Hudson River Folk Symphony

The Hudson River Iona Island and Bear Mountain Bridge Photo Eric Ortner

The Hudson River Iona Island and Bear Mountain Bridge Photo Eric Ortner

I am performing in the debut of an original symphonic work composed by Kevin F. Becker tonight October 23rd and tomorrow October 24th. The symphony is entitled The Hudson River Folk Symphony and was written in honor of the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial and the 30th Anniversary of the Hudson Valley Folk Guild.

Kevin did a great job writing an interesting composition, which follows the musical history of the Hudson River. He starts out the first movement with woodwinds and drums playing a sort of tribal introduction representing the early Native Americans and their environment. He then abruptly launches the string section into a Baroque style fugue inspired by the likes of J.S. Bach. This fugue represents the arrival of Europeans into the Hudson Valley.

The second movement examines the music of the 17th and 19th Centuries. The melodies are based on the themes of the Folk songs Yankee Doodle and Hudson River Steam Boat. Kevin has actually informed me that Yankee Doodle was originally written in the Hudson River Valley making it very appropriate for the composition. The chorus enters the mix of the symphony in this movement while singing versus of Yankee Doodle and Hudson River Steam Boat.

The third movement is written as a modern Rondo representing the Hudson River’s industrial era of the 20th century. It has sort of a patriotic bent and honors the importance of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the Hudson Valley region. It is important to note that Kevin is from Hyde Park, NY and it seems that as a result FDR holds a special place in his heart. The third movement also represents great depression utilizing the theme of the song Buddy Can You Spare a Dime. The chorus also holds a key part in the third movement as it sings the melody of My Country Tis of Thee/God Save The Queen with lyrics inspired by FDR.

All and all it’s been a fun experience learning this composition and helping to turn it into a good sounding piece. As you may have realized from reviewing the other content in this blog, I thoroughly enjoy studying music history, so the fact that the symphony has a historical bent interests me greatly. It has also been nice working with a larger ensemble again, as there are 24 performers playing their hearts out in it.

For those that wish to attend the performance will be held in the Cunneen Hackett Cultural Center Theatre in Poughkeepsie, NY and begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12.00 at the door. For more information, visit While you’re in Poughkeepsie, be sure and stroll across the new pedestrian bridge connecting across the River to Highland, the views are worth it.

Once You Get On Stage Anything Can Happen

Violin, Piano Saxophone and flowers

Violin, Piano Saxophone and Flowers — Montage by Eric Ortner

Experienced Musicians learn quickly that you really never know what to expect when you step into the spotlight. You simply must be able to role with the punches and be confident enough to play no matter what happens around you. We had a case in point while performing for Jessica and Jeffery’s cocktail hour on October 17th at Villa Barone in Mahopac in Westchester County, NY.

The caterers had just finished setting the tables and were opening the doors for guests when a tall man with a saxophone walked up to us and said, “Um, are you guys playing here, because I was told that I was supposed to be here at 7 to play the cocktail hour with a keyboardist.”

Self-doubt set in for a fleeting instant, but we had already spoken with Barbara, the bride’s mother and we knew we were in the correct hall. I had a signed contract that stated we were to play the cocktail hour and we’d even been paid in full prior to the performance. He introduced himself as Mark and that he lived in Ossining, NY. He went on to explain that he was brought in by the DJ. We told him he was probably in the wrong room, because Villa Barone is a large establishment. Mark commented that he was sure he was in the correct location and described Barbara in order to verify it. He ran out to find his boss the DJ who was setting up for the reception in another room to figure out what he should do.

By this point the Bride and Groom’s guests were beginning to file in so we opened our set. We usually start out our performances with a few short easier pieces to warm up before moving into the more taxing compositions. As we began the third song Mark came back in with a plate of food and watched us work. As we finished up the tune Blessed Spirits, Mark put his food down and walked over to us with his Saxophone informing that, “I don’t know where he is, he must be running around somewhere. I’m being paid to play here, so do you mind if I sit in.”

I assessed the situation and noticed that the hall was quite full now. I could see Barbara was across the room, but I decided it was best not to stir up any drama with her or Mark.  I thought to myself, well I suppose Dave Mathews Band arranges with Sax and Violin, if this guy is any good it probably won’t sound awful. So I said, “Sure. Can you read music?”

Mark looked down at the music, which was Vivaldi’s Spring from The Four Seasons at this point in our set and asked, “I suppose this stuff is all written in C, huh?” I momentarily forgot that Saxophones are tuned to B flat and said, “Oh you want something in C, O.K. We should probably start playing something easier anyway to make sure this is going to work out first.”

