Testimonials for the Shows:
"Your program was wonderful, and we thoroughly enjoyed having you as part of our schedule of activities. Your program truly gave visitors a chance to experience history from a unique perspective."
--Coordinator, Canal Place, Cumberland, MD
"Sir, you are a musician, a historian and an entertainer,"
--a Confederate Re-Enactor
I just have to tell you again how much the residents LOVED the summer show last night! I’ve been hearing residents all day telling everyone what a great show it was, so much laughter and fun, and they can’t wait to have you back. Thanks again for everything, you really have a special knack for bringing fun & laughter to people with your programs!
--Activity Director Village at Kelly Drive
"Your show is lively and fun... you fit in perfectly here."
-- Programming Director, Historic Cold Spring Village,
Cape May, NJ
"Your show itself was worth the price of admission."
-- Guest at Historic Cold Spring Village
"I have not seen that much enthusiasm and toe-tapping here in quite a while! Everyone is still talking about the show and how much they enjoyed it!"
--Activities Director, Retirement Center
"This is the best show we've ever had here!"
-- resident at a retrirement center
(said numerous times at various sites)
"You really brought back the memories!"
--a retired Railroader
"Your show was superb! Everyone loved it. And the horses loved it too!"
--Director, horse rescue ranch
"You really have a passion for it."
"You are to be commended for your knowledge of the canal era."
--canal historian and boat-model builder
"You have a wonderful instrument."
-- opera and Braodway singer, Marilyn Savage,
referring to Matthew's voice
"I wanted someone to tell stories like Mark Twain and sing songs too. You were perfect!"
--historian's wife after his 50th birthday party
"I just want to say, you sir, are an inspiration and a revelation for many. It's easy to learn the songs, but it
takes dedication to learn OF the songs. I am glad there are still people dedicated to not forgetting history, and keeping it very much alive."
--"Johnny Reb", re-encactor
"You are a national treasure."
-- member of the Surratt Society
"We thought you really were a hobo!'
-- audience mebers
"That was extraordinary! I hope they have you every year!"
-- a teacher after a school show
"We love you!"
-- middle school students after a performance
"That was the best program on the American flag I ever saw" -an 85-year-old audience member
Photo courtesy of Pennypacker Mills,
Photo courtesy of Gunston Hall,
Mason Neck, Va
Here is an article from the Hagerstown MD newspaper:
KEEDYSVILLE — Special-education teacher Matthew Dodd was visiting Harpers Ferry National Historical Park with his family. Inside the White Hall Tavern building, he mused that it would be a great place for someone to dress in period clothing and sing Civil War songs.
"My kids said, 'That would be you, Dad,'" he recalled, and a new career was born.
Though he continued teaching, he spent a year and a half "immersing myself in the songs" and preparing a program.
Dodd, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., has now been performing for about 25 years. And he has expanded his repertoire to about 20 different shows, combining storytelling with music.
On Saturday, he performed at the Newcomer House, the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area's Exhibit and Visitors Center at Antietam National Battlefield, as part of its Porch Program Series. Switching personas from Rebel to Yank, he provided visitors with a musical glimpse of the nation's most volatile era.
But listeners got more than just a typical rendition of "Goober Peas" and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." Dodd infuses his shows with characters, each of whom has his own accent and personality and dispenses witticisms like candy.
"I've always been a song-sponge" and is intrigued by "the little stories behind them," he said.
Part raconteur, part entertainer, Dodd said his decades as a special-education teacher prepared him well for his musical career.
"You have to be an entertainer" to keep the students focused, he said. He retired from a school district in Cumberland County, Pa., seven years ago, he said.
While the "Songs and Stories of the Civil War" program is the oldest — and dear to him, he said — a visit to the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site in Cresson, Pa., led him to explore other themes.
"The rangers there said, 'You should do a railroad show,'" he said, and "Songs and Stories of Old Railroad Days" resulted.
"I do a lot of retirement centers," he said, "and one time someone said, 'You should should do the Old West.' And then I got a call from a canal group …"
In addition to the Civil War, the Old West, railroads and canals, he has assembled programs focused on sailing, hobos, the Revolution, the American road and most holidays. He's currently putting together a show for Labor Day.
Dodd has performed at the Cushwa Basin of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, and will make a return trip to Williamsport for C&O Canal Days next month.
But along with the music and jokes is a message.
"And doesn't it seem to be a pity," he said as his performance of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" wound down, "there always seems to be a war for Johnnies to march off to?
"And doesn't it seem to be a pity there always seem to be Johnnies who don't come back?"
The Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area will sponsor a Porch Program each month through December