Festival on the Green salutes artisans and American history

By Merja Lehtinen - ReminderNews
Colchester - posted Mon., Jul. 29, 2013
Several generations of a family participating at the muster are the norm at the Festival on the Green, not an exception. Pictured with Keegan Flyn Murray (center) are John D'Amico, Jr. (left) and John D'Amico. Sr. Photos by Merja Lehtinen.
Several generations of a family participating at the muster are the norm at the Festival on the Green, not an exception. Pictured with Keegan Flyn Murray (center) are John D'Amico, Jr. (left) and John D'Amico. Sr. Photos by Merja Lehtinen.

The Colchester Historical Society's 8th Annual Muster of Ancient Fife and Drum Corps was held during the Festival on the Green on Saturday, July 27. Re-enactors, musicians and history buffs came from throughout the region and even Europe.

Nestled behind the parade grounds filled with musicians and marchers was a bevy of artisans, who exhibited original regional works ranging from pottery to fine art and carefully-crafted woodwork as part of the festival’s craft fair. Families sat on camp chairs, picnic tables or blankets on the green to enjoy all of the day’s festivities. Food stands offered grilled pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs and ice cream.

By noon, early American music delighted the audience of all ages as many ate a "muster lunch." Old songs brought back memories of times past, from “Old Suzanna” to numerous American hymns and patriotic ballads. The opening number was the national anthem, played by the Colchester Continentals, followed by the company prayer. The only disruption was from the report of the gun salutes.

The Colchester Continentals Fife and Drum Corps, although only formed in this last century, has predecessor corps that go back to 1822, when it is believed the first drum used by the Old Militia of Westchester - led by Colchester's own Revolutionary War hero, General Champion - was created in Benjamin Brown's shed. The drum survived the centuries and was used by newer corps in the 1860s and 1870s. There is a brown steer on the ancient drum's face, reportedly a symbol of valuable supplies Colchester sent to George Washington and the Revolutionary War troops. It may also be a tribute to the Brown who created the drum in his shed.

Joining visiting corps from Milford, Marlborough, Coventry, Windsor and Groton were performers from Niederwil, Switzerland, including the entire family of Oscar Giger. Giger started a corps in Switzerland in 1998, long after he first heard American fife and drum music.

"I heard the music in the 1970s and knew in my heart that is my music," Giger said. As an artist and successful business man, he was able to start his own corps in Switzerland and brought the performers on tour to the United States this summer. They proudly displayed the American, Swiss and Niederwil flags.

Colchester's corp is dominated by friends who grew up in neighboring Marlborough, but regrouped as young adults in Colchester with Phil Liverant's help. A history buff, he saw the need to support continuity in a unique American musical venue.  Today, Wayne Seidel, Jeff Weber and Josh Dagata are among the alumni performers who gathered to create their unique form of American music on Saturday. Some have moved as far away as Rhode Island, but loyalty draws them all back to perform as the Colchester Continentals.

The artisans were equally engaging. Regional potter and artist Marianne Tapp was selling her hand-thrown pottery, which included dishes, cups, serving plates, and pitchers.

John McQueen's woodcrafts had as many as three different native and natural wood pieces hewn into boxes and decorative shapes. The colors are from the wood - never stains or paint, he said. Doug Hirte and Sherry Krosier's artistic bird houses captured the imagination of Karen Thoms, who said the creativity that went into the designs made them simply "beautiful."

Many families came with multiple generations in tow. Benjamin Staba, Bacon Academy Class of 1936, a World War II U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Pacific theater, was escorted by his son-in-law John Hoban, Class of 1963. Both plan to attend Bacon Academy’s all-class reunion this summer.

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