Friday, January 01, 2010

CWL---An Era When All Music Was Live Music, Part One

"Old Times There Are Not Forgotten: An Overview of Music of the Civil War Era, Bruce C. Kelly, pp. 1-36 in Bugle Resounding: Music And Musicians Of The Civil War Era, Bruce C. Kelley and Mark A. Snell, editors, University of Missouri Press, 260 pp., illustrations, index, notes, 2004, $44.00.

Kelly's essay focuses upon the major music personalities of the era, the American reception of European classical music, popular songs and dances of the home front and in the camps, the American musical community, African-American music and musicians, military and civilian bands, the music publishing industry, innovations of instruments and the impact of the war on post-war music.

The most popular composers of music during the war were John Hill Hewitt (Confederate) and George Root (Union). Remarkably, Hewitt was a native of NYC, disliked slavery and pro-Union but lived in the South and remained there throughout the war. Working in Richmond he penned the classics Somebody's Darling, and All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight and many others. Root wrote over 30 songs during the war including The Vacant Chair, The Battle Cry of Freedom, Just Before the Battle, Mother, and Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! . Kelly includes three others in the pantheon. 1.) Thomas Greene Wiggins aka Thomas (Blind Tom) Bethune a music savant who was black, enslaved, blind and unable to care for himself and thought to be an idiot in all things except music, 2.) Patrick Gilmore an Irish immigrant who was an extraordinary band leader, promoter,and who produced monster concerts one of which included a 500 piece band, a 6,000 voice chorus, 50 canons, and 40 soldiers striking anvils and is credited with writing When Johnny Comes Marching Home, and 3.) Clara Louise Kellogg, a professional soloist, opera company manager, native South Carolinian who moved to NYC before the war and lived there during it.

Regarding European influences, the impact travelled both ways across the Atlantic.
Rimsky-Korsakov, later to become one of Czarist Russia premier composers, was in the Russian navy on a shipped stationed off the eastern seaboard of the U.S. He left notes regarding the impact of his Northern visits upon his later composition. For the most part though, it was European opera companies touring the North during the war that schooled American students in performance that influenced American popular culture.

Kelly summarizes the extraordinarily important role of popular music during the war. He cites four scholarly and extensive works that have been written on the subject. Kelly also surveys the publication and republication of songbooks, collections, and dance manuals. He encourages readers to consult Allison Thompson analysis of the many social dances of the era found in Dancing on the Eve of Battle: some Views about social dance During the American Civil War (Country Dance and Song, volume 21:19-25 (March 1991) as well as five other books and scholarly articles on the subject.

Top Image Source: Baltimore Civil War Roundtable
Second Image Source: Cartoon

1 comment:

Unknown said...

If your interested in finding more about Blind Tom Wiggins, check out "The Ballad of Blind Tom" by Deirdre O'Connell.

The book tells how Blind Tom's 1862 masterpiece "The Battle of Manassas" was promoted as the South's response to Louis Gottschalk's battlepiece "L'Union".

However, Blind Tom - who had little understanding or interest in sectional politics - was more interested in channeling the sounds of battle into the piano.

And if you're quick, you can hear a wonderful radio documentary about Blind Tom by following this link.