The weather has turned in a very nice direction just in time for Spring Break. We’re looking forward to seeing lots of families spending their days off with us here in Williamsburg. So if you’re looking for a few tips for enjoying the 18th century with kids (and without too much stress), here are a dozen suggestions….
Drums break. Especially drums that get as much use as those belonging to the Fife and Drum Corps. (I will not be the one to blame the youthful exuberance of teenagers.) But even broken drums can be redeemed, an exercise that, when time allows, takes place in a smallish back room of the Fifes and Drums Building. Stewart Pittman, the leader of the corps, showed me how he goes about doing some of the repair work….
You’re standing along Duke of Gloucester Street admiring the Fifes and Drums as they march by when the person next to you wonders aloud what all the wide gestures signify. Or maybe you’re watching a video after Drummers Call when your significant other isn’t sure why they’re wearing white frock coats. Well, here’s your opportunity to look really smart as we offer some help so you can “read” the signs and signals of the corps….
It was 1958 and the leader of the newly-created Colonial Williamsburg militia needed fifers to accompany his drummers at militia musters. One night he appeared at the front door of a residence on Duke of Gloucester Street with a handful of fifes. This is just one of the tales you might hear on the Behind the Field Musick tour with John Harbour, one of its original members….
The recruits of the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums have come to the Revolutionary City from many different backgrounds. Some always knew they’d join this ensemble. Others seemed to have stumbled on it accidentally.
All of them have signed on to a life-changing journey….
By Ben Swenson
How many 18th-century fife and drum tunes can you name? Go on, count them. Ten? Five? Two?
Some of the recruits had never come before. Others had come every year for as long as they could remember. But for all of them, first-timers or not, the occasion of Colonial Williamsburg’s Drummers Call marked a threshold; this time next year, they’ll be the ones captivating crowds in the Revolutionary City.
A Colonial Williamsburg Fife and Drum Corps performance can be a bridge to the music that marked the beginning of a nation. For many of the group’s regularly-scheduled performances in the Revolutionary City, guests line the streets two or three deep to catch a glimpse of the musicians as they march by.
Now the musical work begins. Fifers learn the fingering, the breathing. Drummers learn the art of holding the sticks and pacing the beats. It’s all technique, coupled with lots and lots of rehearsing….