America’s oldest drum corps formed in 1821 in Moodus, CT, when a young man named Hezekiah Percival taught several men in his community the drum lessons he himself had recently learned. Despite an ebb in interest in martial music in antebellum America, the Corps’ popularity rose and they performed at town festivals and celebrations throughout the region; when the Civil War broke out, the group’s notoriety further increased. They traveled and performed up and down the east coast, new fife and drum corps springing up in their wake.
The Corps instruments are nearly as legendary as the group itself: many of the original Eli Brown drums, which date back to the early 1800s, are still in use; drums are handed down to new generations of drummers, and the Corps proudly drums in the “old-style” that Percival imparted to the first members of the group. And while Ferrary fifes are common in the Corps’ ranks, the Peeler fife, created by Moodus fife player Ron Peeler in 2000, has been also adopted by these discriminating and authenticity-minded performers.
Over the past 19 decades, the Corps has played for several U.S. presidents and can be seen in countless town marches every year.
(by Stephen Haag)