Hear an 1865 Columbus Concert Re-enactment in Honor of Abraham Lincoln

Jun 29, 2017

Here's what happens when you clean your office — at least, in my case.

You find things you never knew you had, that are interesting in and of themselves and would also make great radio programs.

During a recent — and rare — burst of office cleaning, I found an envelope from my buddy Andrew MacGregor, recording engineer extraordinaire, marked, "St. Joseph Cathedral, The Music of A. Lincoln's Funeral."

What did this mean? Was Abraham Lincoln's funeral held in downtown Columbus?

Not exactly.

MacGregor had been at St. Joseph to record a concert by the Cathedral Schola and then-organist music director Paul Thornock on April 26, 2015. While cities around the country commemorated the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's death, St. Joseph set out to re-create a concert held in Columbus during the 12 hours the President's funeral train spent in our city on April 29, 1865.  

The Music of Abraham Lincoln's 1865 Columbus Funeral Observances will be featured on Classical 101's Music in Mid-Ohio, 1 p.m. Sunday, July 2.

Lincoln's funeral train arrived at Union Station in Columbus on April 29, 1865.
Credit Columbus Metropolitan Library

Thornock (who went west later in 2015) conducts music by George Frideric Handel and Richard Wagner.

The program is filled with the rugged four-square harmonies loved by Victorian era Americans active during the Civil War. These are called "Songs a Man Can Sing," even though some of them were written by an 18th century woman named Anne Steele.  

The train bearing Lincoln's body arrived in Columbus from Cleveland at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 29, 1865. Lincoln lay in repose in the Statehouse rotunda until the train transporting his coffin left for Indianapolis that evening.

It was reported that over 50,000 people filed through the rotunda to pay their respects. Lincoln died of a gunshot wound in the early morning hours of April 15, 1865. One assumes the embalmers did extraordinary work for the remains to be viewed two weeks later.

Lincoln lay in repose in the Ohio Statehouse rotunda.
Credit Terry Engraving / Columbus Metropolitan Library

The concert at St. Joseph Cathedral 150 years later offered a sample of music that was immensely popular during the Civil War. Steele, a British-born Baptist, wrote hymns loved by hundreds of congregations.

George Root — composer of Battle Cry of Freedom, an unofficial Civil War anthem — is represented in the concert with an anthem he wrote just after Lincoln died, Farewell Father, Friend and Guardian.

Kudos to the musicians of St. Joseph Cathedral, with help from scholar Thomas J. Kernan, for re-creating music known and loved, in good times and bad, from a century and a half ago with authenticity and talent.

Join me for Music in Mid-Ohio, a concert re-enactment, at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 2 on Classical 101.