The 69th Pennsylvania Irish Volunteers, |
Rock of Erin
Every once in a while a CD comes along that piques my interest even before the cellophane is unwrapped. Such was the case with Rock of Erin. This unique project is the effort of the 69th Pennsylvania Irish Volunteers -- a Civil War band.
I personally hope this CD sells exceptionally well because all proceeds are being donated to Civil War battlefield and Irish preservation projects. Not only were the musicians involved in this effort; money, time and talent were donated by outside sponsors, both individuals and businesses. Support was also given by the Civil War Preservation Trust.
The inspiration for this group is the original 69th Pennsylvania Volunteers -- a mostly Irish regiment from the Philadelphia area -- which was engaged in almost all major battles between 1861 and 1865. At Gettysburg, they were instrumental in helping assure a Union victory with their spirited defense against Pickett's charge. Today's 69th is "a reenactment unit ... determined to keep history alive and their memories never forgotten."
The music is exactly what you'd expect it to be: rousing, inspirational and toe-tapping. And no wonder. The liner notes list nearly 20 musicians, nine lead vocals and 14 backup vocalists. Throw in some banjos, mandolins, guitars, a bagpipe, bodhrans, concertina, tin whistle and more, you're bound to have a spirited session.
Don't buy this CD if you are expecting to hear something akin to the United States Marine Band led by John Phillips Sousa himself. The 69th is not quite that polished, nor should they be. This group is, for the most part, recreating music as it might have been performed on the battlefield 140 years ago.
The title track, "Rock of Erin," was written by George Levens, a member of the 69th who also plays a guitar and is a lead singer. Levens also wrote "Welcome," "Prison Ships" and "Soldier Boy." Two other members -- Brian Rock and Ed Wandall -- wrote "Angelus Bell" and "The Dawning of the Day", respectively.
Six minutes of this recording is taken up with a wonderful rendition of "Foggy Dew," a haunting melody that commemorates Ireland's bloody Easter Rebellion of 1916. Other standards include "Battle Cry of Freedom," "County Down" and "Minstrel Boy."
If you're interested in some good tunes and a worthy cause, get a copy of Rock of Erin. You won't be sorry.
[ by Bill Knapp ]