Nathan Hale Homestead hosts Ancient Fife and Drum Muster

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Coventry - posted Tue., Jul. 30, 2013
Ivy Nguyen, drum major for the Marquis of Granby Jr. Ancient Fyfe and Drum Corps, performs during the closing circle. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Ivy Nguyen, drum major for the Marquis of Granby Jr. Ancient Fyfe and Drum Corps, performs during the closing circle. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Terrie Lamb stood in the shade with her black Lab, Betsy Ross, watching her kids perform in the 26th Annual Ancient Fife and Drum Muster, held at the Nathan Hale Homestead the afternoon of July 28. A total of 12 groups participated this year, including a group from Switzerland, The Argovia Rebels Fife and Drum Corps. Lamb is the director of the Nutmeg Volunteers, a Jr. Ancient Fife and Drum group out of Groton. As her kids returned to rest on their blanket in the shade, Lamb was friendly, yet firm with them. “We’re going to have a talk later about looking around,” she said to one young man.

The Nutmeg Volunteers accepts children between the ages of 10 and 17, from the towns of Groton, Westbrook, Norwich, Waterford, Gales Ferry, North Stonington and other surrounding towns. The group was one of four junior groups performing at this year’s muster. The Nutmeg Volunteers have existed since 1948. Lamb herself joined at the age of 10, and stayed until she turned 16. 

“Then I got a job, went to college, all that stuff,” she said. As an adult, Lamb became a member of the Westbrook Drum Corps, in addition to directing the junior group. She said that, on average, kids stay with the group for five to six years. It takes approximately six months to become proficient enough to perform on the fife, six months to a year to learn the bass drum, and more than a year to learn the snare.

Practices are weekly, year-round, for two hours, with few exceptions. “I rarely every cancel a practice,” said Lamb. Kids stay very busy over the summer season, performing most weekends and logging approximately 50 gigs annually. The Volunteers had performed the previous day at a muster in Colchester, and were headed to Rockland, Maine, for the first weekend of August.

Connecticut has an extensive history of fife and drum groups, according to Lamb. The Deep River Ancient Muster, held the third Saturday in July, “is the largest muster in the world,” said Lamb. This year, the Deep River event drew 60 different groups. The Westbrook Ancient Muster, held at the end of August, is the second largest in the world, according to Lamb.

The Nathan Hale Muster is kept intentionally small, according to Lamb, generally drawing between 12 and 13 groups. For 25 years, the muster has been preceded by a colonial encampment and battle on the grounds of the Nathan Hale Homestead. That didn’t happen this year due to scheduling conflicts, according to Bev York, site administrator for the Homestead. Organizers are hoping to put together a battle for the end of August. As for the encampment, “We certainly plan to have that back for next year,” said York.

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