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.
You can revisit the event at our 2015 Drummers Call website.
This year’s recruits have been inching toward the benchmarks they must meet before being allowed to suit up with the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums. Their twice-weekly practices at the Fifes and Drums Building, not to mention all the rehearsing at home, has made for steady progress.
But they’re not quite there yet.
They haven’t yet earned the right to don the frock and breeches. So this recent Drummers Call was an occasion to pocket the fifes or sling the drumsticks and take in a scene that’s in their not-too-distant future.
Drummers Call, a gathering of fife and drum corps from around the country, is a spring ritual at Colonial Williamsburg. This May, a dozen ensembles delighted Historic Area guests with music and impressions ranging from Colonial America through the turn of the 20th century.
The recruits trickled onto Market Square and joined the throng gathering near Duke of Gloucester Street to await Drummers Call’s main event, the noonday Grand March, a parade featuring all 12 fife and drum corps. In the narrow shade of a young sweetgum tree, the recruits gabbed away as young adolescents do, and occasionally peered down the street as the potent thrum of fife and drum music crescendoed.
But this day their idle chatter played second fiddle. “They’re almost here!” cried Molnar, and the group shuffled over to the edge of the parade route. Everyone in Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes and Drums – instructors, recruits, fifers and drummers – are addressed only by surnames.
Leading the procession was Colonial Williamsburg’s own Junior Corps — the first ensemble these young musicians will join. A couple recruits pointed to siblings in the Junior Corps as they glided west toward Palace Green. While most other bystanders tapped a toe or bobbed their heads along with the thundering music, many recruits were inspired for what are becoming more familiar motions — fingering fife tunes on an imaginary instrument or tapping out beats on a thigh.
A couple corps down the column, the adults of the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums Alumni marched past sporting the only modern garb of the parade – khaki shorts and a sharp navy blue polo. A recruit, Brenegan, smiled and waved at her dad, though by all appearances his years of training in the corps taught him to ignore distractions and keep his eyes straight ahead. “It’s only his second time playing with them,” she said.
The Alumni’s stylish appearance, musicianship and movements, still evident long after they graduated from the Fifes and Drums, found favor with some of the recruits. “I like their marching techniques, when the rows of fifers and drummers switch places,” Degaraff said. “And they can wear sunglasses.”
And so the Grand March thrummed along for a half hour, each fife and drum corps offering novel sights and sounds. The recruits were as full of energy as the bands on Duke of Gloucester Street, grinning and laughing, tapping and whistling. They edged out into the street, craning their necks to see what group was coming next. The girls giggled when a young child accompanying his mother in a corps toddled past. A couple times recruits showed their youthful giddiness, jumping up and down with excitement.
And true to their age, a couple offered unfiltered commentary. “They kind of look like park rangers,” Mills said of a Civil War-era fife and drum corps.
The laughter and excitement continued all the march long. And then, somewhat inexplicably, all their adolescent gestures came to a halt. They simply stood and stared, their gazes following the procession’s final group: the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums Senior Corps. The pinnacle of the recruits’ aspirations. Their eyes filled with admiration, as if anticipating that day when they’d be anchoring a gathering like Drummers Call.
Make plans to be in the Revolutionary City next May for Drummers Call. Until then, enjoy some of the sights and sounds captured by Colonial Williamsburg’s production teams this year.