Synopses of Our Touring Shows
Honor and Glory - Memories of the Civil War
The Civil War represents the greatest social upheaval the United States has ever known. Yet out of the death and destruction, a new national identity emerged in this country and along with it a new musical identity as well. Out of a terrible war, the United States created a national musical idiom of significance and artistic beauty, in great part, through the influence of the Americus Brass Band.
On the eve of the Civil War, brass bands were flourishing in cities and towns across America. These ensembles were quickly drafted into the local regiments to provide the appropriate pomp and ceremony deemed so important to the military standards of the day. Thousands of bandsmen enlisted in the armies of the north and south, providing the average soldier with the opportunity to hear more music in a few short weeks than most had heard in their entire lives.
The military bands performed music for every occasion. The soldiers were serenaded while drilling, while resting in the evening, and even while marching into battle. Patriotic songs like Yankee Doodle, Dixie, The Battle Cry of Freedom, and The Bonnie Blue Flag, as well as popular songs like Tenting Tonight, Goober Peas, Wait for the Wagon, and Pop Goes the Weasel became universally known to the troops on both sides. The soldiers loved to sing along with the bands, in fact, the Civil War became known as the "singingest war" ever fought. The instruments were even redesigned to point backwards over the shoulders of the bandsmen so that the troops marching behind might hear the music more clearly.
The powerful effect of music on the soldiers of the Civil War is evidenced by the fact that these songs speak to us still. Through them, we relive the excitement, the glory, the loneliness, and the sadness, of that awful time in our country’s history.
In performance, the Americus Brass Band recreates a "living history" of one such band from the Civil War - that of the 4th Georgia Infantry Regiment of the Confederate States of America. Through the story and music of this historical group, we place you in the shoes of the Civil War soldier. You will feel the excitement and exhilaration of the pre-war days, the tension and expectation of camp life, the horror of battle, and the loss of loved ones.
Honor and Glory - Memories of the Civil War is based on historical fact. The events portrayed actually happened, all the documents read are original, and the characters you will meet were real people. Professor Louis Zitterbart, the Austrian-born and conservatory-trained founder and conductor of the original Americus Brass Band, tells the story. Lieutenant David Winn, the young commander of the Sumter Light Guards, who later rose to command the entire regiment writes letters home to his beloved wife, Frances Mary. And Nurse Rebecca represents the thousands of women who served valiantly in the hospital corps, suffering all of the hard-ships and losses of the soldiers to whom they ministered. But, most importantly, you will meet the original members of the Americus Brass Band.
Skilled in the performance of the original instruments, and playing from the actual part books used by bands during the war, the Americus Brass Band will transport you back to that earlier time, when even as neighbor fought neighbor, music was helping to heal the wounds and reforge a new nation, reuniting North and South. Sit back now and listen as Professor Louis Zitterbart relates the story of his Americus Brass Band on this, the 4th of July 1899.
The Dodge City Cow-Boy Band
Dodge City, as any history buff knows, was one of the most notorious towns in the "Old West." A major rail-head on the Chisholm Trail, Dodge was the scene of the legendary exploits of such figures as "Doc" Holiday and "Bat" Masterson. Cowboys, fresh off the trail, drove their herds down Main Street, then spent their hard-earned money at saloons like the Long Branch. And Indian Territory began a scant ten miles west of town.
In the middle of all this "wild west hoopla," a group of young cowboys formed a brass band. A local cattle rancher, saloon owner, and Deputy Sheriff named Chalkley M. Beeson, conceived the idea, hoping that a band would help sell Dodge City beef. He dressed his musicians in traditional cowboy costume, complete with Colt 45s, provided them with the finest instruments available, and proudly called the group The Dodge City Cow-Boy Band. The band achieved nationwide recognition at the National Stockman’s Convention held in St. Louis in 1884. Their unique blend of traditional brass band music with cowboy hats and six-guns captured the imagination of all who attended.
Ten years after the band was founded, a young cowboy/musician named Jack Sinclair joined the band. He quickly rose to a position of leadership and vied with Chalk Beeson for control of the group. After two years of discord, Jack Sinclair ultimately purchased the band’s music, instruments, and name, and relocated to Pueblo, Colorado. Pueblo embraced Jack and his band and, even though he continued to call the group The Dodge City Cow-Boy Band, provided Jack with all of the support he ever needed.
The Cow-Boy Band set out on its "World Tour" in 1892, a two-year venture that barely lasted six months. They did, however, play at several major venues including Madison Square Garden in New York, the inaugural parade of President Benjamin Harrison, and the Chicago World’s Fair. The band capped off the 19th century with a tour of duty in the Spanish American War, serving as the regimental band for the 2nd U.S. Cavalry in Cuba.
The band continued to perform in the 20th century but the national tours were over. Jack eventually became night captain of the Pueblo police department, married, and had two daughters. The elder daughter, Edith, became an opera singer and radio star in Los Angeles in the 1920s.
Chalk Beeson died in Dodge City in 1912 after being thrown from a horse, and Jack Sinclair died of a heart attack in 1929 in Pueblo, but the The Dodge City Cow-Boy Band history has been preserved at the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum in Los Angeles and the Boothill Museum in Dodge City.
—Synopses by Richard Birkemeier