Sunday, May 26, 2019

Civil War Songs: The Confederacy

Continuing from our previous post, here are some songs from the Confederacy that you may hear in the upcoming play "Honorable Distinction," produced by and performed at the Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, May 30, 31, and June 1, 2019.

The play is about the experience, struggles, and victories of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry and other famous and should-be-famous black heroes of the Civil War period, including Frederick DouglasHarriet TubmanRobert Smalls, and Martin Delaney. It is being done in salute to our veterans the weekend after Memorial Day. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.

This is the second time I am a part of this production, having played General William Tecumseh Sherman last year. This time I am playing President Abraham Lincoln, the second time I am playing that character for Mt. Pisgah, though the previous time was in a different play, "Emancipated Glory."

I am playing with the band in this show, and advising them on the period music that is selected for various parts of the show. In the previous post I linked to YouTube videos of various union songs. Here are links to some Confederate songs, and some that may have been sung by both sides.

The Bonnie Blue Flag
Almost an anthem of the South, this ode to the first, unofficial flag of the Confederacy, adapted from an Irish tune subsequently re-used for Unions versions of the song and other songs, outlines the formation of the rebel union:
Note that in this version, form the movie "Gods and Generals, The singer recites in the first verse "...We're fighting for our liberty / With famine , war, and toil," though the subtitles read the better-known lyric"..."With treasure, blood, and toil." In fact, historians believe the original version was "...Fighting for our property / We gained through honest toil."

This campfire version has all the lyrics:

The unofficial anthem of the South, this song was quite popular nationwide. Even Abraham Lincoln liked it. All the ironies in the world come home when you discover it was originally written for a blackface minstrel show.


Goober Peas:
Both armies had food shortages during the war. The Rebels even made up a song about what they had to eat: peanuts.

Lorena:
This song is perhaps the saddest song to have been sung during the Civil War. It was immensely popular but made the men so homesick that some officers banned it because of the desertions it caused. This particular version was a hit  in the 20th century:

Here is another version with different instrumentation and harmonic vocals. The song was popular on both  the Union and Confederate sides:

I hope you have enjoyed these Civil War Songs. Please come and enjoy Emancipated Glory at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church running from Thursday through Saturday, May 30, 31, and June 1, 2019

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Civil War Songs: The Union

As some of you may know, I am playing President Abraham Lincoln in "Honorable Distinction," a play produced by and performed at the Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.

The play is about the experience, struggles, and victories of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry and other famous and should-be-famous black heroes of the Civil War period, including Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, Robert Smalls, and Martin Delaney. It is being done in salute to our veterans the weekend after Memorial Day. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.

This is my second year doing this show, and the second time playing Lincoln (though not in the same show). I played General William Tecumseh Sherman the last time I was in this play), and again, in addition to playing a major role, I am also supplying a number of costumes and playing in the band. As part of the band-playing, I have am advising the band and the production on certain songs that may fit into the show.

Here are YouTube videos of several Civil War songs that you may hear during the show, in one manner or another. This list is of Union songs only. Confederate songs are in the following post.

You can hear most of these songs performed in bombastic style by US military orchestras (you may search if you like), but I have tried to find versions that sound more like they are being sung by real people. One amazing thing about these songs is how adaptable they are to different arrangements, accents, instruments, and rhythms!

A second post will follow of Confederate songs

UNION SONGS
The Battle Cry of Freedom (Rally 'Round the Flag):
Perhaps the best-known song from the Union side after "Battle Hymn of the Republic." It was a big deal because it both glorified the Union and stated the cause of ending slavery.

This "parlor version" gives a sense of how it might have been sung by a gathering of family and friends around the piano in a well-to-do family's home (Not a dynamic you find often in modern recordings of Civil War songs):


The Battle Hymn of the Republic (John Brown's Body; Glory, Glory Hallelujah):
Like many folk songs, the lyrics have been changed and misinterpreted and adapted for different causes. Here are three different arrangements, each with a different mood:

March:
(Mid 20th century Mich Miller version)


Gospel:


Campfire:


Tramp Tramp, Tramp the Boys Go Marching:
This was about men in prisoner of war camps looking forward to rescue by their comrades. The melody is used for the Christian song, "Jesus Loves the Little Children," and apparently other songs all over  the world.

This version is probably sounds more like it might have been heard back in the day and has some great civil war pics in the video:

This version is played on a music box from 1904!


When Johnny Comes Marching Home:
Adapted from an old Irish tune, you might know this as "The Ants Go Marching One by One..."
Note the strength of the "Hurrah!" each time it comes around. This was a thing back in the day.

This song probably has the most fascinatingly adaptable melody of all Civil War songs.

As an example, this instrumental version is a fascinating progression from modest marching tune to the very definition of bombastic orchestral excess, and then ends in a haunting melody on a single fife.

