VIRGINIA DIVISION UDC MEMBER PRESERVES THE SOUTHERN PAST THROUGH MUSIC

When UDC member Pat Gibson was studying at Baltimore's prestigious Peabody Conservatory program for gifted high school musicians, she could not have guessed that her classical training in voice and piano would one day bring her a career, a husband, and the UDC's prestigious Jefferson Davis Historical Gold Medal.

Although she majored in museum studies, Pat continued her musical education in college, specializing in the Baroque and early Classical periods and eventually moving on to mid-19th century music, including the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. After performing locally (most notably with jazz master Charlie Byrd in Annapolis) and in Europe, Pat settled in Rockbridge County, Va., to concentrate on raising her family and pursuing the museum career for which she had trained.

She went to work as an assistant archivist at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), designing and mounting exhibits at the Preston Library in conjunction with VMI's sesquicentennial celebration and working in conjunction with neighboring Washington and Lee University to co-produce an exhibit on the commonalities of the lives of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. She also served for two years as a guest curator for the Rockbridge County Historical Society, researching the county during the World War II years.

Through it all, however, she continued to perform locally, often donning period attire and presenting music from the most notable period in Rockbridge County's long history -- the War Between the States. It was at one of those concerts 8 years ago that Pat's life changed forever.

Professor and Mrs. Gibson

Professor and Mrs. Gibson at the 106th Virginia Division UDC convention in Woodstock, Va., October 5, 2001.

 
 

During a break at a benefit concert, Pat was approached by one of her professional colleagues, Colonel Keith Gibson, Director of Museum Programs at VMI. As Pat recalls it, "Some [of the musicians] had stepped away for a break. There was a guitar or two open and Keith asked if 'just anybody could sit in?' I said, 'Sure, if you can play!'"

Although she admits that the colonel might have found her initial attitude somewhat snobbish, she quickly discovered that, despite his lack of formal training, he was a gifted musician in his own right, possessed of a fine singing voice and proficient on any number of instruments, including the flat-top guitar and the banjo. He was, in fact, "one of the best guitar players I have ever had the privilege to work with," she now says. Their shared interest in the music of the War-era South -- and in all things historical -- formed the basis for a friendship that eventually led to marriage and the formation of "Professor and Mrs. Gibson."

Believing that one of the best ways to promote and preserve the history of the South was through the popular music created by its singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists, Pat and Keith soon began working on an evening of musical entertainment that would focus on songs sung by the soldiers in the field and by the families that waited for them at home. Dressed in period-correct attire (which Pat researches and constructs herself), the Gibsons play a variety of original or authentically reproduced instruments (including banjo, guitar, and recorder) to recreate the music heard by their Confederate ancestors as they themselves would have heard it.

Along with the music itself and the history that accompanies each selection, Pat and Keith inject a certain amount of self-deprecating humor and good-natured banter into their program so that even those whose interests lie elsewhere can enjoy the evening on an entirely different level.

Make no mistake, however. The Gibsons are serious about their music and its presentation. Pat's quest for accuracy extends to details as small as learning to sing corseted, a skill not much in demand today but absolutely necessary to the proper presentation of period-correct music. To reproduce the music of the War years in the most authentic way possible, she has done extensive research not only into the songs themselves but also into how they were presented and what instrumentation was used. Her work has taken her to archives and libraries in search of both original sheet music and perioid diaries and letters detailing what was played and sung as well as where and by whom.

As Pat points out, the importance of music in the lives of our ancestors is underscored by the frequency with which it is mentioned in the personal documents and records they have left behind and by the very fact that so much sheet music was printed even during the War, when paper was scarce in the South and might easily have been allocated to other uses.

    Jefferson Davis Historical Gold Medal

Jefferson Davis Historical
Gold Medal

 

In the six years since their inception, "Professor and Mrs. Gibson" have performed their music both locally and nationally, including Historical Evening for the 106th Virginia Division UDC convention in October 2001; a benefit for Habitat for Humanity at Ferrum College in Virginia; at the 50th anniversary celebration of the New York Civil War Round Table; at other round tables (Atlanta, Lynchburg, and Richmond, to name but a few); for the National Park Service's summer concert series at the Fredericksburg Battlefield (where they appeared on the program with the President's Own Marine Corps Band); at Highland festivals in Abingdon and Radford, Va.; and at Glencoe Mansion (also in Radford).

At their most recent appearance (January 12 at her chapter's annual Lee-Jackson-Maury luncheon in Vienna, Va.), Pat was awarded the Jefferson Davis Historical Gold Medal, bestowed by the UDC on individuals who have excelled in preserving, protecting and promoting Confederate history and heritage through their historical research efforts. Said Fairfax Chapter 1410 President Mrs. B. Donald Boltz, "We were thrilled to be able to recognize Pat with this award, which she has earned many times over."

They have also done performances for Elderhostel groups around the country and have appeared on their local NBC affiliate. In what has come to be a much-anticipated annual event heralding the arrival of the holiday season, Professor and Mrs. Gibson, in proper period attire, ride through the town of Lexington in a horse-drawn carriage singing Christmas carols.

As a result of Pat and Keith's fast-growing reputation as experts on War-era music, they are much in demand as historical musical consultants for television programs and theatrical releases, including the landmark film Gettysburg, Sommersby, Wicked Spring, Things That Go Bump in the Valley, and Field of Lost Shoes, an Emmy-award-winning PBS documentary on the Battle of New Market. Their most recent undertaking was as musical advisors for Gods and Generals, the prequel to Gettysburg that recently finished filming in various locations throughout the Old Dominion, including Lexington.

Pat is frequently consulted by leading academics, including Professor Gary Gallager (formerly of Penn State University and now at the University of Virginia), who has called on her extensive knowledge of period music to enhance his classroom presentations, and by the National Park Service's Bob Krick.

For more information about "Professor and Mrs. Gibson" (including appearances and booking fees), contact Pat at kegibson@cfw.com.


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