Bravo! Bravo!

Springfield’s city band marches into Salzburg

Illinois Times

August 23, 1990

International goodwill tours seem sweetly naïve in the Trump era. The one here described found Springfield’s Municipal band concertizing in Austria, where they gorged on the sights and the beer and pastries. The band members, it seems fair to say, returned to central Illinois broadened in more ways than one. I also wrote about the band here.

 

The moment must have triggered a pang of homesickness in some in the party. The Springfield Municipal Band had just finished the first concert of its Austrian tour last July in the resort town of Baden outside Vienna. The performance had been a rousing success, and the band and traveling party—eighty-nine people in all, including Mayor Ossie Langfelder—were in a celebratory mood when they were whisked back to Vienna by coach for dinner. As soon as they were seated the waiters swept down upon them bearing huge steins of beer. Beer as a first course—why that's almost like Lincoln-Fest!

 

My father was among those happy eighty-nine, being one of the band's drummers. Municipal bands don't often get to take their acts on the road—I believe the Springfield band has played in Riverton—and this was most members' first trip to Europe. Officially the point of the expedition was the Graz American Music Festival, but music was the only departure from the standard git-'em-up-and-move-'em-out six-cities-in-ten-days package tour.

 

The tour directors devoted themselves relentlessly to the official sights. "Lots of castles," my father recalls, "and churches." The schedule permitted few opportunities to mingle with the locals, although the name "Springfield" sparked a knowing smile here and there. There probably are more people in Salzburg who know of Lincoln than there are people in Springfield who know of Mozart. Like Salzburg, Springfield is a tourist city, but the resemblance stops there. Salzburg is one of the world's most beautiful cities while Springfield is, well—let's just say that Springfield is not. Salzburg has the Alps, of course, and was built by some monument-minded archbishops while Springfield must make do with the State of Illinois.

 

Mainly, though, Salzburg has Salzburgers. Sour jokes were passed among the local party about how this old building or that one would be a parking lot by now were it back home. My father was especially impressed with the flowers that grew everywhere, in window boxes and even in pots on the pylons of the many bridges over the Salzach. Such graceful touches would not long survive in a U.S. city; the Germans may have outgrown their Vandal heritage, but we are still living ours.

 

Goodwill was part of the point of the tour, and the band party certainly left a warm glow in the hearts of the local souvenir vendors. They earned friends with their music too. The band played three concerts outdoors (a fourth was rained out) and closed the festival's opening ceremonies in Graz. They performed from a band shell and a gazebo-like bandstand and, most remarkably, from the bottom of a swimming pool in the spa town of Bad Radkersburg, which was drained and converted into an impromptu concert stage. Ask a band member if you don't believe it. They have pictures.

 

The band played well, as their local fans might have predicted. The big finish of each concert was "Stars & Stripes Forever"—the Germans love Sousa— which usually brought the audience to its feet to clap along in rhythm. Cries of "Bravo! Bravo!" were heard at the finish, which usually is heard during their usual Tuesday concerts at Douglas Park when a patron gets his lawn chair to fold up right.

 

The musicians weren't certain how they would be received by foreign audiences. They know their band music in the land of the oom-pah-pah, after all. Conductor Gene Haas had programmed some American music favorites for the tour. In addition to the Sousa marches, the band did medleys of songs popularized by Frank Sinatra and Gershwin, plus the latter's "An American in Paris." "We swung on those Sinatra medleys," my father reports, which may explain the enthusiastic response by the locals. German bands strut, but they do not swing.

 

Ossie served as emcee at each concert, addressing the audiences in German and, no doubt, relishing the local-boy-makes-good role. He left Austria at fourteen, to return as burgomeister of the capital city of a major state and Lincoln's home town. Hearing this, the crowds applauded politely, the way they might congratulate a distant cousin who'd just earned his degree. Occasionally the audiences laughed at remarks by Ossie that English speakers in the band didn't understand, and there was enough stage business going on between Ossie and conductor Haas that one might have wondered whether Ossie might be trying out some shtick in preparation for a career in clubs. No chance; says my father, "Ossie told us later it was tougher than making a political speech."

 

The tour schedule was so tight—and Salzburg was so crowded—that the party didn't have time for the ninety-minute cable car ride up the Monchsbcrg past the imposing Hohensalzburg fortress. It is not clear how many people were disappointed by this; Salzburg was last stop on the tour, and the offer for an improvised tour of a nearby salt mine to replace the rained-out concert was met with polite rebellion by several of the party who decided that culture would be better served by a study of the architecture of a local beer garden instead.

 

One person who was disappointed was my father. He had been stationed in Salzburg as an infantryman in the waning days of World War II, when the city was headquarters for the 42nd Infantry Division. He was pleased to see how little Salzburg had changed in forty-five years. True, tourist buses clog the narrow streets instead of Army trucks, and the shops now have things in them to buy, and it is no longer only the Americans who have the money to buy them with. But the bridges and the squares and the fortress—which has stood in its present form since 1500—had survived another war in good shape.

 

There was time for a small adventure. A small party from Springfield ventured abroad after the concert at Bad Radkersburg, which sits across the river Mura from Yugoslavia. "We walked past a couple of houses, turned a couple of corners, and there we were at the bridge," explains my father. Our band had passports but no visas, but after a few words with both the Austrian and Yugoslav guards they were waved through. (Mayor Langfelder, good Democrat that he is, may have dropped the name "Mike Madigan" into the ear of the guards, and why not?. It opens all manner of  doors in Springfield.)

