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Stonewall Middle remembers Civil War in song

“Echoes - Voices of Our Civil War Past,” an original musical arrangement of existing music, will premier at a multi-grade level concert at Stonewall Middle School on June 7.
Susan Dommer, the school’s chorus teacher, realized only a few songs from that era were available for choral arrangements. After discussing the situation with Sarah Fairchild, Dommer’s accompanist, the two created arrangements for the sixth-graders, whose curriculum includes the Civil War. “It blossomed into this huge work, ‘Echoes - Voices of Our Civil War Past,’ for all three grade levels.” More than 370 students are in chorus at Stonewall Middle School; all of them participated in the presentation and the finale, “America,” explained Dommer.
Fairchild researched the Civil War and its music to find songs and create new arrangements for them. “Her challenge was to write music for the changing voices while giving them interesting vocal lines to sing. She did a great job,” said Dommer.
Fairchild also compiled information for each of the songs and gave it to the students so they could see its relevance. She also created slide presentations on numerous topics including clothing of the time period, famous people, famous women and what a soldier’s life was like. “This gave her the opportunity to expand our knowledge of the era in general, which was especially beneficial to the older students, who are not currently immersed in the Civil War,” Dommer explained.
Fairchild said, “It was challenging and exciting to take on this big project. I arranged for several hours a day for about three months. Most of my previous composing has been sacred choral music. With this material, I had a very different slant, arranging music to be sung by changing voices and incorporating a variety of musical styles. It has been a true labor of love, and I’m so thankful to [Stonewall Middle School] and Susan Dommer for this opportunity.” 
The students’ enthusiasm for the presentation was evident as they spoke of it. They found it gratifying to learn more about the era.
“It was an interesting journey because we did something new and special. As middle school performers, my singers worked with the arranger of each song almost every day of rehearsal. They knew that they did something important. They gave Mrs. Fairchild a gift – to realize the music she had arranged. We are in the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. I hope that they continue to find connections to this music and have a better understanding of the time and people,” Dommer concluded.
—Check out the June 3 issue of the Bull Run Observer for the full story.


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