It was an engaged crowd that traveled back to 1862 last night as the Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum offered a multifaceted Call Me Melville program. Led by the musicians of Wintergreen the audience sang songs of the Underground Railroad, such as Follow the Drinking Gourd and Wade in the Water, as we learned about the background, historical as well as legendary, of these inspiring pieces. From there we considered the nation’s bloody Civil War, as we learned the origins of well known tunes such as Dixie and When Johnny Comes Marching Home.
When Wintergreen ended their entertaining and educational set, local historian Bernard Drew gave a fascinating history of Massachusetts 49th – the All Berkshire Regiment, which led us into the final act of the evening’s program, an inspired dramatic reading of Herman Melville’s “The College Colonel”, tribute to William Bartlett, by Athenaeum Librarian & Technical Services Supervisor, Alex Reczkowski.
At evening’s end we were hardly surprised to see this lovely program had drawn a uniquely distinguished guest of the past, whose spirit we hope is very much alive today.