President Lincoln’s Own Band is scheduled to perform in Gettysburg, Pa., at the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. This group visited Washington D.C. in January when it performed as part of President Barack Obama’s inaugural festivities. From left to right: Dana Schoppert, Reese Land, Dave Centers, Michael Tunnell, Dennis Edlebrock, Don Johnson, Don Johnson III, Jeff Stockham, Joseph Van Fleet and Garman Bowers. Photo provided
Bands usually hit it big with music that is new and different. But Don Johnson’s band is making a national splash by performing pieces that are old and authentic.
Johnson, who grew up in Lexington and now lives in Marion County, is the artistic director of President Lincoln’s Own Band, a uniformed military-style ensemble that plays Civil War-era music on original period instruments.
Since appearing in Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed 2012 movie, Lincoln, the band has been a sought-after soundtrack for many events marking the Civil War’s sesquicentennial.
The band’s latest big gig is Nov. 19 at Dedication Day in Gettysburg, Pa., which will mark the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The band also played at Dedication Day last year, when Spielberg and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin spoke.
The band also appeared in Killing Lincoln, a National Geographic film about the president’s assassination. It played at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History for two days during President Obama’s inaugural festivities in January and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in June.
At Gettysburg next week, the band will be sharing the stage with the U.S. Marine Band, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and historian James McPherson.
Johnson is still fine-tuning the band’s 30-minute concert lineup, but knows he will begin with My Old Kentucky Home, in honor of Lincoln’s birth state, and end with Yankee Doodle. Other likely tunes are Rally Round the Flag, Hail Columbia and We Are Coming, Father Abraham, which the band played in Spielberg’s movie. Johnson also said he will play “taps” at the ceremony.
“The sound of Civil War instruments was quite different from what you hear today,” Johnson said, explaining the appeal of his band’s authentic style. “It was a lot darker and more velvety and like a voice.”
Also among the group’s Kentucky members playing at Gettysburg will be Joseph Van Fleet, a trumpet professor at Eastern Kentucky University. For more information about the group, go to: Facebook.com/PresidentLincolnsOwnBand.