Christ Lutheran-Blair, February 28

Hi Friends,

The first performance of 2016 kicks-off on Sunday, February 28 at Christ Lutheran Church in Blair, Ne. We’ll be providing service music and playing some of our favorite Civil War tunes during the fellowship hour.

The pre-service music begins at 8:25 with “O, For A Thousand Tongues to Sing” an exciting fanfare-like arrangement sure to wake everyone up, ready to lift their hearts in worship. During the service we’ll play on the congregational hymns, and play a special arrangement of “It Is Well with My Soul.”

Following the service we’ll move to the fellowship hall for coffee and baked goods and Civil War music. We’ll begin playing a new (to us) arrangement of Dixie’s Land Quickstep, and the Soldier’s Chorus from the opera “Faust” (1859) by French composer Charles Gounod. This arrangement comes from the 3rd New Hampshire Band. In addition we’ll play several of our regular patriotic and popular songs.

So, get up early on Sunday and travel to Blair. Meet the very friendly folks at the church and listen to some great music. Hope to see you there!

Mockingbird Quickstep

Septimus Winner (1827-1902) came from a musical family in that his father was a violin maker and his brother, Joseph, was also a composer (The Little Brown Jug). Septimus was a storekeeper and music teacher in Philadelphia where he would hear “Whistlin’ Dick” Milburn, a black boy, serenading people in the street with his guitar and bird-like warbling. Winner used one of Dick’s melodies for Mockingbird and gave him prominent credit on the published music. He published it under his mother’s name, Alice Hawthorne. He also gave Dick a job in the store. Lacking foresight, Winner sold the rights to the song for $5.00 after slow initial sales. The song sold 20 million  copies over the next 50 years.

Old Dog Tray

Stephen C. Foster (1826-1864) is sometimes known as “The Father of American Music” for the many popular and sentimental songs that he wrote in the mid 1800s. Born in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, Foster lived many years in Pittsburgh and wrote several songs for the Christy Minstrels who through their tours spread Foster’s songs far and wide. Among the songs made popular by Christy were “Camptown Races” (1850), “Nelly Bly” (1850), “Old Folks at Home” (known also as “Swanee River”, 1851), “My Old Kentucky Home” (1853), “Old Dog Tray” (1853), and “Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair” (1854), written for his wife Jane Denny McDowell.

“Old Dog Tray” shows Foster’s love of dogs, especially in the words to the chorus: “Old dog Tray’s ever faithful; Grief cannot drive him away; He’s gentle, he is kind, I’ll never, never find A better friend than old dog Tray.”

This arrangement comes from Brass Band Journal published in 1854. It was recorded at Grace University on August 23, 2015.

Grace University Concert

1st Nebraska was invited to perform for the Grace University Concert Band’s annual fall retreat, which was held Sunday, August 23, 2015 in Suckau Chapel. The students spend a day in bonding and musical activities and frequently invite a musical guest to perform. We were delighted to be invited by band director, Jeff James, who’s a great gentleman and friend.

We played our entire program for the students, who responded with enthusiastic applause throughout the performance. Here are two videos from that concert.

1. Nabucco Quickstep

Civil War bands often serenaded the officers during their evening meal. The officers liked to hear arias and other music from European operas. Claudio S. Grafulla (1812-1880), one of the best composers for bands during the Civil War period, wrote several opera medleys based on tunes for various operas. Nabucco (1841) was a popular opera by Giuseppe Verde (1813-1901), with a story of the plight of the Jews as they are assaulted, conquered and subsequently exiled from their homeland by the Babylonian King Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar). This arrangement comes from the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment Band, aka, The Port Royal Band.

2. Battle Hymn Quickstep

The music to the Battle Hymn of the Republic existed long before Julia Ward Howe penned “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The chorus of “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah” was a Southern camp meeting song, and the verse, written by William Steffe, was used by the soldiers for “John Brown’s Body Lies a Mouldering in the Grave.” However, it was Howe’s 1861 visit to Washington, DC, where she saw all of the encamped soldiers and all of the wounded that her poet’s soul was kindled and set down the immortal words. This arrangement come from the 25th Massachusetts Regiment Band.

