Titled “April 1865 — One Nation Under God,” the concert will get under way at 7 p.m. in the new Fine Arts Building at Bradley Central High School.
The performance is open to the public and is free of charge.
“The Civil War is observing its 150th anniversary ... so this has opened up a new and interesting theme for us in order to coincide with it,” according to R.G. Wolf, a talented, 84-year-old musician who founded the concert band in April 2006.
Wolf, who came to Bradley County 17 years ago from Minneapolis, is a talented musician who plays virtually every instrument except the trombone. When he relocated to Cleveland, he performed with several musical groups in Chattanooga before making the decision to launch a concert band in Cleveland.
According to area historians, this is the third known concert band for the city, Wolf said. The first was a city band in the early 1900s, and then another in the 1920s. A long gap existed here without a concert band until Wolf advertised for volunteer musicians six years ago.
“Our first rehearsal had 34 to 37 people,” Wolf said Saturday. “We’ve been going strong ever since.”
Wolf served as the concert band’s original conductor. The duties later went to Michael Itson, and now Don Bindrim is the conductor.
Tuesday night’s performance will feature as many as 50 to 55 onstage musicians, Wolf noted.
Since its inception, the concert band has recorded from 250 to 300 different musicians — including young adults, older adults, senior citizens, college students and others — who have performed during the band’s weekly rehearsals.
Although dubbed the Cleveland concert band, the group also includes several musicians from surrounding communities — Hixson, Chattanooga, Etowah, Benton and Dayton, among others. All share a common interest; that is, a love of music.
“We have [musicians] from all walks of life,” Wolf said. “It doesn’t make any difference. You could be the governor of Tennessee, and you might find yourself playing right next to anybody else. All that counts is you come down [to rehearsal] and enjoy playing music. It’s a melting pot experience.”
Wolf said another outreach to music is its medical benefits.
“Research is finding more and more that music has many rehabilitation and health benefits,” he stressed. “Music is now being used for therapy for stroke victims.”
And then again, some just want to perform with the local concert band because they bleed musical notes. For most, music has been a part of their entire lives and they don’t want to give it up in their adulthood and senior years.
The Greater Cleveland Concert Band traditionally performs two concerts per year, and is widely recognized and respected for its Christmas themes and other timely performances which have included patriotic and storm-recovery events. The band’s musicians are talented artists whose background includes high school and college experience, and in some cases additional venues, as well as others.
The concert band’s Cleveland performances are always well attended. Crowds over the past six years have ranged from 400 to 1,000 people.
Tuesday night’s performance will be a story told musically as well as visually which has become a familiar format for the community entertainers. The music will be from the Civil War era or music written to commemorate the Civil War.
Selections will include “Ashokan Farewell,” by Unger; “Shenandoah’s Simple Gifts,” by Clark; “Voices from the Battlefield, With Malice Toward None,” by Swearingen; “Three Southern Vignettes,” by Huckeby; “An American Spectacular,” arranged by Sharp; “A Lincoln Celebration,” by Johnson; and “On a Childhood Sunday Song,” by Lee University’s David Holsinger.
The program will open with the presentation of colors by Civil War re-enactors and The Star Spangled Banner. Similar to the highly acclaimed and popular Ken Burns TV production of “The Civil War” which told the story of the four-year conflict through the eyes of American families and how it split alliances, Tuesday night’s production will include a visual showing of Civil War photographs throughout the concert.
Dr. Jim Burns of Lee University will narrate the presentation. He will share Civil War stories from a national perspective, but also from the Cleveland and Bradley County area. The stories will center around the period of April 1865.
Wolf will be featured in one segment playing an antique brass baritone horn. He is excited about the opportunity and laughed at the age of the horn.
“... It is the oldest antique instrument the band has ever played,” Wolf noted. “It was made in the 1860s during the Civil War. It’s a brass baritone horn made in Austria during the Civil War. For me, playing it is a personal, fun thing. It is so dented that I believe it has been through every war since the Civil War.”
Wolf said Tuesday’s performance theme is appropriate because of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, and because local families have ties to the nation’s inner conflict — including Wolf.
“Everybody seated onstage, everybody in the band and in the audience probably has some connection with the Civil War,” he said. “My grandfather — not my great-grandfather, but my grandfather — got shot up in the Civil War. He was a 16-year-old German immigrant.”
Wolf’s grandfather, a blue-clad soldier fighting with the Wisconsin Cavalry Regiment in the Union army, lay wounded on the battlefield an entire day, having been passed for dead. His body was riddled with four bullets and three buck shots. One bullet was lodged in his neck. But he lived, and carried some of the lead in his body the rest of his life.
Wolf said the battle was fought when his grandfather’s regiment was attacked by 650 Texas rangers.
Wolf’s goal is to expand the concert band to about 80 regular members onstage while averaging about 60 to 65 at rehearsals. He believes the goal is doable.
In the meantime, he invited the community to Tuesday’s performance and encouraged all to arrive early in order to get the best seats.