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By Randall Larson

Alan Williams’ score for the striking Discovery Channel documentary Gettysburg: The Speech That Saved America, examines the impact of Lincoln’s 272-word speech, delivered in November 1863 at the dedication of a national cemetery for the Union soldiers who fell at the battle of Gettysburg, still the nation’s bloodiest battle (later fallen Confederate soldiers were also interred), what it meant at the time and how its poetic words and their meaning have meant to the larger picture of the battle, the dedication, and the cause of freedom for all in our country. Far more than simply honoring the fallen soldiers buried around him in the new cemetery (speaker Edward Everett did that in his two hour oration that preceded the President’s “remarks”), Lincoln chose the occasion to eloquently and perfectly redefine the purpose of the Union in fighting the Civil War. Williams’ score takes what is really the only direction to go – an honorable and eloquent accompaniment that serves both the documentary narrative showing Lincoln (interestingly performed by an actor but with a computer-generated Lincoln face) in the process of leading the war, grieving over the wounded, and working out the words he will convey in his address) and the action scenes cutting back to the battle and other scenes showing the business of war. A clear-toned and patriotic trumpet melody serves as the score’s primary theme, which recurs in various nuances throughout the score, often supported by field drums. The music poignantly underlies the narration with a subtle power that gave the words the kind of import they needed – both that of the narrator and the Lincoln recitations – and very eloquently serves as its own tribute to the events, the sacrifices, and the poetry of words that those events inspired – and, I believe, continue to inspire.

Screen Sounds
By Jeff Hall

Alan Williams' latest release on his Silverscreen label features his score for the recent Discovery Channel presentation, Gettysburg: The Speech That Saved America, which explores Abraham Lincoln's historic speech in 1863 at the dedication of the national cemetery at Gettysburg following what remains the nation's bloodiest battle. In the documentary, Lincoln is brought to life by an actor but with a computer generated face, a process known as photo-real CGI.

Alan Williams' score is of course appropriately patriotic, commencing with the splendid trumpet-lead "Main Title" theme, which is by turns spirited and plaintive. The brief but desperate conflict of "Gettysburg" follows and then an air of quiet beauty takes over with the woodwinds-lead "Waiting for Word." The theme continues just as lovely into "Night Speech," but gives way to the grim tragedy of "Gardner Photos." Joe Stone continues his fine work on woodwinds with the mournful "Sorrows of War" and "Burying the Dead." "Lee's Rebels" presents a proud but homely theme for woodwinds and Nick Nolan's guitar; the latter featuring again in the quietly respectful "Bloody War." Yet another moment of beauty comes with the flute-lead "Lydia Smith," which is followed by an up-tempo reprise of the main theme. "Arrival in Gettysburg" is heralded by Jon Lewis' trumpet and then the composer himself reprises the main theme on piano. More sensitive woodwinds-lead music introduces "Relocating Bodies," with trumpet putting the finishes touches on the cue. "Finishing the Address" continues the sensitive mood, giving way to the patriotic "We Hold These Truths." The woodwinds theme leads the way in "Thoughtful Men," piano taking over as the track proceeds, with a reprise of the main theme to close.

"Is the Country ready?" starts off solemnly but trumpet soon enters, effectively taking on the woodwinds theme to close. The lovely, flute-lead "Edward Everett Address" follows and precedes the penultimate and lengthiest track on the disc, "Gettysburg Address" which satisfyingly brings together the main thematic material of the score and leads to a rousing, then thoughtful, conclusion in "Lincoln's Legacy."

Alan Williams has produced consistently fine work over the years and his great gift for melody is very evident in what is another highly recommended effort.