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Band strikes a sentimental chord

September 20, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

SHARPSBURG - War veteran John R. Smith, 82, has listened to plenty of military bands in his lifetime, but said the group he heard Sunday - the Wildcat Regiment Band - is the best he has ever heard.

Smith was one of about 100 people who attended the band's concert in the Mumma Barn at Antietam National Battlefield.

Smith, of Randallstown, Md., who served in World War II and the Korean War, said he has seen the group perform at least 10 times.

"I can march behind them anywhere," Smith said after the show.

When told of Smith's comment, Bandmaster Bruno Pino Jr., 52, said he considered that the ultimate compliment, particularly since it came from a war veteran.

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The original Regimental Band of the 105th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry served from September 1861 to August 1862, Pino said.

The musicians who performed as the band Sunday are from the same geographic area as its original members, Pino said.

Members of the Home, Pa.-based band range from high school students to men in their 70s, he said.

Pino led the 24-member band and spoke to the audience between songs. At one point, he said that during Civil War battles, the musicians not only performed for the troops, but also cared for the sick and dying.

The current band members make a point of being authentic in both dress and manner, Pino said. They played some of the songs the band would have performed during the Civil War.

The band's authenticity was praised by audience members, including Shirley Cole, 45, of Kearneysville, W.Va., who said the band is "awesome."

Regina Smith, 82, and her husband, John, came from Baltimore to see the band perform. She said she thinks the band is great.

Georgiann Toole, 43, of Sharpsburg, said the setting was perfect and the band is good.

"They are really good musicians," she said.

Among their fans in the audience were people re-enacting the lives of Civil War soldiers and their parents.

Colleen Mastrangelo-Clark, the battlefield's visitor-use assistant, said the band has performed at Antietam almost every year since 1996, and it is always a pleasure to host it.

"They are just wonderful," she said.

They are not just musicians or re-enactors, but rather living history, she said.

More information about the band is available at www.wildcatband.com on the Web.

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