I have just returned to my winter headquarters in Orlando, Florida after a great weekend in the beautiful town of Lafayette, Indiana on the shores of the historic Wabash river. I was an instructor and performer at a really cool (well, really COLD) fife and drum event aptly called the "Freezer Jam". The event featured a dozen fife and drum corps from various states throughout the central U.S. First a few words about American fife and drum music in general and then this particular event.
American "Ancient Style" fife and drum music is quite popular across the United States but its traditional stronghold is certainly in New England. For the most part the fife music is played on wooden fifes while the drumming features the American rudimental style played on rope tensioned snare and bass drums. The music ranges from tunes composed in the late 1600's through tunes composed in the modern era.
The bands (which we call fife and drum "Corps") usually wear costumes (we call them uniforms) representing various periods of history that reflect the music played by that group. During the spring through fall months many events take place every weekend be they parades or what we call "musters". Musters are f & d events that are sponsored by a local corps that often begin on a Friday and conclude sometime on Sunday. They feature a parade through the town that ends up at an open area usually a park or baseball field. Once all of the corps arrive, they take turns marching onto the performance area (we call it the "stand") and play short concerts we call "stand pieces" usually lasting about 5 minutes or so.
After all of the corps have played their standpieces the real fun starts. All of the players from the various groups meet in the center of the field wearing either their civilian clothes, their uniforms or often something in between and have a big "jam session" lasting well into the night. In years past these jam sessions would roll on into the early morning but now they are usually brought to a close around midnight as many of the muster sites are not as rural as they once were. These jams can often have a couple of hundred people blasting away on fifes and drums so it's quite an experience if you've never been to a muster. It is our version of an Irish pub session and a great way for people young and old to learn this music, make new friends or piss off old enemies. (just kidding, well sort of...). The New England corps are able to see each other virtually every weekend which is a great thing but the corps in the central and mid western United States don't have that ability because of the great distances in between groups and fewer events on their schedules. Hence the concept for the Freezer Jam.
The F. J. is a wonderful concept and a great event that has been celebrated for a couple of decades now. A combination teaching clinic and performance, it's a great way for these various groups to meet, share and learn music and quaff a soda pop or two. I did also notice an adult libation or three over the course of the weekend as well. A great part of the concept is that different groups host the event from year to year. Last year it was in St. Charles Mo., this year in Lafayette In. Both years it was cold, especially when you go there from Orlando, Florida! This year the event was hosted by 3 local groups, the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment (Black Watch), the Tippecanoe Ancients (http://www.tafdc.org), and the Voyageur Ancients (http://www.vafdc.org) and they did a wonderful job. Please visit the 42nd's web site at http://www.42ndrhr.org for more information about their group and for links related to the F.J. in general. Teaching clinics were held throughout the day Saturday focusing on beginner through advanced level techniques for fifers, drummers and bagpipers as well as color guard and corps director and organization skills. In the evening a spectacular concert was held in the magnificent Long Center Theater. Please visit their web site at http://www.longcentertheater.com for more information about this historic venue.
I was very impressed this year as I was last year by the quality and dedication of the corps that I heard and saw. Many of these groups represent a time period and regions that are untouched by our corps in the Northeastern U.S. Many play the music of the "westward expansion" era and there is also a noticable French influence in the theme of many of the groups. I was especially impressed by the hometown "Voyageur Ancient F & D Corps" who are what we call a "junior" corps with players about 8 to 16 years old. The future of f & d in Layfayette is clearly in good (though still small!) hands.
My thanks to all involved for allowing me to play a small part in their event and I hope to be at the next Freezer Jam wherever it happens to be!
In conjunction with the world famous resort community of Arosa, Switzerland and their "MUSIK-KURSWOCHEN" (music course week), I will be teaching a week long series of classes on Irish flute and tin whistle music. The program will take place JULY 31 - AUGUST 4, 2017. I will be posting information and videos about the event very soon!!! Imagine, learning about traditional Irish music high in the Swiss Alps, staying in a beautiful hotel called "Hotel Hohe Promenade" a 3 star hotel with AMAZING food and service...