Today in History:

Cornets & Cannons- Civil War Sesquicentennial Music Festival


The years 2011 to 2015 will mark the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.  The city of Frankfort, Kentucky, will contribute a very special festival to the Civil War Sesquicentennial – a celebration of the music of the Civil War era.


From September 1 through September 4, 2011, talented musicians from across the United States will gather in Frankfort for the Cornets and Cannons Festival.  Participating ensembles and individuals have been selected for their ability to re-create the music of the Civil War era in a way that is both historically accurate and entertaining to modern audiences.  All events will be free.


Performance of this music using original, period instruments was pioneered by Dr. Frederick Fennell in a series of LP recordings he produced during the Civil War Centennial half a century ago.  These recordings inspired the modern generation of Civil War music enthusiasts.  The Cornets and Cannons Festival is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Fennell.


The Cornets and Cannons Festival will serve several purposes, aside from providing a spectacular and memorable musical event.  The Festival will demonstrate the incredible variety and quality of music available to mid-19th Century Americans.  It will permit performers and scholars who have spent decades studying and practicing this music the opportunity to pass along what they have learned to a new generation of musicians and historians.


Cornets and Cannons will make use of several performance venues throughout historic downtown Frankfort, Kentucky – from the modern Thomas Clark Center for Kentucky History and the Capital Plaza Hotel (site of Saturday evening’s grand ball) to the lawn of the Old State Capitol, the Leslie Morris Park on Fort Hill, and the picturesque First Methodist Church.  Some events will be alongside the scenic Kentucky River – at Liberty Hall and at the new Ward Oates Amphitheatre.  Frankfort’s recently restored Grand Theatre will host an evening of performances.


Performers will include some of the best and most experienced brass bands today re-creating the music of the Civil War era – the Wildcat Band from Pennsylvania, the Federal City Brass Band from Maryland, the Olde Towne Brass from Alabama, and Saxton’s Cornet Band from Kentucky.  Civil War field music will be portrayed by Ohio’s Camp Chase Fifes and Drums.  An ensemble of banjos, violins, bones, and singers will perform string music of the period, and Helen Beedle will bring to life the piano tunes that were so popular with our mid-19th century ancestors.  



For details about the Cornets and Cannons Civil War Sesquicentennial Festival, contact the City of Frankfort’s Curator of Historic Sites at 502-696-0607 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  See the event website at  There you also will find information about each of the presenters and ensembles, links to their websites, a detailed schedule of events, information about performance venues, and more.


City of Frankfort, Dept. of Parks, Recreation & Historic Sites

Frankfort/Franklin County Tourism Commission

Kentucky Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission

Kentucky Civil War Sites Association

Kentucky Historical Society

Kentucky Arts Council

Liberty Hall Historic Site

Downtown Frankfort, Inc.

The Capital City Museum

Saxton’s Cornet Band