It was not until I did the research for this show that I actually heard this whole song and learned that it is actually an anti-slavery song. Of it, Frederick Douglas himself wrote that the song "awakens sympathies for the slave, in which antislavery principles take root, grow, and flourish": 

And here is a contemporary acapella vocal group doing their version, proving what Dave Alvin says, "It's all folk music."

The lyrics you hear at the Kentucky  Dereby are not the original ones, which is why the abolitionist heritage of this song my be surprising. But I found (thanks to the internet) those lyrick. Modern eyes and ears my find them quite stunning:

Original Lyrics (composed by Stephen Foster in 1853):
Verse 1:
The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
‘Tis summer, the darkies are gay;
The corn-top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom,
While the birds make music all the day.
The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,
All merry, all happy and bright;
By ‘n’ by Hard Times comes a-knocking at the door,
Then my old Kentucky home, goodnight.
Chorus:
Weep no more my lady
Oh! weep no more today!
We will sing one song for the old Kentucky home,
For the Old Kentucky Home far away.
Verse 2:
They hunt no more for the possum and the coon,
On meadow, the hill and the shore,
They sing no more by the glimmer of the moon,
On the bench by the old cabin door.
The day goes by like a shadow o’er the heart,
With sorrow, where all was delight,
The time has come when the darkies have to part,
Then my old Kentucky home, goodnight.
Chorus
Verse 3:
The head must bow and the back will have to bend,
Wherever the darky may go;
A few more days, and the trouble all will end,
In the field where the sugar-canes grow;
A few more days for to tote the weary load,
No matter, ’twill never be light;
A few more days till we totter on the road,
Then my old Kentucky home, goodnight.

So some see the show, hear the music, learn the history, and enjoy the acting, singing., an dancing talents at Mt Pisgah Baptist Church this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, May 30, 31, and June 1.

Next: CONFEDERATE TUNES!


BONUS!

Marching Through Georgia:
We are not actually doing this song anywhere in the play, but it is too important to leave out of a collection of Civil War songs.

This is the version of which I am most familiar. I love the spirit of the vocalists in this band! It does use a word or two that are no longer in common parlance among polite company, and some may consider it insensitive towards the sufferings of the South. But the event it describes did shorten the war. Not to get too political, I wonder how many such people complain about the atomic bombs being dropped on Japan? Would they object to a song called "Flying over Hiroshima?"

Tennessee Ernie Ford was part of the mid 20th-Century movement that sanitized and glorified the Civil War and its participants, particularly the Confederates. This version carefully omits any part of the song that might be politically sensitive or relates the suffering of the victims and the aggressive nature of the event.

Being as I sing this song as part of my "Time Travelling Bard" act, I was tickled to be able to actually play General Sherman in last year's version of this play!

P.S. There is a reenactment regiment of the 54th Mass in Washington D.C.!

The Burning of Notre Dame de Paris

The United States of America is less than 250 years old. We simply do not have anything to compare with Notre Dame de Paris that combines historical, cultural, and architectural significance and aesthetic beauty. We had 9/11 and the burning of the White House in the War of 1812, but without reducing their impact and meaning one iota, the significance of the destruction of those buildings was different, and we will not understand what it means to the French to see that 900+ year-old building so damaged by fire.


I hear that many relics had been removed as the building was being restored and many more were removed before the fire got to them, most of the stone structure, including the two famous towers, still stand, and that only one person, a firefighter, was seriously injured. I am certain that the French have documented and measured every inch of that structure and computer-analysed the colors and constructional materials of everything in it, but rebuilding a perfect copy is not the same as actually having the original wooden beams in the roof, for which an entire forest is said to have been cut down, or those original stained glass windows from the 1200's.


A few years ago I was in Paris and shot extensive photos and videos of the building, inside and out. But I failed to save the digital files in my camera from that day. More recently, I returned to that city, but did not take the time to re-shoot it. Now much of what I saw will only remain in my memory and other people's pictures.


This building, and France, have survived longer than many nations, and they both have seen greater share of victories and losses, damage and recovery, revolution and evolution, than an American who does not trace their roots beyond this nation's history can conceive. As a person of mostly-French descent and a student of history, my heart goes out to France, my French relatives and friends, and the French people for whom this building means so much, and grieve for the loss, but look forward to the French spirit that will rebuild it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Burning of Notre Dame de Paris.

The United States of America is less than 250 years old. We simply do not have anything to compare with Notre Dame de Paris that combines historical, cultural, and architectural significance and aesthetic beauty. We had 9/11 and the burning of the White House in the War of 1812, but without reducing their impact and meaning one iota, the significance of the destruction of those buildings was different, and we will not understand what it means to the French to see that 900+ year-old building so damaged by fire.

I hear that many relics had been removed as the building was being restored and many more were removed before the fire got to them, most of the stone structure, including the two famous towers, still stand, and that only one person, a firefighter, was seriously injured. I am certain that the French have documented and measured every inch of that structure and computer-analysed the colors and constructional materials of everything in it, but rebuilding a perfect copy is not the same as actually having the original wooden beams in the roof, for which an entire forest is said to have been cut down, or those original stained glass windows from the 1200's.

