I’ve seen the movie Gettysburg I don’t know how many times. I always seem to come in during Chamberlain’s charge down Little Round Top. The movie was my dad’s and he always fell asleep to it. Finally someone bought him the soundtrack to it, and finally, years later I’m reviewing it.
I’m not new to the work of Randy Edelman – I’d first heard his name when listening to The Last of the Mohicans. However, I’d never paid attention to the composer of Gettysburg until thinking one day while listening to The Last of the Mohicans, “Hey, that sounds a lot like Gettysburg…” Randy’s been around for other soundtracks as well, such as Dragonheart, The Mask and While You Were Sleeping. He’s got a knack for putting the orchestra together in a way that it becomes almost one instrument, and yet at the same time can separate them out so clearly you can listen to whichever part you like without feeling interference from the other instruments. I know, it sounds like something other composers do all the time, but Randy’s way of doing it feels a little mellower. You’ll have to listen and make comparisons for yourself, but that’s what I feel with his music.
1.) Main Title – 4:32 Right out of the gate you get the full, powerful Gettysburg theme (hence the track name, doy). You’ll hear this throughout the movie, sort of a sad, yet glory-filled song reminiscent of a brother against brother battle and war. The whole orchestra together is very impressive, but I particularly like the slower parts with flutes and guitar. Simple, but still very effective in evoking that 1863 Virginia ambiance. Of course, you can’t forget those marching drums.
2.) Men of Honor – 2:55 Here we have a little of the Gettysburg downtime, which is usually filled with very gentle strings, barely there horns, and plenty of smooth woodwinds. It’s sort of a proud but sad tune, which is the kind of thing you’ll hear throughout the CD. Generals, Colonels, and men in general mulling over the strain of the war. You do get a tiny bit of sunshine through the clouds at the end.
3.) Battle of Little Round Top – 3:56 The main theme surrounds everyone in this movie, and here’s more of it. It’s hard not to love this music, honestly, it’s got a perfect pace and goes so well with whatever is going on in the movie. When things begin to pick up, you’ll know you’re at Little Round Top and it’s time to fight some more.
4.) Fife and Gun – 3:01 I love this track, it’s one of my favorites simply because of the inclusion of the fife. I have an affinity toward anything woodwind related. The guitar in the background is also something I really like. A different piece than the rest of the songs on the CD, it starts out strong, pushing ahead with the men until something goes awry, the notes turn sharp, they return, and then the final move is made. The fife and guitar die and leave the horns alone.
5.) General Lee at Twilight – 1:25 More bittersweet moods as Lee ponders over the years of the war and the lives it has taken.
6.) The First Battle – 2:41 With drums marching along and other instruments tiptoeing here and there, bursting out into the open when necessary, we get our first battle. The horns add a nice, semi-heroic kind of sound to the mix on occasion, but others they are foreboding.
7.) Dawn – 1:57 More of that early morning mist guitar, lazily strolling through the grassy hills. True, open country indeed.
8.) From History to Legend – 2:56 With a little more of the Gettysburg theme, though with a few instruments taking the lead, and with some slight variations, we transition into the legend piece, even if it is going to be a heartbreaking legend.
9.) Over the Fence – 4:09 The drums are on the march again, starting us off on the long walk toward the Union lines. Arduous but determined, with a few dramatic pauses, the music marches on to a final flourish of the main theme.
10.) We Are the Flank – 2:14 I’m not sure why these are out of order because we’re back at Little Round Top now, with Chamberlain explaining the situation to his men with the occasional faint drum roll in the back.
11.) Charging Up the Hill – 2:24 A dire state of affairs put us into an ugly situation. With guns firing, hot metal flying everywhere, there are few options left, as any one of the instruments could tell you, alternating with heavy drums and quick strings.
12.) Dixie – 2:25 A very leisurely version of “Dixie” here with a few southern-style instruments. The sun could either be setting or rising here as we slide into the tunes of military men contemplating their situations. But don’t worry, you’ll get a bit more before it fades out.
13.) General Lee’s Solitude – 3:39 More of the mellow tones as Lee considers his options and possible outcomes. It does have some hopeful strings thrown in for a bit, as well as a lone little trumpet, but it isn’t long before we have to return to the war and away from thoughts of “What if...”
14.) Battle at Devil’s Den – 1:45 A little faster than most of the other tracks, a little more dangerous as well I might add. Foreboding beginnings lead to a treacherous march and a swift end.
15.) Killer Angel – 4:41 The same melody we’ve heard in the past when men talk together or sit with their own thoughts, though this time with a very low clarinet-like instrument (unless it really is a clarinet) playing. Add in a few more lonely instruments from time to time and let the song play out and we’ve got a nice, casual, contemplative track.
16.) March to Mortality (Pickett’s Charge) – 3:13 Time for Pickett’s men to make their final move. They do it with a bit of fanfare, that’s for sure. Might as well go out with a flourish, and this is the one track with the most flourish out of the whole CD. Also one of the more original songs as it doesn’t have much of the past tunes such as the theme involved.
17.) Kathleen Mavourneen – 3:15 We’re back to the quieter, faint guitar occasionally backing the muted flutes, which seem to have taken over completely this time in a soft, almost hallowed song.
18.) Reunion and Finale – 5:44 Ready for more of the main theme? Here it is, maybe a little slower than the first time you heard it, but still with the same full orchestra, and this time with a few of those tear-jerking sharps and flats. You do get a feeling of finality with this song, getting a bit of almost everything as you picture the credits rolling with the battle finally over.
I’ve done a lot of soundtracks and seen a lot of movies, and I have to say, out of made for TV movies, Gettysburg tops them all. I have yet to see anything reach its caliber. The same can be said of the soundtrack. Though I usually like my soundtracks to evoke other thoughts in my head, this one just belts out the Gettysburg movie the entire time. However, here that’s okay because I have fond memories associated with this music and the movie, and for a TV picture, they got themselves a fine composer to do great work, so how can I complain?
You can listen to this CD without having seen the movie; I’m sure you’ll enjoy what it has to offer as it’s so well put together. If you’ve seen the movie, you already know what you’ll be getting. If you liked what you heard, then by all means, go for it. My dad likes to fall asleep to this music. Could I? Sure. I’d probably have the movie running along in my head with it, but that’s okay too. (And by no means am I indicating this music will put you to sleep – you can use it for whatever you like!)
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I am an author, I sell books for a living, and I love music like there's no tomorrow. I've experienced much of this country, from forested hills of the East, to the golden plains of the Midwest, the sandy beaches of the Southeast, and the oh-so-majestic mountains of the Rockies. And when all else fails, eat chocolate.