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March Music

It’s March—time for some March Music!!

Here we have in the ARChive window an excellent example of March Music, as performed by the St. Joseph’s Junior Fife & Drum Corps on the LP Fife & Drum March Music (Major Records LP-1007; no date).

Great armies have marched around behind men banging on drums and blowing wooden flutes for many centuries. In those days, the musicians consisted of boys too young to fight, wounded soldiers who can still walk or men that were too old for war. Both the drums and the high-pitched sound of the fife were loud enough to carry over the noise of clanging swords, and later guns, in order to get messages to the soldiers instantly. For instance, a change in a rhythm and/or melody could direct an army to go this way or that, to pursue the enemy or fall back, or even stop the fighting. Also the armies would march in cadence with the fife and drum music. Fife and drum corps were even used in this manner in America—during the Revolutionary War up through the Civil War.

St. Joseph’s School of Waterbury, Connecticut is a parochial school that sponsored this particular fife and drum corps beginning in 1933 through at least the Fifties. The liner notes of the album say the corps won state championships from 1950 through 1954, then again in 1957, as well as other regional competitions. We can’t seem to figure out if St. Joseph’s School still has a fife & drum corps, but judging by The Company of Fife & Drummers website, the music is still going strong in Connecticut.

Fife & Drum March Music, as well as about a half-dozen other fife & drum albums, will be available at the up-coming Summer ARChive Record & CD Sale, which starts on June 9.

FURTHER: After the Civil War, when the Confederate Army laid down its weapons, many of the fife and drum musicians laid down their instruments, too. These were picked up and used by newly freed slaves—Africans who knew exactly what to do with drums and flutes. This commenced a new folk tradition in the South and contributed to the creation of jazz and blues, which evolved into R&B and rock and roll. Read more about that HERE, HERE and HERE.

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