WVWC hosting Civil War event

BUCKHANNON – The Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library, the Honors Program, and the Department of Music at West Virginia Wesleyan College will hold a special event on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Virginia Thomas Law Center for the Performing Arts on the Buckhannon campus.

“We Are Coming, Father Abram: Abraham Lincoln and the Songs of the Civil War” by Michael Lasser reveals Abraham Lincoln in song as his countrymen saw him performed by musicians Lasser, Cindy Miller, and Alan Jones.

Beginning with the need for Abolition and the presidential campaign of 1860, the songs of the Civil War soon move on to the impassioned patriotism, the fear and loneliness of young soldiers, and the aftermath of terrible battles characteristic of the time. The central figure in these songs is Lincoln, who appears in campaign songs, comic songs, marches, and stirring anthems that evoke the civic religion that was one of his great gifts to the nation.

“We Are Coming, Father Abram” includes the pieces “We Are Coming, Father Abram,” “Lincoln and Liberty” and “Farewell Father, Friend and Guardian.”

“I talk briefly about some of the kinds of songs that were popular during the War, especially the issue of abolition and then patriotic anthems from both sides,” commented Lasser. “Both armies sang in bivouac on the march, and the people at home soon picked up the same songs. The two armies serenaded each other across the lines at night and then slaughtered one another in the morning.”

Charles A. Jones, a 1904 graduate of the College, then called West Virginia Conference Seminary, donated an impressive collection of materials about Abraham Lincoln to the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library. Last summer, Lasser discovered this collection and called the library to explore the possibility of bringing this program to campus.

“We were very excited about the opportunity to bring such a nationally recognized program to campus,” stated Paula McGrew, director of library services. “The chance for our students to hear and interact with these musicians is a wonderful opportunity, and the historical context of the music makes this an exciting program for anyone with an interest in Lincoln or American Culture of his times.”

Lasser is a lecturer, writer, broadcaster, critic, teacher, and co-author of “America’s Songs: The Story Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood, and Tin Pan Alley.” A major contributor to the standard reference work American Song Lyricists, 1920-1960, Lasser has also taught the history of the American musical at the University of Rochester and has been a free-lance writer for a wide range of national magazines. He has hosted the nationally syndicated radio show Fascinatin’ Rhythm, was a theatre critic for The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and CITY Newspaper, and was a panelist for the New York State Council on the Arts.

Lasser is a graduate of Dartmouth College, holds an M.A. from Brooklyn College, and completed additional graduate work at Rutgers University. This event is free and open to the public and is made possible in large part from gifts from the Jones’ family.