I flipped through the pages of my binder looking for something less complicated in C and found an early American composition by the name of Elegance and Simplicity. I put the bow to violin and began to count it off.  To my amazement Mark blew through that tune sight reading, and didn’t miss a single note. I commented, “Wow, way to go! I guess we can try something harder.”

Mark replied, “Yea, it’s not really the site reading that’s hard for me. It’s just a little tough because I have to transpose everything from B Flat.”

We went back to Spring and performed it. We really lucked out in this situation because Mark was a phenomenal saxophonist. He proceeded to play through Spring and Autumn of the Four Seasons, with about 95% accuracy sight reading the music while transposing every note.

The next song in the set following The Four Seasons was a composition entitled Allegro from Pièces de Clavecin Op. 1 by Joseph-Hector Fiocco. I looked down at the page and saw that it was blackened with 16th notes and remembered that this tune just flies by as you run through it. Moreover one stumble on any section and it was next to impossible to get back on track. So I looked over at him and said, “You better sit this one out.” He agreed and said, “I’m going to go find the DJ.”

We were on the last page of the Fiocco when Mark walked back in. He listened patiently and applauded as we finished up the tune. He then grabbed his sax and stand and said, “Well I spoke with DJ and he told me he just wanted me to play a few songs with you guys, so I guess I’ll see you later.“

I don’t think the guests really had any clue what had just transpired before them. It’s not every day that you hear classical tunes performed in an arrangement of Sax, Violin and Piano and especially not one that had never been rehearsed. As far as I’m concerned, they just received a once in a lifetime amazing and impromptu performance by three accomplished musicians who know that you’re never really sure what to expect in show business.

The Onteora Mountain House is an Amazing Venue

Esopus Valley From Onteora Mountain House Photo Eric Ortner

Esopus Valley From Onteora Mountain House at sunset. This scenery often becomes the backdrop for wedding ceremonies. Photo Eric Ortner

We performed a wedding ceremony and cocktail hour at Onteora Mountain House in Boiceville, NY on October 1st. This is the second time I’ve been to a wedding there and I have to say that I would rate it one of the most beautiful wedding venues in the Catskills and Hudson Valley.

It is designed extremely well and is easily adjustable for varying weather conditions. In fair weather guests are seated under towering white pines as they view the ceremony conducted on a large deck overlooking the Esopus Valley.  The weather was questionable on October 1st. It was lightly sprinkling with heavy skies and a little chilly so the friendly event staff held out until the very last minute before the ceremony to decide where to place their fashionable moveable chairs. Watching the weather closely they decided it wasn’t going to pour and placed their chairs on the overlook. However, they could have just as easily placed the chairs inside the giant pavilion with another amazing deck overlooking the Catskills.

The first wedding I performed at in this location took place in early July so the cocktail hour was held on the Onteora’s stone paved patio in front of the guest house. In cooler weather, such as the wedding I worked in October the guesthouse is opened for the cocktail hour.  The performance space inside is much tighter than on the patio. There is really only enough room for a small ensemble to perform next to the fireplace inside the house. We managed to squeeze a stage piano and violinist, but it would be next to impossible to fit a drum set inside; and a set would most certainly be too loud for the venue anyway. However, the exquisite decoration inside this venue more than makes up for its somewhat tight quarters. Enormous vases and Buda statues line the walls, while the Catskill Mountains are, once again, framed by a large enclosed wrap around porch.

Although, we did not have the opportunity to perform on it at either of the weddings I attended, the large pavilion space has a well constructed stage large enough to hold most dance bands and a beautiful hardwood dance floor to match. All in all performing at weddings in the Onteora Mountain House really makes one want to get married there. Please feel free to reminisce about your wedding day at the Onteora or simply a wedding you attended below.

Pachelbel’s Canon as a Processional

Pachelbel's Canon in D arranged for Violin and Piano. The original version was written for three violins and bass.

Pachelbel's Canon in D arranged for Violin and Piano. The original version was written for three violins and bass.

There is certainly no set rule on what song must be performed for the Bridesmaids processional. However, in the many weddings I’ve performed in the Tri-State area, there certainly is a popular choice that works quite well, and that is Johan Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major.

The reason for this is actually quite simple and it stems from the bass line of the composition. The song in its entirety is 56 measures long, but the ground bass chord progression repeats itself every four bars. This makes it very easy for an ensemble to find a suitable ending spot every four bars or so. That is very handy when you need to time the music to people marching down the isle.

