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Barter's 'Civil War Voices' unites period stories, songs

November 2nd, 2011 4:45 am by staff report

Barter's 'Civil War Voices' unites period stories, songs

Greeneville's Niswonger Performing Arts Center on Nov. 6 for a single performance.

There is no shortage of research material filled with facts and figures about the War Between the States.

But it’s the stirring and passionate true stories of the people who lived through the greatest conflict in our nation’s history — told in their own words and woven with fresh arrangements of traditional music from the period — that make up Barter Theatre’s musical “Civil War Voices.”

“Civil War Voices” will be performed at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 6 at Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Greeneville.

“Seamlessly weaving together the true stories of five individuals with new and gorgeous arrangements by Mark Hayes, James R. Harris shines a light on these faces of the Civil War. The result is a poignant, moving, historically accurate, beautiful story,” said Richard Rose, producing artistic director of Barter Theatre.

The playwright, Harris, stumbled upon a diary kept by his great-great uncle several years ago. He researched and found other personal recollections of the War Between the States — a young couple separated by the war, a freed slave serving as dressmaker for Mary Todd Lincoln and a young professor turned lieutenant. Harris created a musical, uniting the diaries and writings with music from the era.

“When I began to work on ‘Civil War Voices,’ I was moved by these personal accounts from the soldiers who fought, the officers who led and the quiet former slave who watched and listened,” Harris said. “The most pivotal time in our country’s history is revealed to us from the inside out. We see tiny glimpses of these ordinary people living, loving, fighting, defending and celebrating. The private thoughts of these scared young men and the loving words from a husband to wife depict the resilience of the human spirit.”

Performed in the style of story theater, 10 actors play multiple characters and stay on stage for the duration of the show, alongside a violinist and a pianist. The songs are familiar, but the arrangements by Hayes are new.

Songs like “Amazing Grace,” “Dixie,” “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” are woven into the story, coloring and enriching historical moments.

“When it came time to find a musical collaborator for the project, I aimed high,” Harris said. “Widely acclaimed, Mark Hayes has performed across the nation and is well-known for his unique choral settings which draw from diverse styles such as gospel, jazz, pop, folk and classical to achieve a truly American sound.”

 “‘Civil War Voices’ is not just for Civil War buffs,” added Katy Brown, Barter’s assistant director. “The show reflects the struggles, large and small, of both the North and the South — stories not found in history books. The really beautiful thing is, by the end of the play, we see that even though it was North versus the South, we all were so much the same, with such similar human hopes and fears.”

Tickets are $30 for adults and $10 for students.

For tickets or more information, call (423) 638-1679 or visit  .

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