Sharpsburg Heritage Festival

September 15, 1999

Sharpsburg Heritage FestivalBy KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

Helen Beedle attended her first Civil War battle re-enactment in Middletown, Va., in 1992.

"I was captivated," she says.

She became interested in the period's history, then later in its music, and now combines both in the lecture and program she will present Saturday, Sept. 18, at 4 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church, 201 E. Main St. in Sharpsburg as part of the Sharpsburg Heritage Festival.

[cont. from lifestyle]

Beedle, who is on the faculty of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., will become Mme. Helen Beedle. In the attire of the period and in the style of a Civil War-era musicale, she will perform concert and popular pieces typical of a program of that earlier time. The division between "serious" and "popular" music was not yet as well defined as it is today, according to Beedle, who holds a bachelor of music degree from St. Andrew's College in Laurinburg, N.C., and a master of music degree in piano from New England Conservatory of Music.


The piano frequently was the center of activities during middle- and upper-class social gatherings of the 1860s.

"Ladies often provided much of the musical entertainment at these events, and the Civil War marked the beginning of an increasingly active role for women in America's musical life," according to Beedle's brochure.

Beedle has recorded a compact disc of the old music, titled "When the Galop was the Rage." She found that phrase about the "wild, exuberant dance" in a prewar diary of Virginia Clay, wife of Senator Clement Clay of Alabama, a close friend of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.

And she has found other treasures - historical as well as musical - in her research. She had hunted "The Gottschalk Waltz," for two or three years. She couldn't get her hands on the sheet music for the piece written by Louis Moreau Gottschalk of Louisiana, a virtuoso pianist who kept a diary during his wartime performances. She just happened to mention her search in conversation with Pat Holland, Sharpsburg Heritage Festival chair, who just happened to be familiar with the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music at Milton S. Eisenhower Library of The Johns Hopkins University. The elusive waltz has been found.

"I was so thrilled," Beedle says.

Gottschalk's journal, later published as "Notes of a Pianist," includes dramatic accounts of traveling and performing as the war raged. He wrote about his visit to Harrisburg, Pa., with Confederate troops nearby, Beedle says. The battle of Gettysburg would take place two weeks later, she adds.

It may surprise people today, but "Dixie's Land," now widely considered an anthem of the South, was written by a Northerner, Daniel D. Emmett, according to Beedle. Both sides really liked the song, and "Dixie," as it came to be known, was a favorite of Union President Abraham Lincoln, she says.

The weekend will be highlighted with other musical performances beginning Friday, Sept. 17, at 7:30 p.m., with Appalachian music and concluding Sunday, Sept. 19, with the U.S. Marine Corps band and 2nd Maryland Fife and Drum.

-- Schedule of Events

The Herald-Mail Articles