Way Back When

This summer, the Museum Commons on the historic Town Green will play host to various musical groups, including a free production of “Barnum the Musical” on June 27, 28 and 29, a free outdoor performance by the CT Symphonic Winds orchestra on July 14, and Jazz Fridays sponsored by Bank of America throughout August. These performances continue a long tradition of celebrating music in Fairfield and the surrounding area.

One of the earliest ways of making music in America was the fife and drum. The photo shows the Mill Plain Drum Corp. Fairfield has had a drum corps since the early 1900s. Why the fife and drum? Both instruments were relatively easy to create out of raw materials, making them popular with the very first settlers to come to America. In addition, the fife was chosen to be the drum’s partner because it was loud enough to be heard over the rat-a-tat of the other music, and even loud enough to be heard outside. Early fife and drum corps were created as a way for the commoners in the New World to perform and celebrate, as well as connect with each other. Folk music, for its simple, learn-by-ear tunes, was popular with the players of these instruments.

Soon, the fifes and drums were put to use during the Revolutionary War. Fife players and drummers were an integral part of the military company. Back then, every able-bodied white male was required by law to be part of a militia. These colonial militias were based on the more formal, organized British armies back in England. Drummers were used to keep men in formation in both the Old and New Worlds. Certain beats or tones would be used to signal different things to the troops.

Today, music is an important part of Fairfield’s culture. As musicians continue to perform and showcase their music in town, let’s remember those who came before us, to the tune of a fife and drum. For more information about summer events and musical performances at the Fairfield Museum visit Fairfieldhistory.org/programs-events/.

The Fairfield Museum & History Center and Museum Shop, located at 370 Beach Road, is open seven days a week, 10am-4pm. Members of the Museum and children under 5 are admitted free. For more information, call 203-259-1598 or visit Fairfieldhistory.org.