September 28, 2013

Civil War music coming to trade center

By Christopher Smith

— Successful wars require two things, said Larry Flanagan.

One you might guess: money.

One you might not: lots of music.

The latter is where Flanagan’s expertise and interests lie. The conductor will helm 50 musicians and 50 singers with the L’Abri Symphony Orchestra on Thursday, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. at the trade center in a showcase of nine segments of music related to the Civil War. The concert is free.

“We’re very excited,” Flanagan said. “The concert encompasses more than just local interests.”

Flanagan said the symphony is teaming up with the Dalton 150th Civil War Commission, a local group that promotes educational opportunities related to the Civil War’s impact on Whitfield County.

Jim Burran, chairman of the Dalton 150th, said several musical pieces will be separated by “narratives,” short segments where members of the Dalton 150th will provide historical context to audience members about the music.

 “We have a section on the battle of Antietam and a section on the battle of Gettysburg (two of the bloodiest battles in the war),” Flanagan said. “One is called ‘The Ghost of Antietam,’ it was commissioned by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra a few years ago. It’s really surreal. It’s very neat.”

Flanagan will also conduct sections of the scores from the films “Gettysburg” and “Gone With the Wind.”

“There’s a lot of music from the Civil War era,” he said. “But there’s not a lot set for orchestras so I worked hard to find music we could use.”

That’s because “music was much more central in American life (then) than it is perhaps now,” Burran said. Music fans back then were performers, not strictly listeners like most people today, he added, so music was often written for one person or a small band, not large orchestras.

 “Most families of any means had a musical instrument in their home. People gathered around music. Small towns had community bands,” he said. “It was a central focus in life. That music went to the battlefield with those soldiers, North and South. They even shared a number of sentimental favorites between sides.”

But music wasn’t just about human connection. It was also about separation, with the South turning to “Dixie” and the North turning to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” as distinct songs of opposition.

Those two songs will play alongside each other and compete towards the end of the concert, Flanagan said.

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