41st Fife and Drum Corps

Fort George National Historic Site

Kids can join the Corps!

Young fife and drum corps volunteer

The Fife and Drum Corps at Fort George National Historic Site is a fun volunteer music program for youth ages 10-14 years old. Volunteers take a step back in time, and get the opportunity to learn how to play a historically accurate instrument – the fife, the drum, or the bugle – like youth their age would have done in the regiment at Fort George during the War of 1812. Plus, they will perform at the fort AND learn about Canadian history along the way!

There is no other youth volunteer program like this in Canada. Having started in 1987, this Fife and Drum Corps has provided youth volunteers with performance and community outreach experience in the Niagara region for over 30 years.

No formal music training is required and Parks Canada provides your uniform, instruction and instrument. The Corps meets on Sundays year-round from 1:30-4:00 p.m. to practice music and marching drills. The only requirements are attendance to practice every Sunday year round, and three days a week (Wednesday through Sunday) in July and August. Volunteers can join at any time in the year.
High school students can use their experience in the Corps towards their volunteer hours to graduate. When they turn fifteen they can then also compete for a paid position in the professional Corps at Fort George.

Volunteer with the Corps

For more information about volunteering with the Corps, please contact Peter Alexander at peter.alexander@pc.gc.ca.

History – drummers at Fort George during the War of 1812

Young fife and drum corps volunteer

Military music has been used for centuries, and by the 1750's the demands of large European armies meant its field music grew. By the early 1800s boys as young as ten were recruited as drummers, and were often the sons of soldiers or orphans. Their main responsibility was to beat signals, where drum beats communicated the start or finish of various activities throughout the day, but they were also subject to the same military discipline as the soldiers.

Despite their youth, drummers had duties every day. One drummer was designated the duty drummer and was stationed in the guardhouse. The position of duty drummer was rotated between the drummers of the garrison and in times of crisis more than one drummer could be posted at the guardhouse, town of Niagara or anywhere else they were needed.

It was the duty drummers’ responsibility to be the alarm clock in the camps and garrison, waking fellow drummers at dawn to sound the Reveille, or have the bugler sound the Rouse, calling soldiers to their duties. Drummers also acted as the postmen carrying orders to duty officers or the Adjutant, the officer who managed the fort, assisting higher-ranking officers with daily administration. When fatigue parties were required – where soldiers were assigned to non-military tasks or labour - drummers stood where the work was to be done and sounded the lively Pioneers March. A duty drummer could be assigned to the town to alert the local population, or be part of a recruiting party at taverns and street corners. At two in the afternoon, the duty drummer beat the dinner call or “The Roast Beef of Old England”. The final ceremony of the working day was the Second Troop followed by an inspection. Soldiers were allowed to go into town in the evening until the duty drummers beat the tattoo or ‘taptoo’ to signal tavern keepers to turn their taps ‘off’.

There is even evidence to suggest that they accompanied their regiments onto the battlefield as well. They sounded basic battle calls such as Prepare to Fire, Cease Fire, Charge, and Retreat. They were also often used to run ammunition to soldiers and assisted the wounded. When time allowed, they played music to encourage the men and sounded Parley to indicate a cease-fire.

Visitors watch fife and drum corps march at Fort George

When can you see the Fife and Drum Corps?

You can see the Corps live in action at Fort George Wednesday through Sunday from May to August. The Corps also performs in parades, festivals and hosts an annual muster every third week in August at Fort George. A CD of the Corps performing is also available at the Fort George gift shop.

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