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Contact: Chris Mekow, 731-689-5696In celebration of the NPS centennial, Shiloh National Military Park attempted something they had never done before; they hosted a free summer concert series on the battlefield. Each concert featured a different genre' of music representing the diverse musical traditions of America and the state of Tennessee. Visitors were invited to bring lawn chairs, blankets, and picnic baskets and enjoy music as the sun set on the park.
The concert series began Memorial Day weekend with two outstanding Civil War artists; The Olde Towne Brass and acclaimed musician/historian Bobby Horton. In addition, the Shiloh Cannon Crew provided Civil War artillery firing demonstrations during the day leading up to the show.
In June, the younger generation was treated to three original Americana/Rock groups including local singer/songwriter Papertrader, the Memphis based band Mason Jar Fireflies, and the aptly named National Park Radio from the Ozarks of Arkansas. Between sets the Shiloh staff introduced the crowd to a large Shiloh “Instagram Frame” and dozens of concert goers had pictures made with it. This item would become a staple of Shiloh concerts for the rest of the summer.
The July show featured an upbeat set of New Orleans music from the National Park Service's own Centennial Band from New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. The headliner that night was the famous “Queen of Beale Street,” Ms. Ruby Wilson, who along with her band, brought Memphis blues to the huge crowd that gathered that night. Unfortunately, the show was somewhat bittersweet as this proved to be Ms. Wilson’s final performance, as she passed away three weeks later. But, that night, as the local newspapers said, “The Queen of Beale made Shiloh her Kingdom.”
The crown jewel of the concert series took place on Founder’s Day, August 25, 2016. The evening began with a rollicking set by Nashville’s Richie Owens and the Farm Bureau. Owens, a long time feature on the Nashville music scene, has played with and produced many top artists including Dolly Parton, Leon Russell, and the Georgia Satellites. He performed songs from his recent album “Tennessee” featuring tunes about the rich heritage of America’s 16th state.
Following Owens was a fantastic performance by Grammy award winning rockabilly/country artist Chuck Mead and His Grassy Knoll Boys. Mead, a native Kansan, performed songs about the history and folk lore of his home state, including tunes about bushwhacking during the Civil War.
Headlining Shiloh’s NPS Birthday Bash was local country music star Darryl Worley. Over his 15-year career, Worley has amassed 12 top-40 singles including three number one country songs and several gold selling albums. Worley who grew up across the Tennessee River from Shiloh Battlefield, told stories between songs of visiting the park in his youth, making a video on the battlefield, and the folklore passed down by his family members about the Civil War and Battle of Shiloh. At the end of the night he thanked the NPS staff for working so hard to take such good care of this important national park.
The final show of the Centennial Concert Series took place Labor Day weekend and featured symphonic music and a high school band. Opening the show was the famed Christian Brothers (Historic) High School Band from Memphis. This group has the distinction of being the oldest high school band in the country. The show was extra special for the young performers and their current conductor, as the CBHS Band had last played at Shiloh in 1917, during the dedication of the Confederate Memorial.
The final performer of the Centennial Concert Series was the Germantown Symphony Orchestra (GSO) out of Germantown, Tennessee. The GSO plays annually in the town of Savannah on the lawn of the Cherry Mansion, which was General Ulysses S. Grant’s headquarters at the time of the Battle of Shiloh. This was the first time they had agreed to move the performance to another venue in more than 20 years of performing in the area. An evening of almost perfect weather drew one of the largest crowds to the final show of the series.
Although the concerts provided entertainment during the Shiloh Centennial celebration, entertainment was only the tip of the iceberg for the park. Because of the concerts, thousands of residents from the surrounding communities came back to Shiloh after many years to “Re-Find Their Park.” A Junior Ranger booth was set up during every concert performance day and into the evening. It provided activities for kids of all ages such as; coloring Flat Rangers, designing their own NPS arrowhead, dressing up as Civil War soldiers, getting temporary arrowhead tattoos, and earning Shiloh Junior Ranger badges. In addition, almost 900 children earned their Centennial Junior Ranger badges during the five concert series.
The media, including newspaper, radio, and television, was very active in support of the park and the concerts. These included multiple media outlets in Jackson, TN; Savannah, TN; and Corinth, MS; and included pre-concert publicity and post-concert reviews and photographs. The park’s own Social Media Team also provided real time coverage of all the performances. Photographs, updates, and interviews were constantly posted on Shiloh’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages, and Twitter followers were treated to several performances live via Periscope. Most of the performances were also filmed and later uploaded onto the park’s YouTube page. Thousands of fans and friends of Shiloh, who were unable to attend in person, got to experience the Centennial celebration, and Find Their Park, through social media.
This five concert series was only possible with assistance from park partners including the Friends of Shiloh, Hardin County (TN) Tourism, and the Savannah (TN) Arts Commission. In addition, the dedicated corps of Shiloh volunteers provided the staffing necessary to make each show a success and provide the necessary visitor services for the large crowds.
For images of all five concerts go to the park’s website at www.nps.gov/shil.
By the numbers:
- More than 4,000 people attended the five concerts
- 829 children earned their Centennial Jr. Ranger badges on concert days
- 500 visitors attended cannon firing demonstrations before the May 27 concert
- 33 ranger-led programs were presented to 944 visitors on concert days
- 50,122 people experienced the five concerts via Shiloh’s Facebook page