January 23, 2010

Fife and Drum: Complete Fife Fingerings

--> I've had a very musical week. Hopefully we will be getting some simple music together for some of the nights around the fire at Civil War reenactments. At the moment, we are just testing out instruments. Are they easy to play? Carry? Sound good with the other instruments? It's difficult but fun. Last Ridley Creek Reenactment, a harmonica and some bones made a very agreeable accompaniment to the civilian and soldier singing.

One of our Reenacting Company might even take up fife. During the Civil War, Companies were supposed to have 2 musicians, a fifer and a drummer. The company musicians played out commands for their company in a time before high-tech mechanical means of communication. The musicians played commands and "duties." A Duty is a collection of music associated with certain tasks, such as reveille and lights out. During the Revolutionary War, the British used the Scottish and English Duties while the Americans used the Irish Duty. The United States continued to use the Irish Duty during the Civil War.

Civil War Reenacting Fife MusicArmy musicians were a good way to relay commands to large amounts of men clearly.A good story about commands without a fifer comes from Abraham Lincoln when he first commanded a company of his own, during the Blackhawk War. It is told in the book Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln, by Allen Thorndike Rice:

I remember his narrating his first experience in drilling his company. He was marching with a front of over twenty men across a field, when he desired to pass through a gateway into the next inclosure. " I could not for the life of me," said he, "remember the proper word of command for getting my company endwise so that it could get through the gate, so as we came near the gate I shouted : “ ‘This company is dismissed for two minutes, when it will fall in again on the other side of the gate !’”

*Note: The song H-ll on the Wabash is taken from The Drummer and Fifer's Guide by Bruce and Emmett  (1862). Many people believe that this book didn't see much use during the war but many parts of it were taken from Ashworth System of Drum Beating (1812.) The song is one of my favorites, The Purcells , a really good performing family PA have a really REALLY good rendition of it but for some reason haven't released it, (I've got some kind of demo-bootlegged CD or something.) Please go to their page and comment that you'd like to hear it and maybe they'll put it on for us.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tell me what you think!