Music in a Small Town

Moving from a metropolitan area to a small town I thought I would miss the great musical opportunities I had in the Quad Cities.  My husband and I had season tickets to the Quad City Symphony and we enjoyed excellent music with well-known guest artists.

But recently I discovered great music can be found anywhere.  This month we had the pleasure of listening to a “Brass Holidays” concert by the Mountain Town Band.

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This elite brass ensemble was formed in 2016 and includes university trained musicians from all over middle Michigan.  Since St Johns is in the middle of the state, they have chosen to conduct their practices here – and also to give performances here two to three times a year.  They are a brass ensemble in the British brass band tradition, successfully blending impeccable musical virtuosity with an enjoyable audience-friendly ambience.

I was not familiar with the brass band tradition but after listening to this great music, I decided to check it out.

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I found that the Brass Band dates back to the early nineteenth century and England’s Industrial Revolution.  As the workers began to organize for more wages and better working hours, employers organized and supported bands as a way to actually decrease their  political activity.  Slowly as music departments began to develop at universities performance improved.  There were 750 brass bands in England by 1860.   Slowly these brass bands have expanded all over the world.

By the start of the Civil War there were brass bands throughout the USA.  Bands were used at rallies to encourage enlistment.  Bands were used to improve morale and were even sent in with the infantry to play during battles.

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8th New York State Militia Band, 1861

Today there are hundreds of brass bands in the USA.   There is an North American Brass Band Association (NABBA) dedicated to the promotion and development of the British-style brass band movement in North America

If you get a chance to hear a brass band, don’t pass it up.  You will enjoy it I guarantee.

Denmark Vesey – Leader of Failed Rebellion

Hampton Park, Charleston, South Carolina.  What a beautiful place to visit.  Shady walks with old, old oak trees covered with Spanish moss.

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Beautiful pond with ducks and a fountain.

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But also a place of history.  I recently wrote about the first Memorial Day celebration in the park.

Former Slaves and the First Memorial Day Celebration

In exploring the park, we also found more history that was never in the history books in school.  We turned a corner in one of the walkways and there was a statue of a black man with a book under one arm and a bag of tools in his other hand.  Who was he and what was a statute of him doing in this beautiful park?

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Denmark Vesey, a self-educated slave who planned a massive rebellion.  In one hand is a Bible and a bag of carpenter tools is in the other.

Being history nuts, my husband and I could not walk away without knowing this man’s story.

Denmark Vesey was sold when just a young boy to a slaver captain, Joseph Vesey in 1781.  Assuming his master’s name, Denmark accompanied his master on several voyages before they settled in Charleston, South Carolina.

Denmark was able to purchase his freedom in 1800 and began working as a carpenter.  He taught himself to read and soon read about the Haitian slave revolt in the 1790’s.  He joined the newly formed African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1817 becoming a leader and preaching in his own home every week.  Whites in Charleston constantly monitored the meetings often disrupting services and arresting members.

Vesey preached from the Old Testament telling the story of the Israelites enslavement in Egypt and how Moses led them to freedom.

Frustrated because he was not allowed to purchase freedom for his family, unhappy with being a second-class citizen and knowing first hand the oppressive conditions of the slaves, he organized a revolt.  The plan called for the slaves to attack guardhouses and arsenals, seize their arms, burn and destroy the city and free all the slaves.

Scholars do not agree on how many blacks were actually involved in the planned rebellion but estimates say it could have been as many as 9,000.

Warned by a house servant, the rebellion was thwarted before it could begin.

Some 130 blacks were arrested with 35 hanged.  Vesey was one of those 35.

Angry whites burned the African church and resticted even further the few rights the slaves in Charleston had.

Vesey became a martyr for African-Americans and a symbol for the abolitionist movement.  The increased loss of freedom and added oppression of the slaves helped to continue to pull the country toward Civil War.