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Band of believers to perform Civil War sounds
Concert to commemorate 150th anniversary of war's end
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Richard Petty directs the Believers Concert Band during a practice at Gainesville First United Methodist Church. The band will have its annual Spring Concert at 3 p.m. Sunday at the church off Thompson Bridge Road. The concert will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Believers Concert Band performance

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Gainesville First United Methodist Church, 2780 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville

How much: Free

More info: www.believersband.org or 770-536-2341

While the Civil War divided the United States into North and South, the music from the era seemed to bond the two sides.

In fact, it seemed the music could not be separated by battle lines. According to “The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln,” the president expressed a love for the song “Dixie” during a speech April 10, 1865. The song was considered the unofficial anthem of the Confederacy.

In commemoration of that connection between the opposing sides and the anniversary of the end of the Civil War, the Believers Concert Band will tell the history of the United States through music.

“Music of America, A Civil War Sesquicentennial” will be performed at 3 p.m. Sunday at Gainesville First United Methodist Church, 2780 Thompson Bridge Road, in Gainesville. The concert is free.

Music director of the Believers Concert Band and co-founder Richard Petty spent a lot of time crafting a program. 

“We’ve got some Dixieland and some blues in there,” Petty said. “We’ve got some heavy stuff with Tannhauser (opera). And we have some light stuff.”

Petty said the wide range of music in the program ensures “there’s something for everybody.”

“They might not all like one thing but will find something they enjoy,” he said.

Believers band president and euphonium baritone horn player Jerry Butler said the concerts are not just music but a walk through history.

“It’s a story because Richard has done all this research (with) the background. And he weaves a story into all of the pieces of music,” he said. “It’s truly educational to the audience.”

At least two songs focus on Lincoln since the concert is exactly 150 years since his funeral march down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

“We felt like that was an important time to pay attention to Lincoln’s death and his burial,” Petty said. “We tried to stay away from the war and stick to the music of America.”

To incorporate the history and background, more than the musicians will be conducting the concert. The program will include the Grenadiers Drum and Bugle Corps from Riverside Military Academy; Gen. James Longstreet Chapter 46 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy; the 27th Georgia Infantry Regiment, Co. D, Camp No. 1404 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans; and Longstreet Society representatives. 

After the concert, Civil War artifacts will be on display from each of the groups at a reception. Reenactors in period dress will be available for photos and to answer questions based on their character.

“We’ve got three ladies from the United Daughters of the Confederacy and they’ll be in the big hoop skirts, and the dress that ladies in that era wore,” Butler said.

Not counting the characters bringing the Civil War era to life after the concert, about 50 musicians will set the mood with 19th century sounds. Each member has a different background, adding to the fun atmosphere surrounding the band.

“We have people who are composers (and) have been directors of bands,” Butler said. “But we’ve also had people like myself who have just played in high school or people who retired and decided they wanted to play an instrument.”

Georgia native Karyl Evans, who is in her 12th year with the Believers band, enjoys her membership among musicians.

Evans said the “excitement of making music with all these people who love to do it as much as I do,” is one of the reason’s she joined.

The retired music teacher, who is also director of the Gala Winds Flute Ensemble, said she loves the opportunity to keep music in her life. Plus, she is excited for the solos she will perform in the concert.

“(The audience is) going to hear a lot of tunes that they’ve heard all their lives, and that’s always rewarding to hear music that you know and enjoy,” Evans said. “We’re in the South and it’s a celebration of the sesquicentennial. So all these Southerners will appreciate what (Petty has) chosen. It’s going to be a fun afternoon.” 

For more information about the Believers Concert Band, visit www.believersband.org.

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