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Fifes & Drums hold history in hand

WILLIAMSBURG — You don’t have to live here long to hear the Fifes & Drums at an important event.
Whether it’s the two-man team for the opening of a meeting or the full 40-member corps for a Drummers Call, the ubiquitous musicians perform 700 times a year.
That’s a big demand on the time of young people aged 10-18. “We tell them it’s family, school and the Fifes & Drums, in that order,” said Lance Pedigo, Colonial Williamsburg’s manager of music programs, who runs the program.
The corps was formed in 1958 and has never lacked for troupers. Parents used to register their boys at birth for a place in the corps when they turn 10.
Now the entry is 8. “They have more of an idea of what they are getting themselves into then,” Pedigo explained. “The waiting list is still full.”
Some controversy arose when girls were admitted in 1999, but Pedigo said it quickly died down. The corps has since had a female sergeant major.
The Fifes & Drums re-create the 18th century musicians who relayed  orders from commanders to their troops on the march and on the battlefield. They are part of one of the most popular scenes in “Revolu­tionary City,” where guests are “recruited” into the Continental Army and march along Duke of Gloucester Street to the music of the corps.
Look for a bigger role in Rev City as it expands throughout the Historic Area. “We’ve been tasked with doing more interpretation,” Pedigo said. “It won’t be ‘I represent a colonial fifer.’ It will be ‘I represent a particular colonial fifer in the years of the Revolution.’ We have people in training now.”
Pedigo joined at age 9 and returned after college. While not everyone serves the entire eight years, most do. Some go on to play in a unit in college or the military. The Army’s Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps has three alumni.
Loyalty abounds as a result. The alumni chapter will donate an original drum from 1959-60 during Drummers Call weekend this Saturday, according to alumni Bill Casterline.
Want to Go? The Fifes and Drums will host Drummers Call Weekend Saturday and Sunday. For more information call 229-2141.

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