Civil War music enjoyed at Antietam battlefield

June 25, 2011|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |
  • Members of the Fort McHenry Guard Fife and Drum Corps perform Saturday at Dunker Church at Antietam National Battlefield.
By Chris Tilley/Staff Photographer

The delicate dancing squeak of the fife and the rum-pum stickings and rudiments of the calfskin drums called Saturday afternoon visitors to Antietam National Battlefield to a shady patch beneath the trees just behind Dunker Church.

The sounds luring them were the tunes of the Fort McHenry Guard Fife and Drum Corps. Led by Director Tim Ertel, the corps demonstrated Union field music that marked the moments of a soldier's day.

"We give a program teaching music through the day of the soldier from 'Reveille' to 'Tattoo,' or lights out," Ertel said. "There was a call for everything — for breakfast, to get wood and water. They played from sunup to sundown."

The performance was once of six scheduled throughout the day for Antietam National Battlefield Civil War Music Weekend.

Patti Lepovetsky and Rick Hubley of Gaithersburg, Md., were among the group gathered on benches for the program.

"We heard the music and came over to see what was going on," Lepovetsky said. "It seems very true to the way life was for fife and drummers."

Ray Gonzalez, 48, of Hagerstown, took his daughters Kelly, 12, and Emily 11, to the event.

"This is something educational that you don't get to see or hear very often," Gonzalez said. "They need to keep bringing that kind of history to keep people abreast of what happened in the past."

Gonzalez said he has a military background and was familiar with many of the songs the band played, but that Ertel's explanations gave him a deeper understanding of their origins and meanings.

"The way (Ertel) explained it made more sense," he said.

Jeff Baldwin of the Hedgesville Blues Living History Organization followed the Fort McHenry Guard with authentic fiddle music played by men on campaign and in the camps of 1862. He said other concerts at the event, including those of the Wildcat Band and the McHenry Guard, were "business music."

"If you came to hear the music of a classical violinist that you would have heard at a concert hall in 1860, you are in the wrong place," Baldwin told the audience. "I'm playing as authentic as possible, what both sides would have played at camp. This is what soldiers did on their own time."

His opening piece was originally a fife tune known as "Welcome Here Again," which became more popular as a fiddle tune, Baldwin said. It featured a repetitive "diddle do DO do" sound, with a nuance of trills.

Other offerings included Stephen Foster's familiar "Camptown Races" and "Dixie."

Baldwin said the latter tune is traditionally credited to Daniel Decatur Emmett, though "he may not have written it."

Many considered Dixie to be the Confederate National Anthem, Baldwin said, but it was nonetheless a favorite ditty of Abraham Lincoln.

Larry Meeks, 63, of Richmond, said the music brought history to life in a unique way.

"It gives you a sense of pride in your own heritage," Meeks said.

Park Ranger Christie Stanczak said more than 500 people attended the concerts throughout the day.

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