Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘folk songs’

“Civil War Songs and the Stories They Tell” with Steve and Lisa Ball

Stee and Lisa Ball

Steve and Lisa Ball  perform Civil War songs at Crossroads Library.

Music plays an important role in the ranks of the military. They have used music to signal their troops for hundreds of years. Often music served as a boost to morale of the soldiers after a hard day of battle.

Be entertained by tales of the Civil War put to music as Steve and Lisa Ball present an entertaining and informative program “Civil War Songs and Stories They Tell”. This musical way of teaching history of the Civil War from 1861-65 is shared around the country about a hundred times each year. The songs come alive with their wonderful vocal and instrumental skills.

Steve Ball guitar

An 1855 Martin is one of Steve’s favorite guitars.

Martin guitars of the Civil War era, from Steve’s private collection, are used in their presentation. All the Martins are in their original coffin cases. Steve’s only the caretaker for these guitars as they will hopefully be passed on from generation to generation. He frequently calls Lisa ‘his band’ as she joins with her upright bass and voice.

Steve’s interest in the Civil War began as a teen, when he learned his Great-Great-Grandfather, William Tyler Butts, was a Union private from Athens, Ohio. He was part of the 73rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment out of Chillicothe. Steve is a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and wears his SUV medal on his uniform.

He’s spent the last twenty years studying the music of the Civil War era and the development of the first American folk songs. A long list of accomplishments could follow his name. They also have a Stephen Foster program telling the history of many of those popular folk songs.

During their program, the variety is astounding. There are not only patriotic pieces, but also silly marches and songs of lost love. You’ll be drawn to their music and stories even if you aren’t a Civil War buff.

Lisa's cello

Lisa plays bass and vocalizes with Steve.

Their performances happen at reenactments, indoor presentations, Civil War roundtables, and even the Ohio Statehouse. Being a Civil War buff , he researches everything so it’s authentic. Steve is living his dream.

Learn more about the history of the Civil War and come away with a better understanding of life during that time as Steve and Lisa Ball tell the story through song.

Many of the songs have a unique history, such as “Darling Nellie Gray”, a song written by Benjamin Hanby, who operated an Underground Railroad in Rush, Ohio. It told about his girlfriend, Nellie Gray, who wanted to escape to Canada. You can learn more about this song by visiting the Hanby House in Westerville, Ohio.

Steve and Lisa

Steve and Lisa add much background information on songs to their performances.

Another song “Aura Lea”, was written by Willie Fosdick (lyrics) and George Poulton (music) in Cincinnati, Ohio. Willie’s wife was Aura Lee, the woman with the golden hair. In 1955, Elvis Presley used the tune of “Aura Lee” and added new lyrics to become his theme song, “Love Me Tender”.

A popular Southern song was “Goober Peas”. Burle Ives liked the folk song. The Balls  had everyone singing along.

Peas, peas, peas, peas, eating Goober peas

Goodness how delicious, eating Goober peas..

Steve Ball CD

Listen to Civil War songs anytime with their popular CDs.

Next time you hear that Steve and Lisa Ball are performing in your area, be certain to drop by and hear their story of the Civil War in song, or perhaps you’ll hear his story of the music and life of Stephen Foster. Either way, you’re sure to enjoy their stories and music.



Adam Miller Plays Music for Regular Folks – Folk Music

Adam on stage

Adam Miller presents one of his American Folk Music Programs for Libraries, entitled “Singing Through History”.

Folk songs always tell a story. But when you add a storyteller with an autoharp to the mix, you have entertainment at its best. Adam Miller is an extraordinary storyteller as he weaves the history of our nation and the world into the introductions of the folk songs that he sings. That’s not to mention his fantastic ability at the autoharp and guitar, as he delights the audience with song after song in his rich baritone voice.

The magical way Adam weaves history into his program makes history seem very exciting for everyone. “Of course,” Adam remarked, “history is better than fiction.” Often he performs for school groups and they, too, find him fascinating. To date he has performed for over 1,000,000 students as part of his journey from the Everglades to the Arctic Circle.

Adam Miller performs folk music using his autoharp.

Adam Miller performs folk music using his autoharp.

While the guitar is the most popular instrument in the US today, it wasn’t long ago that the autoharp had that prestige. A hundred years ago Sears catalogue had autoharps listed for $6.95 and many teachers used them in their classroom. Adam’s ability with the autoharp far surpasses any this gypsy has seen. The fluid sound resounded without any apparent effort on his part.

Involving the crowd seemed to come naturally to Adam as he often works with school groups. Frequently throughout the program, he had the audience singing along on choruses. Since this fantastic musician appears at approximately a hundred libraries a year, he has much practice. A repertoire of folk music programs called “Singing Through History”, which he uses at the library presentations, ranges from “Old Songs for Young Folks” to “Steamboatin’ Days”.

Jerry and Joan Albaugh from Friends of the Library were instrumental in bringing this program to Cambridge.

Jerry and Joan Albaugh from Friends of the Library were instrumental in bringing Adam Miller to Cambridge.

Friends of the Library at Cambridge, Ohio were certainly fortunate to connect with Adam Miller. This busy man travels over 70,000 miles a year as he goes from town to town sharing his love of folk music. He builds his show on whatever people want.

The recent show at the Crossroads Library had the theme, “I’m Goin’ to the West”, which included the song and story of the famous Orphan Train. The chorus began, “Take us in. We have rode the Orphan Train.”

The story began in Ireland, where the potato famine destroyed many families and left children orphans. Many youngsters were sent to the U.S. for a chance at a better life. That didn’t actually happen where they landed near New York City, so a Catholic priest there raised funds to send them, and orphans left by the Civil War, by train to the new western settlements to help build railroads among other things. In a short period of time, 250,000 children rode west on what was soon to be called the Orphan Train.

Adam's CDs help make his love of folk songs live on even after he has left the area.

Adam’s CDs help make his love of folk songs live on even after he has left the area.

The oldest folksong. which has been around over five hundred years, has many different versions. That timeless ballad, “Froggy Went a Courtin”, moves at a rapid fire pace, but with the theme of a frog dating a mouse, it seems humorous that it became so popular.

Even as a child, folk songs captured Alan’s heart and he began collecting these old songs back when he was in grade school. His goal was to learn every song he heard. Today Adam knows and performs over 5,000 songs through his large repertoire of shows. There’s no doubt that he is a master at what he does, and he does it with enthusiasm. Exceptional entertainment!

If your school, group, or library would like to contact Adam Miller for a program, email him at or visit his website at  Here you can also purchase some of his CDs, which are very entertaining and relaxing.

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