Fife & Drum
Tryon Palace brings fife and drum music to life during special events and programs held throughout the year. Comprised mostly of volunteers, the Tryon Palace Fife and Drum Corps has a stellar reputation of recreating 18th-century military tunes and is easily one of the most visible and popular programs at Tryon Palace.
What does Tryon Palace have to do with fife and drum music though? Quite a bit actually. We know that in 1771 Governor Tryon purchased six field drums which he took with his forces when he marched out to engage the Regulators at the Battle of Alamance. Because during this period, fifes were used in conjunction with drums in the British army, it is likely he would have had a similar number of fifes as well. Furthermore, American soldiers in the Revolutionary War (like those depicted by our 1st NC Line Living History Unit [link to their page here]) would have been accompanied by fifers and drummers as the 18th century equivalent of radio operators.
Musicians were an important part of the 18th-century military. Fifes and drums played from sunrise to sunset and served as a primary mode of communication from commander to troops during battles. The high-pitched sound of the ﬁfe made it the perfect instrument to be paired with the drum, as it could be heard over the noise of combat. Music also served more mundane functions in daily camp life by signaling meals, drills, and inspections.
Musicians often wore the reverse colors of the soldiers that they marched with in order to be more easily picked out by officers who needed them to quickly relay orders.
The English may not like music, but they absolutely love the noise it makes.English Conductor Sir Thomas Beecham
Requirements to Join Tryon Palace's Fife and Drum Corps:
- Minimum age 11. No maximum!
- Musical experience is not required, though certainly helpful.
- Expectation of practicing several hours a week on your own, in addition to beginner and group rehearsals.
- To earn a uniform, recruits must have memorized and be able to perform a minimum of six songs while marching.
The Corps rehearsals take place Sunday afternoons from 1-3 pm in the Commission House. The average “recruit” (with no experience) can be performing and marching in uniform within six months.