Members of The Ghost of Paul Revere with Rep. Scott Cuddy April 3 at the State House in Augusta. Photo courtesy Amy Regan Gallant

A Portland band’s song about the sacrifices of Maine soldiers in the Civil War is a couple steps closer to becoming the official state ballad.

Both houses of the Legislature voted this week in favor of making “The Ballad of the 20th Maine” by Portland band The Ghost of Paul Revere the official state ballad. The ballad proposal still needs another round of approvals in the House and Senate and the governor’s signature before becoming official, said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Scott Cuddy, D-Winterport.

Supporters of the bill say that because it passed the first votes in both houses with no opposition the second votes to formally enact the legislation are likely to be merely procedural. After those votes, likely to be held next week, Gov. Janet Mills will have 10 days to sign or veto the ballad bill. When band members visited the State House in April to lobby for the bill, they performed some songs and Mills took a few minutes to listen.

At both votes this week – in the House Tuesday and the Senate on Thursday – the bill was read aloud, and when no one opposed it, it was declared passed.

“The Ballad of the 20th Maine” was written by band member Griffin Sherry, a history buff with a keen interest in the 20th Maine. The band, whose members are originally from Hollis and Buxton, have played the song for several years at their shows and get lots of requests for it, including in the South.

Cuddy and other supporters of the state ballad proposal say granting such recognition to a song about Maine soldiers’ heroic and pivotal role at the Battle of Gettysburg would promote the state’s history as it approaches its bicentennial in 2020. The regiment has been celebrated in books and film as crucial to the Union’s victory at Gettysburg in 1863, a battle that helped turn the tide of the war in the North’s favor. The ballad is written in the voice of Andrew Tozier, a flag bearer for the 20th Maine.

If the song becomes the state ballad, it would join two other official state musical selections. Maine already has an official song, “The State of Maine Song” by Roger Vinton Snow of Portland, which was written in the early 1930s in response to a Maine Publicity Bureau contest but is not widely known today. And it has an official state march, “The Dirigo March,” written by Leo Pepin of Augusta and approved by the Legislature in 2012.

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