Foundation Partners with Moorings Park for Lincoln Programs
by Patricia Wager, Major Gifts
Mr. Alan Korest of Naples, FL attended the 2011 Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation event at the Naples Yacht Club and expressed his interest in Lincoln and learning more about the Library and Museum programs. Mr. Korest states, “ When I had the pleasure of meeting with Carla Knorowski and Patricia Wager of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, I was reminded of the stunning impact of the Civil War on our country. Shortly thereafter, it occurred to me that it would be of great interest to see how its music might reflect the events of that period. Mr. Korest further explained, “ Music has always been a focal point for my interest and philanthropy as it can entertain, educate, elevate and heal with a power unlike any other.
The photo is of the Civil War Music Concert performers from the Naples Philharmonic exiting the stage of the Bower Chapel at Moorings Park in Naples, FL Mr. Alan Korest was the emcee for the evening and provided the leadership to organize the concert with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation. Dr. John Fenstermaker was the Musical Director for the Concert.
Carla Knorowski, CEO, ALPLF, was thrilled to become a partner to create a Civil War Music program. “Our collection contains hundreds of pieces of Civil War sheet music. When Mr. Korest suggested a concert using music from the Civil War period, I was fully supportive of this exciting programming opportunity. I was also pleased that we would have an opportunity to bring these resources and collection of the Library on the road to Naples, FL.
Now with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation as a willing collaborator, Mr. Korest introduced the Foundation to Dr. John Fenstermaker who would serve as the Musical Director for this first ever music venture. Mr. Korest also suggested the Bower Chapel at Moorings Park as the venue for the Civil War Music Concert” because this facility was intended to share the joy of music with our community; its Fenner Douglass mechanical action organ and its annual music series created by Dr. John Fenstermaker serve to showcase the value of music to society.”
According to Dr. Fenstermaker, “The task of fashioning a concert of Civil War era music seemed daunting at first. After many hours of research, music arranging, and multiple rehearsals, however, the time and effort yielded results which exceeded expectations.” The Concert entitled, “Music from a Divided Nation illustrated the mood of the time. Mr. Korest felt “it related history to music in a truly gripping way. The commentary provided by Dr. James Cornelius, Lincoln Curator, “provided context and perspective to the event. The musical pieces from the ALPLF collection did not disappoint.”
Dr. Fenstemaker added context, “in the mid-nineteenth-century America the center of musical life was the home. There were no radios or recordings, and few symphony orchestras; live professional concerts were generally confined to major city centers. Most middle class families had musical instruments; they sang and played for their own pleasure.” The Civil War presented a boom time for music. Dr. Fenstermaker explains, “When the War began, emotions ran high. Music publishers seized the opportunity to fill the sudden great demand for patriotic songs on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. Much money was to be made, but quickly. After the first shot was fired at Fort Sumter, one publisher commissioned a song, and in only three days was able to print it and have it in music stores. Thousands of songs were hastily written, many of them of mediocre quality. They were simple melodies with multiple verses, a refrain, and sometimes an interlude after each chorus. Finding worthwhile and interesting music from this large body of mostly trivial numbers was difficult.
However to both Mr. Korest and Dr. Fenstermaker some of the music was known. Mr. Korest recalls, “Some of the music was familiar, other pieces were obscure. Many were heartbreaking, while a few were aggressive. In total, they reinforced the unspeakable depth of human suffering during this momentous struggle in a way that neither description nor photography can communicate. The music was able to express the aching sense of loss, as well as the monumental impact of a country divided.”
Dr. Fenstermaker has similar feelings, “Growing up in Indiana, we sang some of the songs in grade school. As a boy, I thought of these songs, Tenting on the Old Camp Ground, the Battle Cry of Freedom were quaint and harmless, far removed from any meaning. Studying them and performing them has given me tenderness and a sadness about this war, which was so wrenching and painful for so many of our nation’s families. This music, though largely topical and ephemeral, has an almost overwhelming heart-felt sincerity, expressing both deep pain, as well as a loyal and fervent hope.”
This was the first time that the ALPLF or Moorings Park had ever presented a Civil War Music program so we were fortunate to have the skill, expertise and passion of Dr. Fenstermaker as the Musical Director. This was no easy task to create this musical experience. Dr. Fenstermaker explains, “A few of the songs are timeless, universally known and loved. About half the songs we chose are familiar, several others were obscure, and were included for their historic interest and the value of their authentic contemporaneous viewpoint. We used four professional singers in various combinations and the instruments employed were a harpsichord, piano, pipe organ, and percussion. Jim Dallas, principal percussion of the Naples Philharmonic, owns a replica of a Civil War side drum, which he used to tremendous effect in several numbers. There is no sound quite like it!”
The order of the concert music was carefully planned and Dr. Fenstermaker stated,”We began with a piano solo, the Grand Inaugural Polonaise, performed at President Lincoln’s inaugural ball. We closed with Peter Wilhousky’s iconic arrangement of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, after which the singers made a procession out of the Bower Chapel, accompanied only by the historic side drum. It was quite moving.” It is important to note that Dr. Fenstermaker believes, “Surprisingly, many people judged the highlight of the concert to be an extended, unaccompanied baritone solo, “O I’m a good old Rebel” which expressed implacable ill will against Yankees. This was sung by Edward Byrom, who studied with the great choral conductor Robert Shaw.”
Mr. Korest adds, “As the extended standing ovation indicated, my enthusiasm for the program was shared by the full house at the Bower Chapel that evening. For weeks afterwards, attendees spoke to me about the program’s effect on their lives and their thinking. As individuals and as a group, we were moved, informed, and enlightened. It was genuinely important and unforgettable experience. It is my hope that this program can be offered to additional audiences, most especially young people. Each of us can benefit greatly from better understanding this critical event in American history, and music provides a new and compelling viewpoint.”
Ginny Small a resident of Moorings Park agrees, “ Everyone left with a feeling that they had heard something very special indeed.”
Dr. Knorowski agrees that this musical program should be repeated. Lori Lennon and Mary Yovovich, members of the ALPLF Board, who helped coordinate this program in Naples are now exploring recreating this program for audiences in Illinois.
The ALPLF is grateful for the partnership with Moorings Park to present this wonderful program and wishes to especially thank Mr. Alan Korest, Dr. John Fenstermaker, Mr. Don Lavender, Ms. Terri Melville, Ms. Ginny Small, and the musicians from the Naples Philharmonic who performed at the concert, Michele Byrd, Brice Gerlach, Marian Birsa, Edward Byrom, James Dallas, and Cynthia Dallas.