16 fife and drum corps converge on Monroe for national muster

Event is part of commemoration of War of 1812 bicentennial

Bob DuFour leads the Kentish Guards of East Greenwich, R.I., at the sixth annual National Fife and Drum Muster. The first Michigan Colonial Fife and Drum Corps in Monroe was host for Saturday’s event. THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT

MONROE — The sounds of fifes, drums, and the occasional musket shot filled the streets of downtown Monroe on Saturday.

As part of the area’s ongoing commemoration of the War of 1812’s bicentennial, 16 fife and drum corps from nine states participated in Loranger Square in the sixth annual National Fife and Drum Muster.

View photos from the National Fife and Drum Muster

The parade and concert, which drew several hundred people over the course of the day, marked the first time the muster has been held west of the Appalachian Mountains, said Scott Lonsdale, the event’s director and a member of the 1st Michigan Colonial Fife and Drum Corps.

The muster began with a parade at 11 a.m. that ran about a half mile from the intersection of 7th and Monroe streets to Loranger Square. Each group then performed individually in the square, followed by a grand finale in which all of the roughly 500 participants massed to play together.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Lydia Gould, 41, of Monroe, who came to watch the parade with her three children.

“They started right in front of our house.”

The groups played a variety of songs from American military history, including familiar tunes such as “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Yankee Doodle,” with the latter drawing some extra cheers from the crowd.

Gillian Draft, 9, and Jeanne Micka dress in period costume for the fife and drum muster, which began Saturday with a parade. THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT

Monroe resident Judy Berns, 41, said she was amazed at the age range among the crowd and the participants.

Mark Logsdon, director of the 1st Michigan Colonial Fife and Drum Corps, said, “There are people as young as 9 through their 60s and 70s.”

The Middlesex County 4-H Fife and Drum Corps, a junior level group, brought eight children from Middlesex, Mass., to perform.

“This is the farthest we’ve come in a long time,” said Kate Lavani, the group’s director. “The kids are all big history buffs.”

Nick Johnson, 14, who plays in the corps, explained fife and drum corps’ historical purpose:

“They told [soldiers] when to load, fire, charge, and wake up,” he said.

Not all of the corps at the event represented the American side in the War of 1812; some were styled after British units from that conflict or the Revolutionary War that preceded it.

The 42nd Royal Highlanders from Lafayette, Ind., marched with kilts, bagpipes, and a Union Jack in addition to the usual fifes and drums.

The group represents a Scottish regiment of the same name that fought in the Revolutionary War circa 1777, said Preston Smith, the group’s drum major.

The event also featured the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, which plays full time at shows and parades around the country, said Staff Sgt. John Parks, a group member from Williamsburg, Va.

“We’re gearing up to play at the presidential inauguration next year,” he said.

A few of the groups played at the concert in the square event on Friday night, which Mr. Lonsdale estimated drew up to 1,500 people.

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