Civil War recreation band on showcase at ‘Celebration’

The band, which performs Civil War era tunes, at a festival in 2012. (Submitted photo)

The band, which performs Civil War era tunes, at a festival in 2012. (Submitted photo)

By Mark Ambrogi

Like any other starving college kid, David Goins was just looking for a gig.

So the University of Kentucky student took one with the Saxton’s Cornet Band in 1992.



“I fell in love with it,” said Goins, who has been a regular ever since.

The Saxton’s Cornet Band, based in central Kentucky, travels everywhere to perform Civil War-era music in actual instruments from the era.

“We’re trying to promote this era of music,” said Goins, who serves in role of a general manager for the band. “We’re trying to prevent it from being lost.”

Saxton’s Cornet Band is a modern recreation of a Civil War brass band that was started in the late 1850s in Lexington, Ky. Henry Saxton had a group of musicians through 1910. Goins, 43, said the modern band formed in 1989.

“We played every type of historical event and music festival,” said Goins. whose group played several years at Conner Prairie. “We’ve played a presidential inauguration (George W. Bush in 2000), played overseas and been in a few movies. We’re one of handful of people who can play the music and play them on original 1860s instruments.”

Saxton’s Cornet Band will perform at 4 p.m. on Sept. 19 during the Celebration of Bands outside The Center for the Performing Arts and then will perform with the Indiana Wind Symphony inside the Palladium that evening during the Grand Finale concert. Goins serves as the solo E flat cornet performer.

Goins, the musical director for First United Methodist Church in Frankfort, Ky., said they play the music from the Library of Congress site so the music is exactly what you would have heard during the Civil War.

“With the exception of the drums, all the instruments are 150 years old,” Goins said.

Goins said the sound is a lot softer than what a brass band sounds like today.

“We’ve come a long way with technology and we’ve made them where they are much more brilliant and they’re a lot louder,” Goins said.

Goins said the group has about 20 members with a different group  attending each time. About 12 to 14 expected to play at the Carmel concerts.

The band brings a narrator for its show.

One of the highlights will be a world premiere of piece written by composer James Curnow, who will be on hand for the performance. The Indiana Wind Symphony will join the Saxton’s Cornet Band in the performance. Goins said it’s an 11-minute work that uses narration from diary entries from the Civil War. The piece is called “With Malice Towards None,” which is a quote from Abraham Lincoln’s second presidential inaugural address.

“We’re excited. It’s going to be cool,” Goins said. “We’ve been working on it for four years. We’re trying to see what an authentic Civil War band sounds like within the texture of modern wind band. It’s going to sound like a movie score. We’re stepping outside our mission which is just playing music from the four-year period to hopefully educate people and bridge the time gap.”

They use saxhorns developed by Adolph Sax, who later invented the saxophone.

“They were all the rage in the 19th century,” Goins said. “There is soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass and we have two drummers. So all the instruments are voiced just a choir.”


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