As the corps continues the tradition started many years ago, its members continue to strive toward the dual goals of preserving our nation's musical heritage through the art of fifing and drumming and the enrichment of their own musical experience. Fifing and drumming was used during times of war to relay commands to soldiers, direct movements of units, as well as to provide inspiration and marching rhythm. The shrillness of the fifes and pounding of the drums could be heard over the cries of battle.
The corps is made up of 40 to 50 students ranging in age from 12 - 18 who gather from Plymouth and surrounding communities year round in preparation for its performance season. Its members are self-supporting and dedicated to preserving the ancient arts of color guard, fifing, and drumming through live performances at parades, historical and patriotic celebrations, concerts, cultural affairs, and other civic events.
Each year the PLYMOUTH FIFE & DRUM CORPS performs 40-50 times from April to October throughout the state of Michigan and elsewhere. A tour toward the end of summer is a highlight of the performance season. Over the years, tours have taken the corps to numerous forts, musters and historical sites, as well as Philadelphia, PA, New York, NY, Washington D.C., Montreal, Canada, and Boston, MA.
In 1996, in celebration of its 25th anniversary, the corps traveled throughout the East coast performing at sites of historical importance in the personal life and military career of George Washington including: Popes Creek Plantation on the Potomac River (the George Washington Birthplace National Monument); the Kenmore Plantation and Gardens (home of Washington's only sister and husband, Patriot Col. Fielding Lewis) and the Mary Washington House (the home purchased by Washington for his mother and where he received his Mother's blessings before his inauguration in 1789), both in Fredricksburg, VA; Fort Necessity National Battlefield in PA (where in 1754, Washington was forced to make his only military surrender by French and Indian soldiers); and Yorktown, VA (where Washington fought the final victorious battle of the Revolutionary War). The corps performed in Colonial Williamsburg, VA as well. A standing ovation was received from the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps; the official ceremonial unit of the army and escort to the President, following the corps' performance for the Old Guard at Fort Myer, VA. This was an especially proud moment for the PLYMOUTH FIFE & DRUM CORPS since the Old Guard has served as a model for Plymouth during its history. Another especially honorable and memorable moment for the corps in 1996 was its performance at the Olympic torch ceremony in Dearborn, MI.
Our music spans the 17th to 20th centuries with an emphasis on music played during the Revolutionary War. Presentations focus on strong personal and group discipline, musical excellence, and marching precision. The corps' music features medleys of traditional tunes rearranged into three and four-part harmonies. Drum scores range from traditional settings to a more contemporary rudimental idiom; occasionally borrowing elements from modern drum and bugle corps.
As you see the waving red, white, and blue of the flags . . . listen to the melody of the fifes and the thunder of the drums . . . the Plymouth Fife & Drum Corps ! ! !
Plymouth Fife and Drum Corps
UNIFORMS AND EQUIPMENT
The 10 pound, red and white and blue uniform currently worn by the corps is a replica of George Washington's personal Life Guard or foot soldiers (1776-1783). These uniforms have no zippers and 64 buttons of real pewter. They consist of a buff waistcoat, blue Continental coat with red trim, white shirt, leather neck stock, buff knee britches, black tricorn hat and white knee socks. The uniforms debuted in 1987; during the year the corps performed in the Constitution parade in Philadelphia, marking the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States.
The corps plays two piece, 10 hole wood fifes, and rope tension snare and bass drums. The McDonagh fifes are in the key of B flat and made of grenadilla wood. The color guard has consisted of one spontoon (a short pike), one halberd (an ax head mounted on a shaft), two Brown Bess muskets (used bythe armies of Europe and America for nearly 200 years; 1690 to 1830), two British hangars (swords); and six flags including the Bennington flag (carried by Ethan Allen's Green Mountain Boys of Vermont during their capture of Fort Ticonderoga from the British in 1775), the Betsy Ross flag (flown by the Pennsylvania navy in 1777, but probably not carried by a land unit), the Don't Tread on Me flag (common symbol used by the colonies during the Revolutionary war), the Commander in Chief's flag (used by Washington's private guard indicating his presence), the Grand Union flag (otherwise known as the Continental Colors of 1776) and the State of Michigan flag.