You see, bridal parties rarely take the same amount of time to process. Aside from the varying numbers of participants processing, most halls will have a longer or shorter distance to traverse. This further complicates perfectly timing a piece of music to match the length of a processional. Therefore, it is necessary for the song to have numerous places to end the song.

Being a Canon, Pachelbel’s composition further lends itself to being great for stopping midstream. A canon by definition has two or more melodies dependent on each other. One melody is the leader, while the other is the follower. The simplest versions of Canons are rounds like Frére Jacques or Row, Row, Row Your Boat. It is important to note that one of the melodies is always resolving or ending itself while the other melodies are in the middle of their own unique phrases. When musicians emphasize the resolving line during a performance and add a retard, or slow the tempo down, they can end the composition early and the song will still sound like it has completed.

Most importantly, though, Pachelbel’s Canon in D has a beautiful familiar, flowing melody that is elegant and timeless. What better piece of music could there possibly be for bridesmaids to walk down the isle to? If you have other suggestions, please feel free to share your experiences them below…

The Use of Hymns in Wedding Ceremonies


A collection of Hymnals from several Christian Denominations. — Photo Eric Ortner

On August 1st, 2009 I had the privilege of performing in a small orchestra for a wedding at Overlook Methodist Church in Woodstock, NY.  The bride came from a very musical family. Most of the members of her extended family had training on a traditional classical instrument, so there was a nice balance of brass, woodwind and strings. Because time did not allow for this diverse crowd from all across the country to rehearse, the bride decided to pick out several of her family’s favorite hymns.

Religious Hymns can be a wonderful and important addition to any wedding ceremony. The pieces are always well written with great four-part counterpoint. This makes it very easy for a string or brass quartet to perform them for preludes or postludes. Performed solely as instrumental music in this manner a series of hymns makes for perfect background music because the melodies tend to be simplistic, yet rich in tone. The lyrics of these compositions also consist of the appropriate themes of love, commitment, and strength, which all easily tie into a meaningful wedding service.

Hymns can also be very useful to help heighten the feeling of unity within a family during a wedding ceremony. Two sides of a family singing a familiar hymn can create a tremendous bond, where both sides sing the praises of the happy couple as one.

In longer ceremonies hymns are helpful in keeping the congregation involved and attentive. Hymns also give members of the congregation more of a sense of involvement in the ceremony. Rather than just bearing witness to the vows, hymns enable family members the opportunity to actively participate in the service. The best part is that if your ceremony takes place in a church, every member of the congregation will have the music in a hymnal right in front of them. Therefore supplying music is one less element of planning that you have to worry about.

Families with a strong base in faith often have favorite hymns that have major significance to their spiritual and physical lives. What could be a better music to include in a marriage ceremony than music with this sort of personal meaning.

The following is a list of suggested hymns appropriate for weddings:

• Eternal God, Before Your Throne We Bend
• Blest Be the Tie That Binds
• Breathe on Me, Breath of God
• Earth and All Stars
• For the Beauty of the Earth
• Greensleeves
• If You But Trust in God to Guide You
• In Christ There is No East or West
• Jesus Thy Boundless Love to Me
• Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee
• Let Me Be Yours Forever
• Lord of All Nations Grant Me Grace
• Morning Has Broken
• O God, I Love Thee
• O God, Our Help in Ages Past
• Oh, Blest the House
• One There is, Above All Others
• Our Father, By Whose Name
• Thee Will I Love, My Strength My Tow’r

Maybe you have other titles that you used in your own wedding or sang at weddings you attended that have special meaning to you. Please share them below and explain why they make a great hymn at a wedding.

The Ancient Roman Wedding Processional

Many of today’s wedding traditions base their origins from the customs of Ancient Rome. A key example is the Wedding Processional. However, many of the Roman’s customs have changed quite a bit over the past 2,000 years.

In ancient days, the Roman wedding processional began at the bride’s house where the wedding vows were exchanged. The deductio in domum mariti or pompa, procession, was a necessary part of the Roman wedding ceremony, it publicly acknowledged the rites of marriage and anyone in the community was allowed to join in the procession as it moved to the groom’s home.

Music was certainly a part of the processional. The groom would take part in singing the Fescennine verses. A surviving specimen of the Fescennines used at weddings is the Epithalamium of Manlius. These verses are distinguished by their licentiousness.

The groom would also take part in lighting a wooden torch called a  Spina Alba from the bride’s hearth. At the door of the bride’s house, the bride and groom would re-enact the scene of the seizure of the Sabine women. The bride would clutch her mother’s arms, only to be pried away by the groom.

