Cheer, Boys, Cheer! Music of the 26th N.C. Regimental Band is the American Brass Quintet Brass Band's follow-up to its previous New World release, A Storm in the Land. Both of these collections are drawn from the only complete set of Confederate band part books in existence, which are held at the Moravian Music Foundation in Winston-Salem. These sources contain hundreds of pieces; thankfully bandleader Samuel T. Mickey was always on the hunt for good music to play on the 26th's long marches through the wilderness. Thanks to Mickey's bartering, buying, and copying of music belonging to other regimental bands, these part books preserve music from Confederate regiments whose band books have disappeared for good and even a few pieces from the Union side of the Mason-Dixon Line. Since A Storm in the Land was issued in 2002, a small number of part books from other Confederate bands have been identified in the Moravian Music Foundation, and these additional volumes help to inform the contents here. As good as A Storm in the Land was, Cheer, Boys, Cheer! is in some degree better, owing to the improved comprehension of the source collection as a whole by its principal editors.
As in A Storm in the Land, the principal fare heard consists of marches and dance pieces, although a few Moravian chorales are thrown in for good measure; as the musicians were Moravian, incipits of such pieces are scattered throughout the books in odd corners of the pages. Raymond Mase and the American Brass Quintet Brass Band play all of this music very well; during the chorales, one wonders if the original 26th band could have achieved such purity of intonation. The American Brass Quintet Brass Band is the ABQ filled out with enough players to cover all the parts, and two percussionists, including John R. Beck, who has filled in the totally lacking snare and cymbal parts in the music. The dance music is terrific and played with a period-appropriate swagger; you will find yourself looking around for someone to waltz with as Amelia Adelaide van Vleck's Serenade Waltz is heard. The most bizarre work is William H. Hartwell's Screech Owl Gallop, which attempts to fit, uncomfortably, the melody of Balfe's "Then You'll Remember Me" to its middle section as sort of a descant. Charles Siegel, whose strikingly syncopated India Rubber Overcoat Medley is a high point of the first volume, is represented here by a Scotch medley full of the distinctive "snap" figures one associates with the later innovation of ragtime.
Anyone interested in the Civil War, particularly those involved in the increasingly popular reenactments of Civil War battles during the summer months, will LOVE -- not just like -- this collection. The American Brass Quintet Brass Band and the Moravian Music Foundation go far below the surface exemplified by "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" to demonstrate the great extant that the Civil War shaped not only the American nation, but its music as well.