Plymouth Fife and Drum Corps
Whether you are a current member, alumni or parent, it is important to understand the foundation of the corps and the principles upon which we were founded. It is these same traditions we currently try to uphold.
In 1966, Mark Petty learned rudimental drumming from Jay Tuomey. Jay played in the Ancient Mariners and inspired in Mark the idea of forming a fife and drum corps.
In June 1969, Mark Petty began as the percussion instructor for the Plymouth High School Marching Band at the request of James Griffith. Mark wanted to give the percussionists an opportunity to use their skills for more than two months a year outside of marching band.
As a result of this, in November 1971, he invited interested flute and other woodwind players from the Plymouth High School Band to join with the percussionists to form the Plymouth Fife and Drum Corps. Mark originally contemplated calling the group the Plymouth Colonials but rejected this idea due to the history of Plymouth starting around 1825. This corps was the first fife and drum corps founded in the Midwest.
Mark and his wife, Carol, wanted the corps to have original fife tunes and so traveled to Washington DC to copy manuscripts at the Library of Congress. At that time, Mark wanted the corps to play music from the War of 1812, modern Civil War and Revolutionary War music. He did not want to focus on music from one specific time period, because he wanted people to realize the historical value of each of these periods.
The uniform of the corps was sailor uniforms replica of the War of 1812 worn because of the historic significance to the Michigan area. The corps played metal fifes in 1971-1972 from the Melody Flute Company in Laurel, Maryland. They then converted to 10 hole chromatic fifes from Arizona. This model was named after John McDonagh, who designed and used them in the NewYork Regimentals Fife and Drum Band. The drummers used the high school drums the first year, which were later used for the drum band and junior corps.The New York Regimentals, US Army Old Guard and Connecticut Yanks were musical influences for the corps during 1971-1973. The corps copied and traded tunes with
The corps emphasized music first, marching second and history third. Marching and drill came from Mark's interest in drum and bugle corps. Since there were no musters in the Midwest, the corps used summer marching band and drum and bugle corps shows for performances.
The first President of the corps was Don Tripp who provided much support for the formation of the corps.
The corps formed on the following principles and stated purposes:
1. To sponsor and promote the activities of the performing unit
2. To provide musical training for youth regardless of race, creed or color
3. To preserve the art of fifing and drumming
4. To further the historical heritage of the United States of America
5. To provide entertainment for public audiences
6. To participate in community programs and activities
7. To sponsor and participate in regional and national fife and drum competitions, musters and associated activities to further cooperation and camaraderie with other fife and drum organizations
The corps increased in popularity during 1973, so they continued to book more performances. This is the year the corps took its first trip out east and performed in the Deep River Muster. The drummers outnumbered the fifes so a second "drum band" formed. They traveled with the corps as a separate performing group consisting of 15-20 marching performing instruments. They played jazz, rock and modern rudiment percussion music. The drum band was in fact a training group for the younger drummers. There was a place in the fife section for younger players playing easier parts, but there was no place on bass drum or snare drum to develop skills. Eventually younger fife players were added to the drum band and it was converted into a junior fife and drum corps. The corps ordered custom made 16x16 Slingerland TDR-100s for the intent was to look like rope drums but have the tuning ability of rod drums.
The Color Guard originally was composed of younger brothers and sisters of the musicians.
With increased numbers in 1975, it was decided to divide the corps into a junior corps and a senior corps. The senior corps, the Patriots (proposed name only, never used), consisted of 30 musicians. The junior corps, the Colonials, consisted of 25 musicians. They wore typical colonial style dress consisting of beige knickers, a red and white checkered gingham shirt with a rope tie, red kerchief, white knee socks, black shoes and black hats. The first drum truck was purchased this year, used, from Consumer Faucet in Clawson.
1976 was an important year in the history of the corps. The youngest members were in junior high and the oldest were 21 years old; the average age was approximately 17 years old. Problems of corps size and uniforms became major concerns. New uniforms would be costly, so the corps embarked on a massive fundraising drive. In the end, they came up short. The corps then received a federal grant to purchase the uniforms. The new polyester replica LifeGuard uniforms debuted at the Cherry Blossom Festival in April 1976 on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington DC. These new uniforms were blue and gold with red vests, ruffled jabots and tricorn hats. These uniforms were more traditional wear of the Revolutionary period.