Monday, January 26, 2009

Jay Ungar & Molly Mason: An Early Birthday Party for A. Lincoln

Like most organizations in Springfield, Sangamon Auditorium will be celebrating Lincoln’s 200th birthday with a special event. Our event is a concert featuring Jay Ungar and Molly Mason. Jay is best known for writing the song “Ashokan Farewell” which became the theme song in the PBS Civil War documentary by Ken Burns. You can listen to the song and hear Jay talk about why he wrote it here.

Jay and Molly will be performing with local artists from the 10th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry Band and the Springfield International Folk Dancers. I’m helping coordinate this event as the liaison between the Auditorium and the folk dancers, so I get an interesting perspective of all the behind-the-scenes preparation. Modern technology has been a big help in getting ready for this event; the Cavalry Band and Jay Ungar can record songs on small digital recorders, upload them to their computers, email the songs to me, and then I can burn a CD for the dancers to use during rehearsals.

The cavalry band is a reenactment group that plays Civil War-era music on historic 150-year-old brass instruments and drums recreated to historical specifications. Band Master Todd Cranson has been working directly with Jay Ungar to create new arrangements of some of Jay and Molly’s songs to include the band or select soloists. Cranson has also dug through files of old music to resurrect songs that haven’t been heard since the mid 1800s.

After the performance you can try a slice of birthday cake baked from Mary Todd Lincoln’s own recipe, which is a white cake flavored with vanilla and almond. You can find several variations of the recipe online, and the Washington Post has a short article about the history of the recipe.

1 comment:

  1. The program was exceptional. Jay Ungar and Molly Mason were all we expected them to be. Excellent musicians, great storytellers, and funny! They encouraged the audience to sing along - who obliged willingly. The Springfield International Folk Dancers glided in and out of the scene with such grace, but never covered up the soloists or band. And the Band! What a treasure for Springfield! I've followed this band for the last year and a half since they came on the scene. This band has come a very long way in a very short time. They were wonderful to listen to and complemented Jay and Molly's performance so well with seamless transitions between the duo and the band. Congratulations to all for a gem of a performance.