Performing at the highest possible level while maintaining roots as a progressive, yet traditional ancient fife and drum corps, the CONNECTICUT PATRIOTS SENIOR ANCIENT FIFE AND DRUM CORPS strives to maintain a goal of musical excellence. The musical repertoire consists of selections from pre-Revolutionary to the contemporary, featuring intricate arrangements and several “theme” pieces such as “Southern Comfort”, “Irish”, and “Seaweed”. All are played with precision, style and pride. The Patriots are well known and regarded throughout the United States and Europe for their musical presentations and are goodwill ambassadors from the Town of Plainville, Connecticut, USA.
Since its inception in 1978, the corps has never placed lower than second place in any drum corps competition. They are currently members of the Connecticut Fifers and Drummers Association and the Hudson Valley Drum Corps Association and for years, were members of the Mass. Fife Drum & Bugle Assn. In addition to several corps championships in each of these associations, they have received numerous special corps and section awards, such as Corps of the Year. Individuals, duets and quartets in majoring, color guard, fife and drum have received awards and championships too numerous to list. We are the current Hudson Valley and Connecticut State champions. One indicator of their long running success is that they have been awarded the coveted St. Francis trophy at the CT State Meet for highest combined playing and appearance scores for the day eleven times since 1986. They’ve won the Kermit Parker award at the Northeastern for highest scores of the day 6 times since the award’s inception in 1993.
The corps also maintains membership in the Company of Fifers and Drummers, an international, non-competitive association of ancient fife and drum corps. This organization houses a fife and drum museum and archives in Essex, CT. Uniforms, fifes, drums, music and other memorabilia have been catalogued and much is on display in an attempt to preserve the history and heritage in a concrete manner, as the various member corps do in their performances. In this capacity, the Patriots have participated in numerous “musters” from Montpelier, VT to Albany, NY to the famous Deep River and Westbrook, CT musters.
The Patriots also participate in many local parades during the year, including the annual Plainville Memorial Day parade, Daffodil Festival (Meriden), the Bristol Mum and Southington Apple Festival parades. A few of their other performances have included: Gaspee Days (Warwick R.I.), Fourth of July (Madison, CT, Pittsfield MA, Rutland MA), Alumni Parade (Brattleboro, VT) ,Fall River (MA) Celebrates America, V.J. Day Parade (Moosup, CT), Cranberry Festival (Harwich, MA), Saint Patrick’s Day (New Haven and Meriden CT), Columbus Day (New Haven, Hartford and New Britain CT), Old Home Day (Orleans, MA) to name a few.
The corps is particularly proud of its many concerts, including the International Convention of the Percussive Arts Society, held at the University of Michigan and the Harwich (Cape Cod) Cranberry Festival. In 1989 and 1999, we made trips to Switzerland to visit our friends of the now disbanded Swiss Regimental Fife and Drum Corps. The corps played concerts together during those trips and several times in the United States as well. As an outgrowth of the friendships formed between corps members, the Patriots played host to 60 members of the Swiss Drumming Association at a highly successful concert in Bristol, CT on July 17, 1997 with them and Americlique, an American Swiss-style piccolo and drum group from New Britain.
The Swiss Regimentals were an interesting organization themselves, in that American style fifing and drumming is not common in Switzerland. Rather, members were drawn from many other piccolo and drum groups, called cliques, which represented the traditional Swiss music dating back at least as far as the 1500’s. These individuals all had their own jobs and family lives, belong to a clique as a hobby, but additionally had been attracted to the American style of fife and drum. The Regimentals played much of the music and had uniforms in the style of the old Conn. Yanks corps of Bristol.
Efforts to maintain close contact with excellence in Swiss American style fifing and drumming continue. In July, 2004, the Conn. Patriots hosted a concert at the Riverfront Plaza Concert area in Hartford, CT. Participating in the concert with the Patriots, were the Conn. Valley Field Music, and the 21st Regiment Gray Coats of Basel, Switzerland. Three days previous, the corps had also hosted the newly formed Rhine River Rebels at a party at the home of the corps director. While many friendships have been formed individually and between corps, the Patriots have developed a special relationship with the Rhine River Rebels and hope to expand the ties between the two corps.
Our most memorable concerts, to date, occurred during our most recent trip to Switzerland in June 2006. On Sunday, June 25, we were one of three American corps to participate in the first ever American style fife and drum muster in Basel. On Monday the 26th, we marched through Bern and played a concert in the city square. Tuesday the 27th found us in Visp and on Wednesday evening we played in the little village of Arosa, high in the Alps. Thursday evening we played at the Munot in Shaffhausen. Friday through Sunday we had the pleasure of watching some of the hundredth anniversary of the Eidgenossisches Tambouren- und Pfeiferfest (Swiss Competition of Drummers and Fifers), then played a series of concerts in the city, marching between stages at Barfusserplatz, Kaserne and on a barge at the shore of the Rhine. On Sunday afternoon, we marched in the final parade of the festival with some 120 different units.
The Patriots typically field between twenty and thirty fifers, drummers and color guard members. The corps uses hand-crafted GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC drums made by the renowned Philadelphia artisan, William Reamer and the McDonagh model Seaman fife, a two piece, six hole grenadilla wood fife formerly manufactured by the Larry Trout company of New Mexico.
Among ancients, corps may strive for strict authenticity of music and/or uniforms of a particular historic period and are truly marching museums. The majority of ancient corps, though, compromise these to reflect the twentieth century heritage of the fife and drum corps. The Patriots, with gray tricorn hats and black colonial style vests, suggest a colonial theme, but with a modern edge. Their pants, originally 1970’s bell bottom polyester, have changed over time to fit a more contemporary style. Their emphasis, though, is on the sound they strive to create - the highest possible level of achievement in contemporary interpretation of ancient style fifing and drumming.
