Saturday, April 19, 2014

In memory of the Civil War

Spectators took a step back in time Thursday, March 21 as they listened to Civil War songs performed by the 97th Regimental String Band in DeMoss Hall 1113.

As 7 p.m. rolled around, seats were packed with grandparents, parents and students coming to get a glimpse of the history.

Music — The 97th Regimental String Band performs in DeMoss Hall. Photo credit: Kyle Milligan

According to their website, the 97th Regimental String Band specializes in music from the 1800s and the Civil War era. The group consists of three performers who have been working together for 30 years.

Using the bass, guitar and mandolin, the 97th played songs ranging from those sung by Confederate and Union troops on the front lines and in war camps, to music surveying the different cultures of the troops — including German and Irish soldiers.

“When people think of Civil War music, automatically they think of the death and the dying, but you couldn’t be more wrong,” Moock said. “The soldiers sang a lot of songs about home, God, mothers, apple pie, doorknobs and anything that struck their fancy.”

After each song, the three performers entertained the crowd with jokes, poems and stories from the Civil War time period, all bringing laughter and applause.

According to Moock, the group originally started playing together as a hobby, beginning with songs sung around the campfire after Civil War re-enactments. It was a slow start, with shows mostly confined to malls and libraries, but as the word spread, so did their venues.

One of the entertainers known only as Mad Dog said that in 1996, the 97th was performing more than four shows a month, taking them to places all across the United States.

The songs sung by the 97th are actual songs found from old music sheets as well as from the diaries of Civil War soldiers, according to Moock.

“We’ve always tried to sound like what we think the soldiers sounded like when they sung these songs,” Moock said.

Some of the songs they played included “Bonnie Blue Flag” and “Sad Tale of the Plantation” — where the phrase Jimmy cracked corn comes from — as well as “Dixie,” which got most spectators on their feet as they danced and clapped along. As part of the evening’s entertainment, the band informed listeners about the Civil War Era throughout the night.

“It’s not our music, but your music, and it always has been,” Moock said.

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