The West Virginia Independence Hall Museum (WVIH) in Wheeling will present the Clay County Middle School Band in a concert performance of “For Liberty and Unity,” a musical composition the band commissioned from Timothy Johnson, on Friday, May 2, at 3 p.m. The free performance will take place in the historical third floor courtroom and the public is invited to attend.
“For Liberty and Unity” is a musical portrait commemorating the creation of West Virginia as a separate state from Virginia. It is comprised of three distinct sections. The first part represents the struggle to establish the state. One of the primary arguments of those wanting to create a new state centered on their opposition to slavery. There was a bitter fight in Congress, ultimately resulting in President Lincoln signing the proclamation to establish West Virginia as an official state.
The second section is a representation of the beauty found in the countryside of West Virginia. “From rolling hills to majestic mountains and flowing rivers, West Virginia is a state of incredibly diverse terrain,” says Johnson. The last section is a celebration of freedom for the slaves and the creation of the state.
The Clay County Middle School Band, under the direction of Doug Wayne, commissioned the work from Johnson, a composer for Curnow Music in Wilmore, Ky., a national leader in educational music. The band wanted to find an established and successful composer who was also close enough to West Virginia to be able to have physical contact with the students. After composing “For Liberty and Unity,” Johnson was able to visit the school and rehearse the children on his composition. He is scheduled to return for the band’s spring concert on April 29.
Johnson received his bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ashbury College in Kentucky and his master’s degree from the University of Illinois, where he was a graduate assistant in charge of the Teaching Techniques Laboratory. He has 17 years of teaching experience in the Jessamine County, Kentucky school district, having worked on the elementary, middle school and high school levels. He also has taught on the college level. In addition, Johnson has 20 years experience as a church music director, including both choral and instrumental music, during which time he has written many original sacred compositions.
Wayne, the band’s conductor said, “The composer has stated that this composition was inspired by Independence Hall and the historical events leading up to West Virginia becoming a state. It seems only fitting to play this musical number for the public in the very room where Virginia gave birth to West Virginia through the proceedings and debates of the First Constitutional Convention of the state.”
The Clay County Middle School Band has received Superior Ratings at the West Virginia Regional Band Festival for 15 of the last 17 years, including this year. The band played “For Liberty and Unity” for the first time at the 2008 festival. The group’s 30-minute free performance at WVIH also will include some patriotic selections such as “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” some folk and gospel tunes such as “Shall We Gather at the River,” and “Simple Gifts,” and some Civil War tunes like the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
For more information about the “For Liberty and Unity” concert, contact Melissa Brown, site manager for the museum, at (304) 238-1300.
West Virginia Independence Hall Museum, originally built as a federal custom house in 1859, served as the home of the pro-Union state conventions of Virginia during the spring and summer of 1861 and as the capitol of loyal Virginia from
June 1861 to June 1863. It also was the site of the first constitutional convention for West Virginia. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988, the museum is maintained and operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, with the cooperation and assistance of the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., with the exception of major holidays. The museum is located on the corner at 16th and Market Streets in Wheeling.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Its administrative offices are located at the Cultural Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. The agency also operates a network of museums and historic sites across the state. For more information about the Division’s programs, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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