Illustration of an Ancient Roman wedding procession. courtesy New York Public Library

Illustration of an Ancient Roman wedding procession. Courtesy New York Public Library

The bride was then escorted by three boys as she traveled to the groom’s home. One of the boys would hold the Spina Alba.  Priests would lead the bride to her future home followed by her family, friends, musicians and slaves. The slaves would carry gifts that would no doubt be needed for the bride’s new life.

As the bride processed, her guests and on lookers would take part singing the hymen hymenaee, and shouted Talasio, or other crude jokes. Hymen Hymenaee is an epithalamium or bridal song. It was to be sung by a chorus of youths and maidens singing alternately, but not always with precisely equal stanzas. The youth would sing sections praising the Hesperus and marriage, while the maidens would recite the stanzas pertaining to the fears and sorrows of surrendered maidenhood.

Roman Mosaic depicting street musicians performing on syrinx and aulos, and tympani.

Roman Mosaic depicting street musicians performing on aulos, Cymbalum or cymbals and tympani.

The procession was often accompanied by musicians performing on, flutes, pan-pipes, syrinx and aulos (reed instruments), the kithara (a Greek lyre), and tympani (early tambourine). It is interesting to note that musicians in the time of Ancient Rome held low social position, although, they sometimes enjoyed public patronage and even imperial patronage.

The groom would need to arrive at his home to greet the bride as she arrived so the procession would split into two parts giving the groom time to arrive home first. Once the bride arrived the torches were thrown away and the bride would rub the doorway with oil and hang wool over the door. She was then lifted over the threshold. It is believed that the threshold was sacred to the goddess Vesta and stepping on it could lead to infertility. The Ancient Romans were also very superstitious and should the bride trip while walking through the door it would have been a sign that ill fortune would be ahead for the marriage.


The Cornet and its Civil War Virtuoso Patrick Gilmore

Written and Illustrated by Eric Ortner for The Civil War Courier in 1999

E flat Coronet with Rotary Valves

E flat Coronet with Rotary Valves

Music was an important part of the Civil War. It called the beginning and end of the day, and was a means for the commander to communicate with his troops in a heated battle. As well as a substantial communication tool, it was also a way for soldiers to overcome the boredom, and drudgery of everyday life. The sounds of a powerful marching band could lift the morale of one’s regiment or even frighten an opposing army. Robert E. Lee said at the onset of the war, “I don’t believe we can have an army without music.”

A wind band composed entirely of brass instruments quickly became the favorite and most practical form of an ensemble in America. However, the brass band was not originally an American idea. In 1836, the Bradley Old Reed Band performed an entertainment in Woodhouse Moore to honor the coronation of William IV. At this time the ensemble had a mixture of brass and woodwind instruments. A few days later the musicians in Bradley’s ensemble made the decision to do away with the woodwinds. With this decision they became the first brass band in history. Still extreme patriotism prior to the War Between the States along with the war itself pushed this new style of ensemble to greater heights.

The new brass band was made possible as a result of some great new technology relating to brass instruments. This included improvements in mining and refining the elements required to create brass. Another significant advancement in technology dates back to 1810 with the invention of the keyed bugle. Once again it was an Englishman who was responsible for this advancement. Joseph Halliday, who was the bandmaster of the Cavan Militia, cut tone holes into the common military bugle. Mr. Halliday then added woodwind like keys to cover the holes. The instrument that Halliday modified was half-moon shaped and called a Hanoverian Bugle. By 1814 the Hanoverian Bugle was the symbol of the English Light Infantry.

The advancement of the keyed bugle was significant because until its invention, brass instruments were very confined in terms of pitch and range. One such limited instrument was called the Natural Trumpet. The musician performing on these natural trumpets was confined to only a few of the twelve notes in western music theory. They were octaves, fifths, fourths, major thirds and minor thirds. These are the natural overtones in music, and all natural trumpets, no matter what their tuning, were limited to them.

The fundamental principle of all brass instruments, which started with natural trumpets, requires the performer to tighten the tension of the lips on the mouthpiece. This causes the variation in pitch. With this in mind, musicians in a section would specialize in mastering a specific range of notes.

The keyed bugle was a welcome improvement because it allowed the player to more easily achieve an entire chromatic series of notes. The keyed bugle’s keys were similar to that of a clarinet or modern day saxophone. The sound of these instruments can be described as mellow. This results from the acoustical phenomena associated with its vented (keyed) design, and from the instruments conical shape.

