Quickstep: Brass Band Music of the American Civil War

Coates Brass Band, Quickstep: Brass Band Music of the American Civil War. Featuring the Music of Thomas Coates. MSR Classics MS 1422.  Recorded. August 11-13, 2011.

Coates Brass Band: Douglas Hedwig, Music Director and Conductor. Eb Cornets: Jeff Stockham (Hall & Quinby, Boston, 1866), Brian Kanner (Hall & Quinby, Boston, 1865), Michael Jones (W.Seefeldt, Philadelphia, c. 1870), Bb Cornets: Robert High (Hall & Quinby, Boston, 1861), Patrick O’Connell (Boston Musical Instrument Manufactory “Band Size”, c. 1870), Eb Alto Horns: Lenore Turner (Quinby Bros., Boston, 1872), Dickson Rothwell (Martin, Pollman & Co. New York, c. 1870), William Green (unsigned, c. 1870), Bb Tenor Horns: Steven Lundahl, (Hall & Quinby, Boston, c. 1868), Kyle Russell, (CA Zoebisch & Sons, New York, 1867), Bb Baritone Horn and Bb Bass: Barry Bocanner, (Kummer & Schetelich, Baltimore, c. 1860), Michael O’Connor, (EG Wright, Boston, c. 1865), Eb Bass Tuba: Roy Coates (CA Zoebisch & Sons, New York, 1867), Snare Drum: Daniel Gonzalez, (Edward Brown, Albany, NY, c. 1865), Bass Drum & Cymbals: Robert Sacks, (Blodgett & Brandford, Buffalo, NY c. 1858-63.) All original mouthpieces, c. 1855-1870.

One of the many positive aspects of the early music movement has been the exploration, performance, and recording of little-known repertoire that represents a part of the cultural heritage of a particular nation, or more often than not, small regions of a particular country. Recordings made during the past couple of decades have resulted in the presentation of little known music of regions of France, Germany, Italy, England, the Scandinavian countries as well as other countries. This is often music that has never made it into the standard music textbooks and we are all the richer for those endeavors. This recent CD is a fine effort by an American ensemble to expose a little-known part of the American musical heritage. Ten out of the nineteen marches, waltzes, hymns, 2-steps, and, of course, quicksteps are by the composer Thomas Coates (1803/10 – 1895).

In his informative CD notes, Michael O’Connor presents what little information is known of Coates, who in the pre and post American Civil War periods was an important and accomplished musician. His many accomplishments have been faded by time. O’Connor explains that he was likely born in Easton, Pennsylvania, ran away from home at the age of 10 to join a circus band and ultimately drew the attention of the famous musician Allen Dodsworth. Coates’s musical skills were called upon when, at the start of the Civil War, he joined the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Coates continued to compose and direct brass bands in Easton until his death in 1895. Shortly after the city erected a monument to him, proclaiming him “The Father of Band Music in America.”

Michael O’Connor compiled and edited the music on this recording from numerous Civil War period band archives, including one Confederate band library (which speaks to the popularity of Coates’s music). Also represented on this finely played CD are works of the period by William Tanzer, George Goodwin, Henry Bishop, A. Kurrick, Philip Phile, B.F. Porter, and Ignaz Pleyel. The Coates Brass Band, under the able direction of Douglas Hedwig, played with enthusiasm and delicate ensemble work. Of particular note was the wonderful Eb cornet playing of Jeff Stockham. The ensemble managed to tame these notoriously difficult 19th century instruments. We are indebted to the members of the Coates Brass Band for this fine historically informed recording of a little-known slice of the American musical heritage.

-- Jeffrey Nussbaum