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Charles Ives

Image courtesy of the Charles Ives Society

Charles Ives' Decoration Day:
A Conductor's Guide 

Charles Ives’ Decoration Day, a dreamy haze of almost-forgotten memories and half-remembered tunes, depicts recollections American Civil War through the eyes of a Connecticut youth at the end of the nineteenth century. The work, originally published as the second movement of Ives’ New England Holidays Symphony for orchestra, is a musical representation of the composer’s childhood memories of that eponymous holiday.

This paper links Ives’ own descriptions of the composition, his childhood, and his memories of the somber annual memorial to the musical gestures in the score, synthesizing extant scholarship with practical analysis and performance experience. Through better understanding Charles’ connections to the Civil War, specifically by way of his father, the bandmaster George Ives, Decoration Day comes to life as a stirring epitaph for a boy’s long-lost hero.

Published by the CBDNA Journal (Sage Open, Volume 9, Issue 1), March 29, 2019.

Carl Hirschberg, Decoration Day, 1885

Image courtesy of

Ives Performance Recordings

Charles Ives

Overture & March, "1776," arr. Sinclair

University of Maryland Wind Ensemble

April 29, 2016 Concert


Charles Ives

Decoration Day, arr. Elkus

University of Maryland Wind Ensemble

April 29, 2016 Concert


CBDNA Research Presentation

This paper was presented on March 17, 2017, at the College Band Directors National Association National Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, as part of a juried academic research poster session.

Click to download associated materials:

- CBDNA Handout

- CBDNA Poster

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