In brass instruments, there are generally two different shapes. The first is conical or cone shaped which represents the bugle family. The bore of the tubing in conical brass instruments continuously widens as it moves from the mouthpiece to the bell of the instrument. The other basic design of brass instruments is cylindrical. Trumpets are members of this family. The diameter of the tubing in a cylindrical instrument stays the same width all the way from the mouthpiece to the bell. This results in a much more brilliant sound than the conical style.

In the conical style, the keyed bugle is strongly linked to the cornet a pistons and was eventually replaced in popularity and functionality by this instrument. The keyed bugle’s major flaw was that over blowing could change its intonation. The invention of the valve changed all of that.


Berliner Pumpen Valve

Despite the success of the keyed bugle, by 1839 most Europeans had embraced the improvements to brass instruments that used valves. Thus, the prominence of the keyed bugle in both civilian and military bands in Europe began to wane. This had a little to do with the economic interests of the band leaders. That is because brass band leaders were often partners with instrument manufacturers. Therefore, when they took over an ensemble, it was in the leader’s financial interest to purchase their own company’s instruments and replace the existing ones. Although greed definitely did play into the leader’s decision, it was important to have a complete set of matching instruments. Every band leader had his own personal favorite. At this time there was no uniform tuning from manufacturer to manufacturer. Thus with a new leader and orchestration came the need for a complete set of 17 new instruments. Most brass bands in the mid 1800s had between 17 and 24 members. The valve for brass instruments is said to have been invented by two Berliner, Heinrich Stolzel, and Freiderch Bluhmel. They patented their design in 1818. However,  the invention was further  refined  by the French in 1825, and in 1829, the cornet a pistons was used in Paris for Rossini’s Guillaume Tell and this instrument quickly grew in popularity.

The 1830s saw numerous improvements to valve designs. Some of the more successful and long-lasting adaptations were the invention of the Vienna Twin-Piston valve patented by Leopold Uhlman in 1830; the Rad-Maschine, a rotary-action valve designed by Joseph Riedl and patented in 1832; the Berliner Pumpen Valve, a piston valve designed by Wilhelm Wieprecht and J.G. Moritz in Prussia 1835; and the Perinet Valve which earned its name in 1839 from its Parisian inventor.

Vienna Twin-Piston valve

Vienna Twin-Piston valve

Valve mechanisms can be grouped into two basic types; these are piston and rotary valves. Piston Valves have buttons which can be pressed down. They are easily associated with the modern day trumpet. When the button of piston valve is pressed, it reroutes the airflow through the pathway of additional tubing. It does this by sealing the main tube in an up and down motion forcing the airflow into the secondary tube which is inaccessible by the airflow otherwise. Once the air completes this long-cut, it is permitted to reenter the main tube. This creates a lower pitch by lengthening the tubing.

A rotary valve operates by a key or lever. When the performer presses this key a string, mechanical linkage or both (as is the case today), engages  the rotary valve which is a revolving cylinder. This revolving cylinder has a path which redirects the airflow through additional tubing. Revolving cylinders are common today on modern French Horns.

Cutaway diagram of a rotary valve

Cutaway diagram of a rotary valve

The significance of the valve was that it could redirect the passage of airflow in a brass instrument from the main tube into several smaller tubes. This could lengthen the instruments and thus change its key. For example, one valve is designed to lower the instrument by one semi tone or half step. This effectively lowers a B flat bugle to the key of A. If a second valve is added, it lowers the instrument by two semi-tones. This effectively changes the B flat bugle by three semi tones or 11/2 steps creating a G bugle. Combining these three valves one can lower the B flat bugle to a G flat, F or E bugle. The use of all three of these valves and their combinations fill in the missing notes in the natural bugle’s overtone series and thus makes it Cornet a Pistons.

Thomas D. Payne was an American inventor who significantly improve the rotary valve. The problem with earlier rotary valves was that they required a great amount of force to operate them. Paine identified the problem and came up with a solution. His ideas was to add another passage through the center of the rotor so that it would only need to turn an eight of the way around rather than the usual quarter turn. This made the valve larger, but Pain was able to reduce the size through further adjusting to the angles at which the tubing entered the valve. His valve systems were used on Cornets by many different manufacturers of that time both domestic and foreign. Payne’s basic system is still in use today on French Horns.

The Cornet a Pistons, or cornet as it is more commonly referred to, became widely implement during the 19th century and particularly popular during the Civil War. This is mostly because it is much easier to play than earlier instruments. Prior to this instrument’s use, high-pitched melodies were primarily performed by the woodwinds. The cornet changed all that. The use of valves made it much easier to play quickly and accurately. It reduced the danger of blunders while performing music in the high range. However, this insurance is at the sacrifice of the brilliant sound that one associates with the trumpet.

