The Federal City Brass Band, Jay Villanueva
Hurrah for the Union! The Music of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War
Recorded 10-12 July, 2009, and 7 November 2009 in part at Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site
In honor of Lincoln’s 200th birthday (February 12, 1808), the Federal City Brass Band has put together an impressive album of music dating to Lincoln’s life and the Civil War era. We hear some well-known standards such as the “Battle Cry of Freedom,” an interesting arrangement by the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment Band (circa 1760’s) of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” “Yankee Doodle,” “Dixie’s Land” (known as “Dixie”), and “Hail to the Chief.” There are 21 works represented in total and they combine to show a rich repertoire from the American tradition. Particular attention should be given to the performance of “Old 100th” (Louis Bourgeois, ca. 1510-60) as this was played by the Marine Band at the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania together with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
The band plays flawlessly with excellent blend and intonation; their sound is rich. While there is great variety and contrast in dynamics and articulations, at no time is there a hint of the edge which often is the mark of modern instruments, or of modern performers using period instruments. Particular high marks should go to the E flat keyed bugle work by Don Johnson and by the entire E flat cornet section for their delicate work in the high range which shows special control, blend and intonation. A small criticism would be that this reviewer would have preferred to hear more of the lower brass. This is more a comment on the mixing and microphone placement, however, than on the performance itself.
The program notes are thorough as is the listing of the period instruments used. This is an excellent CD and is highly recommended to all interested in 19th Century brass band music. I say “Hurrah!” to the Federal City Brass Band!
-- James Miller