LEWISBURG — A voice Abraham Lincoln would appreciate will ring throughout the Lewisburg Hotel ballroom this month. There, a step back into the past will be embraced with the sound of music at this year’s Civil War Ball being held 6:30-10 p.m. Nov. 16.
The event will feature artist Douglas Jimerson and the Civil War Comrades and is hosted by the Slifer House Museum and the Susquehanna River Valley Heritage Association. The ball will be conducted by the Victorian Dance Ensemble.
Jimerson will be leading the dancers as he plays his guitar and sings songs from days of old. Jimerson holds advanced degrees in musicology and opera and is a graduate of Cornell. The tenor is an accomplished vocalist from Maryland who has been trained for 20 years by Todd Duncan, groundbreaking performer in American art song.
It was Duncan who suggested to Jimerson that he sing folk music.
“Little did I know (Duncan) held a fondness of the work of Stephen Foster,” Jimerson said. Foster was a songwriter from the 1800s known for famous tunes such as “Oh! Susanna,” “My Old Kentucky Home” and “Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair,” among others.
Jimerson then put together a show of strictly folk music from that era and performed at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.
“Stephen Foster’s work was very lyrical,” he said, noting three kinds of songs were sung during this time: ballads, patriotic and silly songs.
“There were so many composers before the Civil War but the war gave the writers a theme to write about,” he said.
He soon formed his group, the Comrades, which performs various tunes from the 18th and 19th centuries at national parks and other historic sites. The Civil War era, however, “is my specialty,” he said.
Jimerson said this is his first time performing in Lewisburg. He added he will play and sing songs that fit the mood of the dance. He will croon old ballads and then kick it up a notch with tunes like “Johnny Comes Marching Home.”
Jimerson loves these songs from war time and particularly feels a connection to Abraham Lincoln, who loved the music. The musician has a recording contract with AmeriMusic label and has recorded several CDs that focus on favorite tunes loved by George Washington, Robert E. Lee and Lincoln.
He is working on writing a book about Lincoln’s musical tastes.
“I enjoy history,” he said. “I’m a real history bug.”
But his real passion is music. “The most wonderful thing about what I do is that I get to use my voice, which is my greatest talent,” he said, adding that he still takes vocal lessons.