with the band. All crowds loved it and it became a huge hit and a staple of his concert repertoire.
The site of the Naumburg Bandshell is also remembered for the location of both a speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. and a eulogy read for John Lennon.