Friday, January 11, 2008

Staff members represent UIS in cavalry band

By Courtney Westlake

Although dressing in Civil War period garb while performing songs from that time is exciting, two UIS campus community members have found that the clothing gets a little hot during the summertime.

"It isn't real good in the summer because it's wool," laughed Beverly Bunch, who is an associate professor in public administration. "But in the winter, it feels much better."

Despite the occasional heat, Bunch and Rose Schweikhart, who works as the dean's assistant in the College of Public Affairs and Administration, are both enjoying the opportunities they have to perform with the 10th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry Band, part of the Volunteer Regiment.

The band has been active since August 2006, which is when Schweikhart first began playing with the group. Bunch has been involved with the band since March 2007. She said she enjoyed hearing Schweikhart play around campus and town, and Schweikhart asked her to join, which she gladly accepted. Additionally, Todd Cranson, who is assistant director of co-curricular music at UIS, conducts the band.

Although the band members don't ride horses while playing like the Civil War bands did, "almost all of the music selections played are arrangements from bands that existed in the 1860s," Schweikhart said, except for one piece which is a more modern arrangement.

"That's what makes it a lot of fun, that we get to play period instruments and music from that era," Bunch said. "They're hard to play in tune, and that makes it challenging, but it's nice to be playing music from that era on instruments from that era."

Schweikhart plays a baritone, which has a tenor sound like trombone, she said. Normally, Bunch plays the French horn but as the horn wasn't around during that time, she has taken up the E Flat Alto.

The Volunteer Band and Regiment are based on the actual Cavalry that was out of Springfield, Bunch said, and it is fun to hear old stories about the band and its members.

At some point during the war, Schweikhart said, bands were cut because they were a large expense on the Army, so in many regiments - including Springfield's - officers themselves paid band members more salary to keep them in action, which was an extra $1 per month.

Bunch and Schweikhart said they are thrilled with the opportunity to share the music, and the history, of the Civil War time period with the community.

"I love that we get to play period music on a period instrument. And especially around here, people are so appreciate of the history, especially from the Civil War era," Schweikhart said.

The Cavalry Band performs at various locations around town, including the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, UIS and more. Schweikhart and Bunch are particularly looking forward to their next gig: taking part in the Cavalry Band's performance at the 1860s Period Ball held in honor of Lincoln’s 200th birthday at the Executive Mansion on February 9.

"We hope people come to our concerts; we have a lot of fun, and we love having an audience," Bunch said. "Everybody there loves what they are doing; we like brass, and we love the Civil War context."