Star of the County Down

This is a traditional Irish folk tune from the mid-nineteenth century. The song is sung from the point of view of a young man who chances to meet a charming lady by the name of Rosie McCann, referred to as the “star of the County Down.” From the brief encounter the writer’s infatuation grows until, by the end of the ballad, he imagines wedding the girl. Charles Johnston, a former band director from Monroe Louisiana, and member of the 2nd Louisiana String Band, arranged it for Civil War era brass band. 1st Nebraska’s performance is from the Iowa Municipal Band Festival on July 11, 2015.

1st Nebraska plays at the 2015 Iowa Municipal Band Festival
1st Nebraska plays at the 2015 Iowa Municipal Band Festival

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

This version is based on two authentic Civil War band arrangements. We took some liberties with a couple of the interludes. Recorded live at the Iowa Municipal Band Festival in Boone, IA, on Saturday, July 11, 2015.

post-concert photo of 1NVBB
post-concert photo of 1NVBB

“Johnny” was written and published in New Orleans in 1863 by Patrick S. Gilmore, Bandmaster of the 22nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Originally attributed to Louis Lambert (a pen name of Gilmore) and based on a traditional Irish tune (Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye). the song quickly became popular with war weary civilians and soldiers alike. It regained popularity during the Spanish-American War in 1898.

Tenting on the Old Campground

1st Nebraska closed its program at the Civil War Veterans Museum with the playing of “Tenting on the Old Campground,” an 1863 song by Walter Kittredge expressing the weariness of the soldier and the country with the prolonged Civil War.

The video begins with a one minute narration.

Bonny Blue Flag and Dixie

Here’s a rehearsal recording of two Civil War favorites.

sheetmusic Dixie's Land by EmmettThe tune Dixie was written by Ohio native Daniel Decatur Emmett in 1859, and was a personal favorite of Abraham Lincoln. The song became officially associated with the South when it was played at Jefferson Davis’ inauguration as President of the Confederate States of America in 1861.

bonny blueThe Bonnie Blue Flag dates from 1810 and the rebellion of West Florida from Spain. Floridians marched to the provincial capital at Fort Baton Rouge waving the lone star flag. Successful in overthrowing the governor, they declared them selves an independent republic. However, the matter was settled by President James Madison when he issued a proclamation placing West Florida under the jurisdictions of the Governor of the Louisiana Territory.

When the Confederate Stats seceded they at first adopted the Blue and White lone star flag until the more familiar Stars and Bars flag was created.

National Quickstep

National Quickstep is one of our favorite opening numbers. Today, most people know it by the name “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean.” During the Civil War many called the song “Red, White & Blue” because of the lyrics in the last line of the chorus. By adding a flashy introduction Civil War bands turned the piece into a quickstep.

Here’s a recording of the National Quickstep from a recent rehearsal:

Sheet Music Cover
Sheet Music Cover

“Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean” is a United States patriotic song that was popular during the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, especially during the Civil War era. It may have functioned as an unofficial national anthem in competition with “Hail, Columbia” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” until the latter’s formal adoption as the national anthem of the United States in 1931.

“Columbia” was a common poetic nickname for the United States of America in the 19th century. Graphically, in illustrations and cartoons, the United States was often represented by a heroic female figure named Columbia, dressed in flag-like bunting. Other nations used similar figures, notably the French Marianne, and the British Britannia.

Historical sources generally agree that in the autumn of 1843 an actor named David T. Shaw wanted a new patriotic song to sing at a benefit performance. He gained the assistance of a fellow performer, Thomas á Becket, Sr. (1808-1890), who wrote the lyrics and melody for him. Evidently, Shaw published the song under his own name, but Becket was able to prove his authorship by means of his original handwritten composition.