 

With tensions eased of course, a party of Springfieldians stands less risk of arrest while crossing into a Yugoslav border village than they do crossing into Leland Grove [a self-protective Springfield suburb], but it was an anxious moment nonetheless. They stayed only a few minutes. As East-West cultural exchanges go these days, the visit was unproductive. "We looked at them," my father recalls about the locals taking coffee at the sidewalk cafes, "and they looked at us." ●

SITES

OF

INTEREST

John Hallwas

Essential for anyone interested in Illinois history and literature. Hallwas deservedly won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

Lee Sandlin Author

One of Illinois’s best, and least-known, writers of his generation. Take note in particular of The Distancers and Road to Nowhere.

Chicago Architecture Center

See Home Page/Learn/

Resources for a marvelous building database, architecture dictionary, even a city planning graphic novel. Handsome, useful—every Illinois culture website should be so good.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago

 

The online version of The Encyclopedia of Chicago. Crammed with thousands of topic entries, biographical sketches, maps and images, it is a reference work unmatched in Illinois.

Illinois Great Places

The Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2018 selected 200 Great Places in Illinois that illustrate our  shared architectural culture across the entire period of human settlement in Illinois.

McLean County Museum

of History

A nationally accredited, award-winning project of the McLean County Historical Society whose holdings include more than 20,000 objects, more than 15,000 books on local history and genealogy, and boxes and boxes of historical papers and images.

Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois

 

Every Illinois town ought to have a chronicler like D. Leigh Henson, Ph.D. Not only Lincoln and the Mother road—the author’s curiosity ranges from cattle baron John Dean Gillett to novelist William Maxwell. An Illinois State Historical Society "Best Web Site of the Year."

Illinois Digital Archives

 

Created in 2000, the IDA is a repository for the digital collections of the Illinois State Library and other Illinois libraries and cultural institutions. The holdings include photographs, slides, and glass negatives, oral histories, newspapers, maps, and documents from manuscripts and letters to postcards,  posters, and videos.

The Illinois State Museum

 

The people's museum is a treasure house of science and the arts. A research institution of national reputation, the museum maintains four facilities across the state. Their collections in anthropology, fine and decorative arts, botany, zoology, geology, and  history are described here. A few museum publications can be obtained here.

Chronicling Illinois

“Chronicling Illinois” showcases some of the collections—mostly some 6,000 photographs—from the Illinois history holdings of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.

Chicagology

I will leave it to the authors of this interesting site to describe it. "Chicagology is a study of Chicago history with a focus on the period prior to the Second World War. The purpose of the site is to document common and not so common stories about the City of Chicago as they are discovered." 

Illinois Labor History Society

The Illinois Labor History Society seeks to encourage the preservation and study of labor history materials of the Illinois region, and to arouse public interest in the profound significance of the past to the present. Offers books reviews, podcasts, research guides, and the like. 

Illinois Migration History 1850-2017

The University of Washington’s America’s Great Migrations Project has compiled migration histories  (mostly from the published and unpublished work by UW Professor of History James Gregory) for several states, including Illinois. The site also includes maps and charts and essays about the Great Migration of African Americans to the north, in which Illinois figured importantly. 

History on the Fox

An interesting resource about the history of one of Illinois’s more interesting places, the Fox Valley of Kendall County. History on the Fox is the work of Roger Matile, an amateur historian of the best sort. Matile’s site is a couple of cuts above the typical buff’s blog. (An entry on the French attempt to cash in on the trade in bison pelts runs more than

2,000 words.)

BOOKS

 OF INTEREST

Southern Illinois University Press 2017

A work of solid history, entertainingly told.

Michael Burlingame,

author of Abraham 

Lincoln: A Life 

One of the ten best books on Illinois history I have read in a decade.

Superior Achievement Award citation, ISHS Awards, 2018

A lively and engaging study . . .  an enthralling narrative.

James Edstrom

The Annals of Iowa

A book that merits the attention of all Illinois historians

as well as local historians generally.

John Hoffman

Journal of Illinois HIstory

A model for the kind of detailed and honest history other states and regions could use.

Harold Henderson 

Midwestern Microhistory

A fine example of a resurgence of Midwest historical scholarship.

Greg Hall

Journal of the Illinois

State Historical Society

Click  here 

to read about

the book 

Click  here 

to buy the book 

Southern Illinois University Press

SIU Press is one of the four major university publishing houses in Illinois. Its catalog offers much of local interest, including biographies of Illinois political figures, the history (human and natural) and folklore of southern Illinois, the Civil War and Lincoln, and quality reprints in the Shawnee Classics series.

University of

Illinois Press

The U of I Press was founded in 1918. A search of the online catalog  (Books/Browse by subject/Illinois) will reveal more than 150 Illinois titles, books on history mostly but also butteflies, nature , painting, poetry and fiction, and more.  Of particular note are its Prairie State Books,  quality new paperback editions of worthy titles about all parts of Illinois, augmented with scholarly introductions.

University of

Chicago Press

The U of C publishing operation is the oldest (1891) and largest university press in Illinois. Its reach is international, but it has not neglected its own neighborhood. Any good Illinois library will include dozens of titles about Chicago and Illinois from Fort Dearborn to

Vivian Maier.

Northern Illinois University Press

The newest (1965) and the smallest of the university presses with an interest in Illinois, Northern Illinois University Press gave us important titles such as the standard one-volume history of the state (Biles' Illinois:
A History of the Land and Its People) and contributions to the history of Chicago, Illinois transportation, and the Civil War. Now an imprint of Cornell University Press.

Reviews and significant mentions by James Krohe Jr. of more than 50 Illinois books, arranged in alphabetical order

by book title. 

Illinois Center for the Book

Run by the Illinois State Library, The Center promotes reading, writing and author programs meant to honor the state's rich literary heritage. An affiliate of the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book, the site offers award competitions, a directory of Illinois authors, literary landmarks, and reading programs.

Contact James Krohe Jr. at CornLatitudes@outlook.com

All material copyright © by James Krohe Jr. unless otherwise indicated