A few years ago I was in Paris and shot extensive photos and videos of the building, inside and out. But I failed to save the digital files in my camera from that day. More recently, I returned to that city, but did not take the time to re-shoot it. Now much of what I saw will only remain in my memory and other people's pictures.

This building, and France, have survived longer than many nations, and they both have seen greater share of victories and losses, damage and recovery, revolution and evolution, than an American who does not trace their roots beyond this nation's history can conceive. As a person of mostly-French descent and a student of history, my heart goes out to France, my French relatives and friends, and the French people for whom this building means so much, and grieve for the loss, but look forward to the French spirit that will rebuild it.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Thoguhts for our National Holiday Today (Super Bowl)

Taking just a few moments here to share a little of the joy and meaning of our National Holiday today:

This remarkably erudite, fast-talking, fast-paced review of how the collapse of everybody else led to the Patriots and Rams meeting in the Super Bowl again truly encapsulates the hyperbolic, overblown nature of the sport, its outsized impact on our culture, economy, and daily life (please note the serial comma and use it), its potential for distraction from Real Issues, and ultimate irrelevance to anything important, except as a distraction from the boring mundanities of economic imbalance, ecological disaster, and social injustice.

Yes, I said social injustice. Hate me.

Except for one thing: This game, and this sport, can be used as an inspiration. When watching it today, think to yourself: If these guys are willing to work so hard and risk so much for something whose recorded, objective outcome is so meaningless, how hard con you work to achieve something that is truly important and meaningful to you?

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

I'm playing Abraham Lincoln in a play about the Emancipation Proclamation!

I don't have time to do full justice to this announcement, but I wanted to make sure I put it in a permanent place (as permanent, anyway, as the Internet can be).

Earlier this year, Boria Entertainment sent me to an audition for a play titled "Human Cargo," produced by the INCARN ministry of the Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, NY. It was about the history and experience of African slaves brought to America. I wound up getting cast as a slave ship captain and a slave hunter. It was a very intense play and my characters were among the worst people I have ever known. I was proud to be a part of it, though, as it was an important part of history and a very moving play. I also got a lot of good work knocking the rust off of my acting chops, being in a bitchin' fight, and even doing a little dance work in the rehearsals.

This was followed by my role as General William Tecumseh Sherman in this organization's next play, "Honorable distinction. This wa about the Black experience in the American Civil War. In addition to playing the general who conceived the plan that came to be characterized as "40 Acres and a Mule," I also played harmonica with the keyboardist during the musical numbers,as background, and during interludes. I also got to teach the actors playing the 54th Mass. "The Battle Cry of Freedom" and the rebel soldiers "Bonnie Blue Flag" and sing it with them.

Now, in the third play of this trilogy, "Emancipated Glory," I play the great emancipator himself in the months leading up to the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The play is being performed on December 30th and 31st at the Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church. Details and a brief diary of the experience to follow.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Cosplay Cabaret and Another Freakin' Con this week!

Hi friends! I am just back from the Pennsic War (videos coming soon) and not only 
are my arms tired, I am hitting the ground running!

This Wednesday, August 15, The Death Star Repairman (Yours Truly) will be appearing at the second "Cosplay Cabaret" at 53AboveBroadway! This means that in addition to seeing a torrent of talented costumed cabaret entertainers, the one and only blue-collar Death Star Repairman will also be regaling you with a couple of space chanties that are popular in Local 1138, the Imperial Repairmen's Guild. WHAT: performance at Cosplay Cabaret https://www.facebook.com/events/202830777063097 WHEN: Wednesday, August 15, 2018, 7 PM WHERE: 53AboveBroadway. 318 West 53rd Street, New York, New York 10019
 
 
 
 Next, on Saturday, August 18, there is "Another Freakin' Con" at the Queens 
Museum! At this new convention by Great Sauce Entertainment, I will be lecturing about 
the history of the many Captain Marvels and selling my books, comics, CD's and videos.

This lecture, running from 2 - 3 PM, will answer all your questions about the characters 
in the two upcoming movies, "SHAZAM!" from DC and "Captain Marvel" 
from Marvel. And let me tell you, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. 
And correctly? Just to give you an example, here is a portion of that lecture I gave some 
years ago... 
https://youtu.be/SA6eZ6s1_yU

To see the complete lecture, come to ANOTHER FREAKIN' CON! https://www.facebook.com/events/1716775221746752/

WHAT: Another Freakin' Con
https://www.evensi.us/freakin-wwwgreatsauceent/261545179
WHEN: Saturday, August 18, 2018
WHERE: Queens Theater
14 United Nations Avenue South, Flushing Meadows, Corona Park, Queens

Things are starting to heat up, folks! Keep an eye out for more appearances and some 
important blog posts and videos in the very near future!

Onward and Upward!
Captain Z
http://www.captainzorikh.com