For Immediate Release:
Canton resident Kristina Austin Scarcelli sings Civil War songs at 170th Custer Birthday Celebration this Saturday
Grosse Ile, MI – December 3, 2009-Canton’s Kristina Austin Scarcelli will perform Civil War era songs on Saturday, December 5, 2009 to commemorate the 170th birthday of America’s most controversial military leader General George Armstrong Custer in his adopted hometown of Monroe, Michigan.
Custer, the youngest general in United States history, commanded the esteemed Michigan Cavalry Brigade during the Civil War and rallied his troops with the famous battle cry: “C’mon you Wolverines!” The birthday celebration is open to the public and takes place from 2 PM to 3:30 PM at the Monroe County Historical Museum, 126 S. Monroe Street.
The former Mrs. Michigan will sing a haunting rendition of Faded Coat of Blue and other selections from her soon-to-be released CD Daughter of the 24th Michigan. She’ll also perform General Custer’s favorite song Gary Owen.
Scarcelli is the direct descendent of two Civil War veterans to whom her CD is dedicated. Her great-great grandfather, Abner D. Austin, served as a private in the 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry and was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg. His brother, Private Charles W. Austin, served in Company A of the Fifth Michigan Cavalry which was part of the elite Michigan Cavalry Brigade commanded by Custer.
Scarcelli is pleased to sing at a celebration that not only honors a significant Union figure in the Civil War, but one whom her ancestor proudly served under.
What inspired Scarcelli to research and record Civil War era songs?
“I have had an appreciation for old folk music ever since I was a little girl,” says Scarcelli. “My grandmother would rock me to sleep at night singing songs that she had grown up with in the foothills of Pennsylvania Dutch country.”
Her interest in American folk songs piqued after visiting Gettysburg in July of 2008 during the 145th anniversary of the battle that changed the tide of the Civil War.
“I was fascinated with the tunes I heard playing throughout the village shops and in the camps at the huge reenactment taking place that weekend. Tracing the footsteps of my great-great-grandfather and his brother, who were both teenage boys fighting in the Battle of Gettysburg, moved me so greatly that I was inspired to record some of these old songs.”
For the past year and a half, Scarcelli has researched Civil War music with a focus on songs that are relevant to Michigan’s role in the conflict. Her forthcoming CD features 19th century compositions: Michigan, My Michigan, The Vacant Chair, and Home Sweet Home, together with songs popular during the Civil War that date as far back as the American Revolution such as Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier and The Cruel War. The CD will be intermixed with early 20th century folk music that illustrates just how deeply and profoundly the Civil War has continued to affect the hearts and minds of the American people.
During her research, Scarcelli discovered that many original versions of these songs probably would not appeal to today’s listener. She was particularly disturbed, though, to find that many recently recorded Civil War-era songs have either evolved so much over the generations or have been intentionally contemporized that they no longer resemble the original songs.
“The goal of Daughter of the 24th Michigan was to try and find the balance I couldn’t find through research and to tell a story about our Civil War experience in a way that is palatable to the contemporary ear yet still historically accurate,” says Scarcelli. “After all, if no one listens, our ancestors’ message is forever lost!”
Scarcelli will conclude Saturday’s performance by singing Happy Birthday to the General, portrayed by renowned living historian Steve Alexander, as he cuts the birthday cake with a Confederate sword.
While the birthday celebration is free to the public, narrated bus tours of historic sites significant to Custer’s years in Monroe take place hourly from 10 AM to 1 PM and cost $10 per person or $8 for students and senior citizens.
$35 tickets are still available that include a one-hour bus tour narrated by the General himself, lunch with the General at his favorite local watering hole, VIP seating at the Custer Birthday Celebration and a commemorative holiday inspired Christmas ornament. Proceeds for this event benefit the Monroe County Historical Museum.
The Custer 170th Birthday Celebration is organized by Grosse Ile-based Hometown History Tours. Established in early 2009 by former history teacher Karin Risko, the company organizes historical tours and events designed to promote local history and stimulate tourism in southeast Michigan.
With the Civil War Sesquicentennial on the horizon, Hometown History Tours is promoting southeast Michigan’s Civil War history and has created a historic trail of sites significant to this era that spans throughout the region.
“Custer’s Monroe is the gateway to Michigan’s rich Civil War history,” says Risko.
For further information on this event, or to reserve tickets, call 734.642.5712 or visit http://www.hometownhistorytours.com.