One of the reasons that the cornet was more popular for use in brass bands than the trumpet was the mouthpiece. The cornet mouthpiece was deeper and much more flexible than the trumpets. This enabled the members of brass bands to play for many hours at a time without fatiguing their embouchure. The mouthpiece for the cornet during the Civil War was different than the style utilized on cornets today. In the 1860s, cornet mouthpieces were much more conically shaped than those currently in use. They were narrow rimmed, thin walled, with an interior of up to 17 mm in depth. This would gradually taper down. They can be easily compared to a modern French horn mouthpiece. They were usually made of brass or ivory.

There are several different styles of cornets and they varied from manufacturer to manufacturer, but they wall utilized the same basic principles. The style most popular with bandleaders for the soprano part of a brass band during the Civil War era was the E flat cornet or soprano bugle. It had a length of approximately 3 feet. Another popular style was the B flat cornet, with a length of 4 and a half feet. The B flat cornet played at an octave lower than the E flat and was therefore often used as the Alto voice in a brass band.

The instrument makers of the time used a lead form to shape their creations. Most manufacturers made their instruments out of brass or German Silver. The metal used on instruments in the period of the Civil War was much thinner and more malleable than seen on instruments today. As a result, few cornets have survived from this period.

Coronetist and Band Leader Patrick Gilmore

Cornetist and Band Leader Patrick Gilmore

One of the people credited with bringing the cornet to its great popularity during the mid 19th century, is also considered to be the leader of one of the two best Civil War Brass bands in the Union. Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore, a talented cornet soloist and director of the Salem, Massachusetts Brass Band was renowned for his showmanship. In early December of 1856 Gilmore invited the popular keyed bugle virtuoso Edward (Ned) Kendall to perform as a soloist with the Salem band. The two were billed to perform a duel between the keyed bugle and the cornet as they performed the Wood Up Quickstep.

The performance was held in the drill hall of the Mechanic Light Infantry at a cost of 25 cents. The Salem  Brass Band, as was the  custom of the time, was made up of civilians but was part of the militia company. The only paid member of this sort of ensemble was the leader, in this case the leader was Gilmore.

After he directed a couple of tunes, Gilmore announced Kendall as, “The world’s most famous keyed-bugle soloist.” Kendall then proceeded to solo with the band for three numbers. These have been described in numerous sources as a triumph for Kendal. The performers then broke for intermission. When Ned and Patrick returned, they each sported an E flat version of their respective instruments. They soon began to perform the long anticipated Wood Up Quickstep. It was decided that Mr. Kendal would play the first passage on his keyed bugle and then Mr. Gilmore would answer him by repeating the same passage on the cornet. Both musicians played well. However, the residents of Salem who attended this concert seemed to believe that Gilmore out-played Kendal. This is easy to believe since by today’s standards, the Wood Up Quickstep is a simple piece to perform on a cornet. However, on the keyed bugle it was a whole different story. This performance is considered an example of the decline of the keyed bugle in the United States.

Sheet Music for Wood Up Quick Step written by John Halloway Courtesy of Johns Hopkins University, Levy Sheet Music Collection, Box 161, Item 143

Sheet Music for Wood Up Quick Step written by John Holloway Courtesy of Johns Hopkins University, Levy Sheet Music Collection, Box 161, Item 143


Sheet Music for Wood Up Quick Step written by John Holloway Courtesy of Johns Hopkins University, Levy Sheet Music Collection, Box 161, Item 143

Three months after this vastly documented performance Gilmore won more critical acclaim as director of the Salem band. The Washington Post made special mention of this well disciplined organization. The Post commented on their excellent playing as they performed in James Buchanon’s inauguration parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. The paper commented on the fact that this band managed to stay sober. Most bands of the period drink excessively when on the road (history repeats itself again).

The Salem band was so applauded that they became highly sought after in the Boston area making it next to impossible for the other bands to land a gig. The Salem band’s success struck such a dissonant chord with other Boston area bands, that they decided to take their competition out of the picture. The Boston Brigade Band conspired to attack the Salem Band on the way to a gig in downtown Boston. There was a plan to beat the Salem band’s lips in so badly that they would not be able to play for weeks. The plan also entailed smashing the Salem band’s instruments so terribly that they could never be played again. Gilmore’s notoriety also brought with it many social connections and he was made aware of Boston Brigade Band’s plan. He went to the docks in Salem and found the biggest, toughest crewmen available for hire. When the Boston Brigade Band made their move against the Salem band in the railway station, they were quite surprised to be confronted by brass knuckles, black jacks and belaying pins swung by seamen. They were so surprised that some of the band’s members were unable to run and they received a thrashing.

