Monday, October 26, 2009

Concert Tomorrow: Songs of the Civil War Era

Tomorrow, I'll be giving a lecture/concert at Bowdoin College on Songs of the Civil War Era. (Tues, Oct. 27th at 11:30 in Studzinski Auditorium)

I'll talk about the new "American music" that began to take shape during the Civil War Era and how this music reflected and informed attitudes toward African Americans. I'll sing some songs and spirituals from the battlefield, the home front, the cotton fields, and the Underground Railroad.

In preparation for this talk, I found Irwin Silber's book Songs of the Civil War very useful for its take on songs sung on the battlefield. Silber not only includes the original versions of popular songs like "Bonnie Blue Flag" or "Battle Hymn of the Republic," but also many of the lyrics of popular parodies and spin-offs that were created during the war.

To the tune of "Bonnie Blue Flag," for instance, there were a dozen popular Civil War songs. Of the most interesting, there was a Northern version "The Stripes and Stars," a prisoners-of-war version "Bonnie White Flag," and a version called "The Southern Girl with the Homespun Dress," which praises the simplicity and goodness of the Southern Girl, and then calls soldiers to arms...because good Southern Girls only love boys who fight in the Confederate army. I wonder how many recruits they got out of that one?

And now, young man, a word to you;
If you would win the fair,
Go to the field where honor calls,
And win your lady there.
Remember that our brightest smiles
Are for the true and brave,
And that our tears are all for those
Who fill a soldier's grave.

No comments: