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Harris: When Johnny Comes Marching Home

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: home from the All-American conflict…

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home” celebrates the return of a veteran to his family. For this reason, more modern composers such as Morton Gould and Roy Harris have used it to address this timeless issue. As it is most commonly known, the song dates from the American Civil War, although the melody is far older. Ironically, the melody was originally that of an anti-war song entitled, “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye.” Thanks to bandleader Patrick Gilmore, however, the more recent lyrics from 1863 have long eclipsed any predecessors. As a bandleader, Gilmore was one of the most influential figures in American music of the nineteenth century. He wrote the new lyrics under the pseudonym of Louis Lambert, and many have speculated that it may have been inspired by Gilmore’s brother-in-law, a captain in the Union army.

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