The Boston Brigade Band finally decided that competing with Gilmore was futile and negotiated a deal which Patrick could not refuse. In this deal, Mr. Gilmore took on all the costs of the band which included music, uniforms, rent and any other expenses which incurred. However, the band was to be known as the Gilmore Band all of its members worked for Patrick. Thus, Mr. Gilmore brought home all of the profits. To ensure the marketability of the band he purchased a great deal of music. He also formed different size and style ensembles so that a group could be provided for any occasion.

As the issues of state’s rights, slavery and finally secession took over public life in Boston, Patrick played patriotic numbers and performed in Fort Warren in The Boston Harbor. These performances were to entertain the glitzy Light Infantry Battalion that was stationed there. The Tigers, as the Light Infantry Battalion were called formed a glee club which sometimes accompanied Gilmore’s band. One of the Tigers favorite tunes was the song John Brown’s Body. This tune is not about Harper’s Ferry, but is significant to the Civil War because Gilmore wrote a popular arrangement for it. New words for this arrangement were later written by Julia Ward Howe, and with these, the tune became the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

As many private bands did during the War Between the States, Gilmore enlisted along with his band. Gilmore’s Band removed the gray uniforms which he supplied and donned the blue style supplied by the Massachusetts 24th Volunteer Regiment in late1861. Two things caused this enlistment. The first was a result of General Order Number 15 issued on May 4th 1861 it called for 39 regiments of volunteer infantry and one cavalry. Musician positions were required for all of these regiments and they included 39 brass bands of 24 bandsmen each. The second was that Patrick Gilmore feared that the ensemble would break up as a result of individual enlistments.

For the most part, the government did not supply these bands with instruments. The required instruments were paid for either by the individual band member or in some cases by the leader of the regiment. It is somewhat surprising then to see that the first proposal for sealed bids for Union army musical equipment included 150 trumpets. It is even more bewildering to know that during the War Between the States, conically bored instruments were much more popular than the cylindrical style trumpet. There probably wasn’t need for more than 20 trumpets in all 39 regiments. Perhaps the military powers simply did not know the difference between a trumpet and cornet.

It can be assured that despite the ignorance in the Union’s top brass, Gilmore’s leadership abilities prepared his band members well for military service. The bandsmen were assigned to General Burnside’s Corps which was already engaged in Virginia. The band spent most of its enlistment traveling the coast in North Carolina. The 24th infantry was very pleased with its luck of having Gilmore’s band assigned to their regiment. One private said, “I don’t know what we should have done without our band. It is acknowledged by everyone to be the best in the division. Every night about sun down Gilmore gives us a splendid concert, playing selections from their operas and some very pretty marches quickstep waltzes and the like. Most which are composed by himself or by Zohler, a member of his band… Thus you see we get a great deal of new music, not withstanding we are off here in the woods.”

During his enlistment, Gilmore’s key solo cornetist was Matthew Arbuckle. Mr. Arbuckle had also achieved fame by dueling with the infamous Edward Kendal. He had previously worked with an American instrument manufacturing company owned by Isaac Fiske. Arbuckle performed in Fiske’s Cornet Band where he, received wide spread critical acclaim.

Despite the immense popularity with troops, the regimental bands became targets for financial pruning by elected officials. In October of 1861 Benjamin F. Larned, Paymaster General responded to Henry Wilson of United States Senate by suggesting that $5,000,000 could be saved annually if regimental bands were taken out of service. In July of 1862, the adjutant general ordered that all bands of the volunteer regiments be mustered from the service, “so much of the aforesaid act… as authorizes each regiment of volunteers in the United States service to have twenty-four musicians for a band… is hereby repealed; and the men composing such bands shall be mustered out of the service within thirty days after the passage of this act.” In August of 1862 the band mustered out. The 24 th Massachusetts regimental commander called their leave, “ a great mistake.”

It is important to note that other regiments were glad to see their bands leave. This only further emphasizes the quality of Patrick Gilmore’s Band. Charles B Hayden of the 2nd Michigan Volunteer Infantry said, “The band has been discharged, right glad we were to be rid of the lazy loafers.”

When the 24th mustered out, Mr. Gilmore went on to support the war effort by performing benefit concerts for a while. However, in 1863, Governor Andrew of Massachusetts requested that Patrick regroup all of the state’s militia bands. He was later inspired by Monsieur Jullien and his large orchestra. Hearing this gave Gilmore the idea of putting on huge scale concerts.