While originally most fife and drum corps performed in musical competitions, today’s corps draw more on the parade and muster tradition. Many of today’s ancient fife and drum corps sprang out of the United States Bicentennial in 1976 and stress the pure pleasure of playing and the camaraderie associated with it. A dozen or so times a year, gatherings take place at musters of only a few to up to the 50 or 60 corps present at the annual Deep River Connecticut annual muster.
The Connecticut Patriots enjoy participating in parades and musters and are also one of the few ancient corps which continues to compete musically. From the dozen or so contests of years gone by, the Patriots now have less than half that opportunity to compete. They use these few contests as incentive to work toward the highest standards of music possible. While parade music consists of arrangements of traditional and historical nature, the competition pieces are combinations of traditional, Irish, Scotch and original composition which emphasize musical growth and continual improvement within the corps.
The Patriots ‘sound’ has changed over the years, reflecting changes in fife arrangements, but more dramatically so in their drum arrangements. One of their most loved pieces and their first competitive piece was Edinburgh Castle, written in 1976 for the Conn. Yanks. The current drumming arrangement was written by Jim Clark, one of their first drum instructors. Those who saw and heard them in the late 80’s, heard the distinctive style of Ed Shank who had a background combining the Ancient tradition with contemporary drum and bugle corps and other modern percussive styles. Their most recent drum arranger is Paul Cormier. He is a legend in ancient drumming circles, and represents the beauty and style of the best of the heritage of ancient competitive drumming. Brendan Mason, taught by Paul for years, took over as drum instructor in the summer of 2006 and listeners will undoubtedly begin to hear some changes in style as Brendan begins to write for new pieces.
Within the sphere of fifing, our first instructor Mal Karwoski had a distinctive style in his arrangements. Following him as arranger (Gail Degree instructed for several years but did not arrange) Jim Shea has attempted with each piece to present a learning experience and challenge to members of the fife line. Whether the challenge is chromatics, intonation, tonguing technique, speed, endurance or ornamentation, the line continually worked toward a particular musical goal. As the fife line changed personnel over the years, pieces would be brought back for the line to practice, review and relearn technique. Other fife instructors have been Phyllis Thompson and Pete Degree. Tishka Musco has just recently taken over the duties as fife instructor.
In the ranks of fifers and drummers are at least 9 past or present individual champions. This does not include many championship duets and quartets.
Although the Connecticut Patriots were formed in 1978, an interesting link exists between them and a group formed in 1879 in that same town of Plainville. Originally simply a small town drum corps, the Plainville Fife and Drum Corps grew and thrived. At this time, small musical units existed in almost every town and village in Connecticut. Typically, their members included the last of the Civil War fifers and drummers and struggled to hang on through the war years and depression. As other groups faded into history, the Plainville corps thrived and became a fixture in the Connecticut Fifers and Drummers Association. They won a championship in 1925 and continued as a well known participant into the 1960’s.
In 1961, Charlie Poole Sr., a member of the Plainville corps, left to form the Connecticut Yanks as an activity of the Bristol Boys Club. Although a senior corps, most members were recruited from the younger members of the club. This corps quickly gained prominence in competition and as it evolved into a true senior corps of women and men, started on its way to a record 7 consecutive Northeastern States championships. In 1976, the corps fell victim to it’s own success. Charlie Poole disbanded the corps at what most felt to be its pinnacle of success. Members of the corps deciding to continue their hobby gravitated either to the Connecticut Blues of Durham, CT or the Yalesville Seniors, of Yalesville, CT (itself a reincarnation of an old village corps).
In 1978, on the Friday night of the Deep River Muster weekend, the Yalesville Seniors disbanded. Corps management allowed members to keep their own uniforms and equipment. Meeting at a local pub called Mal’s Inn,later that evening to console their loss, a group of former Yanks and a few like minded Yalesville members elected tri-directors Lynette Cormier, Marty Groody and Peter Degree. pledging to continue the fife and drum tradition. With a treasury of $0 and literally the uniforms on their backs, the corps marched at Deep River the next day to announce their determination to continue. That same weekend, Paul Mayotte, a friend of Paul Cormier and father of children participating in a junior fife and drum corps, was invited to help with the corps management. He soon secured a rehearsal site at the Our Lady of Mercy school in Plainville and by the end of the season, the corps adopted the name “Connecticut Patriots”. Paul served as corps director and inspiration until his retirement in 1997, and still continues his interest and involvement with the corps. The first instructors of the corps were Rit Golin and Mal Karwoski, both originally from the Conn. Yanks and then Yalesville Seniors. When Rit moved south in the late winter of the corps’ first year, Jim Clark was hired to instruct the drums and Pete Degree began a five or six year stint on bass drum due the loss of Rit who’d planned on playing the bass to get the fledgling corps off the ground.
Perpetual Trophies as of 2006
Hudson Valley Danbury Hatter’s Trophy (High overall playing and appearance at the Hudson Valley Championship)
No plate for prior to 1993…trophy did exist
CP’s ’93,(no engraving for 94),95,96,98,99,00,01,02,03,04,05,06
Robert Strauss Corps of the Year Trophy
St. Francis Trophy (High overall playing and appearance at the CF&DA Championship)
Kermit Parker Trophy Northeastern Assoc.
Of 12 years awarded (as of 05)
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