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Early American Bandstand

Cover of 'Home Sweet Home' by the Dodworth Saxhorn Band.
Cover of 'Home Sweet Home' by the Dodworth Saxhorn Band.
A vintage illustration showing a selection of saxhorns.
A vintage illustration showing a selection of saxhorns.

In the 1800s, community brass bands were a prime source of entertainment in America. The groups would frequently play at balls, political rallies and other civic and social gatherings.

Damon Talley, conductor and music director of the Michigan-based Dodworth Saxhorn Band, talks about how his ensemble recreates the music of that era on period instruments. The band gained a bit of national attention in 1994 when their version of "Gee, It's a Wonderful Game," was included in the Ken Burns documentary series Baseball.

The saxhorn is the name of a family of valved instruments that were commonly used in community brass bands of the era, developed by Adolph Sax, inventor of the saxophone. Talley’s saxhorners play the music of Stephen Foster, Septimus Winner and other popular 19th century American composers, on instruments dating from 1840-1880.

The group's name is a throwback as well: the original Dodworth brothers were founding members of the New York Philharmonic and their brass band, the Dodworth Band of New York, barnstormed the country during the Civil War.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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