The first of which was in 1864 in celebration of the inauguration of Governor Michael Hahn in “Free and Restored Louisiana.” For this occasion, Gilmore formed a chorus of 5,000 school children. He then organized what was at the time the largest brass band ever. Patrick assembled all of the area regimental bands into a group of 500 instrumentalist and 36 cannons. This included 120 cornets. Around this time, Gilmore also wrote the words and music to When Johnny Comes Marching Home under the pseudonym Louis Lambert.

Gilmore continued to be a prudent businessman. In the late 1860s he formed a partnership with the manufacturer E.G. Wright who supplied many brass instruments during the Civil War. In 1870, Wright, Gilmore and Co. later merged with Samuel Graves and Company to form the Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory.

After the war, the E flat cornet’s popularity was surpassed by that of the B flat cornet. By 1870 though, people’s tastes were changing and the sound of the total brass band was falling out of favor (especially in regards to over the shoulder instruments). In the years prior to the War Between the States, Gilmore]s Band had worked with mixed winds or woodwind and brass ensembles. As the all brass band began to fall out of favor, Gilmore’s band became the post war model for band masters such as John Phillip Sousa and John Duss. On September 24, 1892, Patrick Gilmore passed away. His death took place at approximately the same time as Sousa’s premier, and thus many musical historians feel that Sousa picked up where Gilmore left off.


Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy, Editors of Time Life Books

Music and Musket, Kenneth Olson

A Pictorial History of Civil War Era Musical Instruments & Military Bands,
Robert Garofalo

Bands of Confederacy, Benny Pryor Ferguson

Bands and Drummer Boys of the Civil War, by Francis A. Lord and Arthur Wise

Early American Brass Makers, Robert E. Eliason

American Musical Instruments, Laurence Libin

A History of Military Music in America, William Carter White

Bands of America, H.W. Schwartz

The Keyed Bugle, Ralph T. Dedgeon

Military Music, Henry George Farmer

The Trumpet, Edward Tarr

The Trumpet and Trombone, Philip Bate

French Horn, Robin Gregory

Making a Joyful Noise

Reading Eric’s previous entry, I started recalling my own earliest memories of music. I thought I’d share some with you so you can get a window into why we feel so strongly connected to music.

I was raised by a single mom who always had music as a part of her life, and subsequently, our household. Besides being a church organist at The Warwick United Methodist Church since she was, oh, 15, mom would consistently be playing the piano for weddings, funerals, school and community musicals and concerts. She even accompanied various youth auditioning for All-County Choruses and NYSSMA.

Some of my earliest memories of music are tied deeply to my mother. I always think of her being the happiest in this setting: a young mother, sitting cross-legged in the church narthex strumming the guitar while scores of Vacation Bible School children learn such standards as “Father Abraham,” “The Wise Man Built His House Upon a Rock,” and, yes, “Kum Ba Yah.” I thought she was so beautiful when she was playing music, and I was so proud she was my mommy. (Still do and am!)

Well, mom never forced music on me (or my siblings), but she did work hard to make sure we could always have it in our lives if we wanted. I started taking piano lessons, which led to voice lessons, which led to learning the guitar and pipe organ. I decided that music was something I wanted to continue with in college and beyond. It has never left me and it has always guaranteed me a refuge from the stresses of daily living. Music soothes. Music centers. Music is like entering another world.

I received a book of poetry when I was a child entitled “Joyful Noise.” It is a selection of poems to be read aloud by two people, all about nature. It strikes me how I have carried that connection with me all these years, still enjoying poetry, nature and music as “joyful noises” in our sometimes dreary world.

Who would you credit for your appreciation and expression of music?

Exuberant Announcements

It is with great exuberance that I am writing my first blog on our new website

Music has always been a huge part of my life. Some of my earliest memories have involved music. One such recollection is of joyfully laying on my parents old golden cigarette, burned wall-to-wall rug listening to The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel at 33rpm.

That excitement still remains today, whether I’m listening to Charles Mingus driving down the road, performing at CD release parties to intimate groups of 50 or playing to crowds of 1,000s over an open field. It’s truly amazing, now I can even broadcast my own recordings over the internet and share them with others all for free.

So it’s with a high level of jubilation that I post my first blog out to cyberspace all while writing about one of my favorite subject matters music.

Think back, what exuberance has music brought into your life? Please share some of your personal memories about music whether it be the song that was played on your wedding day or just a new song you heard on the radio driving to work this morning.