Andy Moore of the Isthmus : Link to Isthmus article
“On Nov. 11, the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, a battalion of Madison musicians will take the stage at the Barrymore Theatre for an original stage show called “The Greatest War: World War I, Wisconsin, and Why It Still Matters.” The ambitious production is largely the brainchild of local Celt-rocker Ken Fitzsimmons, who approached the project with a level of determination that Sir Douglas Haig himself would approve of.
Fitzsimmons has a life-long interest in WWI starting, he remembers, as a young man who noticed a paltry row of books on the subject in a bookstore compared to the volumes on the Civil War and World War II. He calls the Nov. 11 production “a “live rock ’n’ roll history show.” It’s the result of more than a year of research, composing and rehearsal. Onstage, Fitzsimmons and his band the Kissers will be joined by, among others, Sean Michael Dargan (Get Back Wisconsin) and Milwaukee’s hip-hop polka group November Criminals. While the musicians perform, a large screen will feature photos, film, art and newspaper archives.
The songs tell the stories of Wisconsinites who were caught in the cauldron of war. Not all were in the trenches. “Traitor State” tells the story of how nine of 11 of Wisconsin’s U.S. congressional representatives voted against going to war. Fitzsimmons wrote this song as a conversation between himself (playing the role of Wisconsin) and his band members (who represent the rest of the country). ”
“Music has a direct line into your heart. And in the live setting we can provide a performance without distraction. What I want in this concert more than anything is to foster a sense of connection between the audience and those who lived during this extraordinary time.”
– Ken Fitzsimmons
“One hundred years ago the world celebrated peace as a universal principle. The first World War had just ended and nations mourning their dead collectively called for an end to all wars. Armistice Day was born and was designated as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated.” After World War II, the U.S. Congress decided to rebrand November 11 as Veterans Day. Honoring the warrior quickly morphed into honoring the military and glorifying war. Armistice Day was flipped from a day for peace into a day for displays of militarism.” – Veterans for Peace
The War Won
By Ken Fitzsimmons. This uses a melody from Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto written in the aftermath of the war and builds on a quote by WWI poet Edmund Blunden that no one could win the war, “the War Won, and would keep on winning.” Images are taken from the National Archives. This is an example of the video that will be displayed behind the musicians for The Greatest War: World One, Wisconsin, and Why It Still Matters.
“Madisonians helped mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I by holding a number of events. The war affected millions of people, including several soldiers, nurses, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who came from Wisconsin.
The events have something for everyone, as they honor those who sacrificed and were impacted by the war. There’s art, film screenings, live theater and musical performances.
The centerpiece of the events is a live “Rock and Roll History Show” at the Barrymore Theatre called, “The Greatest War: World War One, Wisconsin and Why It Still Matters.”
“Wisconsin is very much a state known for it’s wide range of politics. It sometimes very conservative and sometimes very liberal at the same time and that was true back then as well,” said Ken Fitzsimmons, the director of the show.” WKOW
Additional pictures from the Greatest War Event, most of which we would like to thank Jennifer Brown Dargan for.