Band festival restores vintage sounds

26th North Carolina Regimental Band

When the soldiers went marching off to battle in the Civil War, they often did so to the sound of a band

The music of that era will be recreated 150 years later as part of the Vintage Band Festival , to be held Aug. 1-4 in Northfield. Several Civil War-related bands will participate in the festival.

In fact, the festival, being held for the third time, is as much about history as it is about music.

"I'm not sure where the balance between the two is, and I'd be hard-pressed to choose," said Paul Niemisto, director of the festival. "These are bands playing outdoors, in old uniforms, on old instruments. They're trying to re-create what it was like 150 years ago."

About 30 bands from across the U.S., and four from Europe, will travel to Northfield for the festival. Styles range from centuries-old to modern, with influences from jazz to American folk music to traditional tunes from Europe.


Among them are the 26th North Carolina Regimental Band, the First Brigade Band from Wisconsin, and the Century Brass Band, from the Twin Cities — all paying tribute to Civil War-era bands.

They'll be joined by the likes of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, composed of eight brothers from Chicago; Newberry's Victorian Cornet Band from Maryland; Ameriikan Poijat, a Finnish brass band from Minnesota; the New Ulm Original German Band, and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Band from Texas.

Also coming are four bands from Europe: Oktetten Ehstedts Eftr and Medevi Brunnsorkester, both from Sweden, Eine Kleine Dorfmusik Kapelle, from Austria, and Original Drachenfelser Musikanten, from Germany.

Nearly all concerts will be held outdoors at various sites in Northfield and surrounding communities. Again, this is in keeping with the historical traditions of the bands.

"They might have played indoors in winter, but they did most of their stuff outdoors," Niemisto said.

Traditional brass band music is enjoying a resurgence of popularity, especially on the East Coat, Niemisto said.

Part of that is because of nostalgia for a more "real time," he said.

"We live in an awfully plastic world," Niemisto said. "The music you listen to is coming off an iPod. That is of no interest to us at the festival. We are interested in you sitting with your ears open listening to live people playing live music, outdoors where the wind can blow over a music stand."


Admission to the festival is free, although donations are welcome. "Our budget is in six figures for this," Niemisto said. "We don't do ticket sales because we're dealing with the whole city being the venue. We'd have to put a fence around the entire city. So we rely on people's good will. We hope to get $30,000 in donations on that weekend."

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