Drummers' Call: Fife & Drum Celebration at Old Sturbridge Village Sept. 8

Monday, August 27, 2012

Military music has a long and stirring tradition

(Sturbridge, Mass.) Aug. 27, 2012 – Old Sturbridge Village will celebrate the rich tradition of military music with a "Drummer's Call" event showcasing many of New England's premier Fife and Drum corps. Visitors can learn about the important role musicians played in the daily lives of early New England soldiers. After a grand procession and individual fife and performances by each corps, the day ends with a stirring "Jollification," or jam session, where all the groups gather and play their favorite tunes and cadences together. Call 800-SEE-1830 for times and details; to watch a Drummers Call video visit www.osv.org.

According to Old Sturbridge Village historians, fife and drum music was the alarm clock and dinner for militia units in early New England.  From Reveille and Dinner Call to the Retreat and "tattoo" calls signaling "lights out," fifers and drummers provided the military's primary communications signals. After the Revolutionary War, fife and drum military music crossed over into popular culture because so many people had been trained to play, and fifes and drums were inexpensive to own.

In the patriotic groundswell after the war, certain fife and drum songs took on a national identity and became known as "national airs."  Some, like Yankee Doodle, started out as British songs, but became symbols of patriotic pride for the Colonists. After 1790, each town was required to have a regular "Muster Day" for its militia, and military music was a big part of these events and continued to be a crowd-pleaser.

As printing presses became more accessible, printers and publishers began printing sheet music and music books. They soon figured out they could sell more songbooks if they had their own bands to promote the music. According to Peter Emerick, a leading member of the Sturbridge Martial Band, the appetite for music exploded during the early 1800s.  "The 1820s was really a renaissance for popular music, and much of it was adapted from military tunes."

Old Sturbridge Village celebrates New England life in the 1830s and is one of the largest living history museums in the country.  The museum is open daily 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. seven days a week.  OSV offers free parking and a free return visit within 10 days. Admission: $24; seniors $22; children 3-17, $8; children 2 and under, free. Woo Card subscribers get $5 off adult daytime admission; college Woo cardholders receive $12 off adult daytime admission. For times and details of all OSV activities visit: www.osv.org or call 1-800-SEE-1830.

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Ann Lindblad
VP Communications
Old Sturbridge Village

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The Old Sturbridge Village printer works the presses