A time of historic music

By Patrick Fisher, Staff Writer
Two of my favorite subjects, history and music converged last weekend with the Vintage Band Festival. The series of concerts is held every three years with Northfield as its base and other performances held in area communities. One of the concerts was held in New Prague on Sunday, Aug. 4, as the Medevi Brunnsorkester band from Sweden performed in Memorial Park. Like many of the groups, they were a brass band that played on instruments that were about a century old. Aband member said the golden age for their instruments were from the 1870s to the 1930s. By then everyone wanted new instruments from the United States and wanted to play like Louis Armstrong. While some of their music was also that old, Medevi Brunnsorkester played some more up to date music. They had chuckles from the audience when they mentioned Swedish pop group Abba. One band member quickly explained they would play a piece from the musical "Chess," which was written by two members of the quartet. Another concert I attended was by the 26th North Carolina Regimental Band. Held at sunset at the Northfield Cemetery, it provided a mixture of history with the music. The 26th North Carolina Regimental Band is based on a Civil War military band of the same name. While they wore reproduction uniforms their instruments were from the 1800s. They had found the instruments in attics, antique shops and on eBay. Talking with band members after the concert I found out there are people who will fix the instruments since they are often in bad shape. The band leader told a recent story, how a Northfield store had a tuba from the 1800s displayed in its front window. The store owner wasn’t prepared for the group of people gathered in front of the shop waiting for it to open, all wanting to buy the tuba. A representative of the 1st Brigade Band was able to come to an agreement for purchasing the instrument, which will be repaired and put to use. I think one band member put it best when he said that being able to play the instrument gives an audience an idea of what it was to sound like, what its purpose is. Put it behind glass and to him it just becomes a thing. There were also stories about how the original band played polkas and waltzes, sometimes during battles, to bolster the troops’ moral. Troops listened to a variety of music in their down time, as the band played hymns and opera. The 26th North Carolina Regimental Band even played the Anvil Chorus, with the band leader striking a small anvil. The evening ended on a solemn note as the band leader gave a brief history about Taps. With the band providing an accompaniment, the band leader walked a few steps away and played Taps. The audience rose with a few people placing their hands over their hearts and some former military members saluting.