About Charlie Zahm :: Civil War Music
Music of the Civil War, Stephen Foster, and
the American 19th Century
While Charlie Zahm is one of the most popular singers at Celtic and maritime music events in the Eastern United States, several years ago Charlie's interest in the great collection of music from the War Between the States was sparked when friends in the Civil War community *finally* convinced him that with his wide array of Scottish, Irish and otherwise traditional American songs under his belt, he was more than halfway there to a strong Civil War repertoire-and that he would be a welcome addition to that community through his music.
They were exactly right! Charlie's interest in history (in fact, one of his degrees is in history) led him to disciplined research of the period, and how it affected the body of music now so important to its proper understanding.
Further, after finding a photo of Col. Lewis Zahm of the Third Ohio Cavalry at a library in Ohio (pictured here), Charlie found the first of many family connections to the War. Col. Zahm-still much revered in Ohio-was the uncle of the first Charles Louis Zahm (and lent his name to the child, though it is now spelled differently), and Charlie is the fifth in line to hold that exact name; so he is actually, in part, named after a Civil War officer.
Charlie does his best to present these great songs with the honor due both them and the subjects they recollect. His 13th CD, "Americana," is heavily influenced by music of the War, and the collection of songs (clips of which can be heard elsewhere on this website) has proven a favorite of those who enjoy the study of this period. While Charlie can perform in civilian outfits comfortable singing songs of either side of the Conflict, Charlie also presents two distinct musical and historical explorations of the period both North and South.
As a life-long student of all things Scottish, preparing a musical impression of the 79th New York Volunteers-the Highlanders-was a natural fit. Charlie's knowledge of this great regiment of well-traveled soldiers, as well as his grasp of Scottish history (the first few hundred men of the 79th were either Scottish or Scottish-American) help to bring the Highlanders alive through songs they sung or which relate to their experience. Here he is pictured with his musical partner, fiddler extraordinaire Tad Marks.
Journey in song and story through the Civil War guided by heroic Irish-American Capt. James Haggerty of the 69th New York State Militia, which so boldly fought in the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861. Charlie Zahm, renowned traditional balladeer and multi-instrumentalist, recreates in first-person the Donegal immigrant, who rose through the ranks of the state militia system in New York, and took the field knowing full-well he and his men were watched by both the United States (the land of his adoption) and Ireland (the land of the exile's birth). Haggerty gave his last full measure of devotion to his adopted land at Bull Run, and this program features Zahm as our guide Haggerty leading the audience through the heroic story of the Irish Brigade, formed in part by the men of the old 69th, as they covered themselves in glory in every major battle of the Army of the Potomac.
The songs of the South are as beautiful as any ever heard, and when combined with poems of the period and presented as part of an honest tribute to Southerners in defense of their Homeland, Charlie's carefully chosen songs and spoken selections of the day can transform the viewer to another day and time. As a folklorist, Charlie understands the connections of our forefathers to their poems and songs, and how we, in respect and in honor to them, can relate to their sentiments and events even across the great chasm of time. Through Charlie's programs, you can hear how they still speak to us, to this very day, and through their music you'll better understand---and for a while, be a part of---the times in which they lived.
Charlie performs at many re-enactments, scholarly meetings (such as Round Tables), historic sites and concerts, and he puts a program together all enjoy. When Charlie is with excellent fiddler Tad Marks, some lively period dance tunes are presented in addition to a fine program of song. Virginia Reel anyone?
Stephen Foster is undoubtedly "the father of American music," and his beautiful melodies helped define the sounds of his century.
And so will the music of countless other fine American songwriters of the 19th Century/Victorian Age. As Charlie brings these songs together, with the stories and significance told of each, the listener can be introduced to— reminded of—the richness of the American songbook from that chapter of our history. As a lifelong student of American traditional song, Charlie's mission is to bring these songs and stories back to life. The melodies are among the most beautiful in any genre, and the words transport the listener to Foster's time of "Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts" (found on a scrap of paper in his wallet after his death), when his prayer for all was "Hard Times Come Again No More." Thanks to Mike Beil for Victorian photos taken at Smithfield Mansion (NJ).