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Thread: Bb Marching Flute

  1. #1
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    Default Bb Marching Flute

    Just curious if any Civil War era fifers are using or have used a Bb marching flute rather than a standard Bb six-hole fife? The Bb marching flute appears to be very popular in Scotland and England, but I had never heard of it here and don't know much about it. I have a picture of a modern US fife and drum corps (Rev War era) where one of the players is holding something that looks like one, but it's hard to tell. Would this instrument be inappropriate for Civil War era music? It appears to be of a somewhat more modern design than the mid-19th century, with some models having keys and a lip plate, for example: http://www.peterworrell.co.uk/crownBb.htm

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    I've seen \ heard of Piccolo's being used with the fifer's, but not a Flute (or marching Flute). as far as ACW music is concerned.....depends on the music and the setting.....reenactment of a battle? I don't think a flute is appropriate (or maybe I'm having visions of "A Movie Too Long\A Bridge Too Far"). Period Brass Bands with a few woodwind instruments doesn't work for me personally....the tonalities are too juxtaposed. Still a period looking Boehm system flute would be fun to listen to in a camp or church setting.....maybe you're a concert flutist from Oberlin College with an Ohio Regiment, and happened upon a flute in the music room of a plantation a month ago....
    RJ Samp
    Horniste! Blas das Signal zum Angriffe!
    "But in the end, it's the history, stupid. If you can't document it, forget about it. And no amount of 'tomfoolery' can explain away conduct that in the end makes history (and living historians) look stupid and wrong. "

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    What an impressive looking woodwind. I hope the wife doesn't see it or I'll be adding to her collection of flutes/fifes/ pennywhistles/recoreders, etc...! My sons inherited her music gene, but play trombone and tuba ("flutes are for chicks, Dad...). Typical American Teens.
    Peter Kappas, reenactor
    63rd PVI Co. C
    Freedom, PA

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete K View Post
    What an impressive looking woodwind. I hope the wife doesn't see it or I'll be adding to her collection of flutes/fifes/ pennywhistles/recoreders, etc...! My sons inherited her music gene, but play trombone and tuba ("flutes are for chicks, Dad...). Typical American Teens.

    Well, that "flutes are for chicks" thing is probably why drummers outnumber fifers in this hobby about 10 to 1, but I know what you mean. My boys started out on the trombone and baritone horn.

    I agree with RJ that a Boehm system flute would not be appropriate for a fife and drum corps, but the Bb marching flute looked like a different animal. It has six holes like the Bb fife and not all have a lip plate. Some have only one key. I think the ones in that link I included above are the high end models.

    I've since found a website that provides a little more background on the instrument:

    "[The military fife and drum] tradition has continued through to the present day. In Northern Ireland we have a fast number of flute bands, although not many still continue to play the fife. The B Flat Flute ... is an improved form of fife. They began to appear in the late 19th to early 20th century. These new flutes were probably developed for military use and originally would have had only one key, the D sharp key. The fife had a cylindrical bore throughout and was for the most part a single piece. The new small flute had a conical bore and was made in 3 or sometimes 2 pieces with the head being of cylindrical bore. Eventually more keys were added thus allowing the musician to obtain a greater variety of notes."

    From the YouTube videos I found, they sound a lot more like a fife than a flute, for example:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiUUm4-zTe0 I don't think you'd want to tell the guys in this band that "flutes are for chicks."

    See also, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkJUO8odq2I and

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLAUT...3F7D2A1EAFCBF1

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkapH...eature=related (for some reason, this one makes me think of Monty Python)

    So, it looks like they're not really Civil War era instruments, but being an improved form of the fife, they apparently have a strong tradition in the countries of the United Kingdom for military marching bands. I was mainly wondering if being a Bb instument, are they compatible with the standard 6 hole Bb fife...I guess if people are playing modern piccolos in a Civil War era fife and drum corps, it wouldn't be too out of place.
    Last edited by Quickstep; 01-18-2012 at 10:42 PM.

  5. #5
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    By the way, the second band in this video does a rousing rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiUUm4-zTe0 starts at 2:37

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    Claude/RJ,

    We had a period piccolo player in our brass band for many years(unfortunately he sucumbed to cancer a few years ago). I'll have to check on the original scores that we have, but I'm almost sure that some of the them had a written part for the picollo. In most cases the piccolo part mirrored or played harmony with the high Eb parts and sounded great. I never got to examine Steve's picollo up close but I know it was of wood construction with a non-modern key configuration.

    Let me do a little checkinig and get back to you.
    Last edited by hconverse; 01-19-2012 at 02:40 PM. Reason: grammar
    Scott Sonntag
    Hardhead Mess
    Regimental Volunteer Band of Wisconsin

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    We had a piccolo player down here as well, she was excellent.
    RJ Samp
    Horniste! Blas das Signal zum Angriffe!
    "But in the end, it's the history, stupid. If you can't document it, forget about it. And no amount of 'tomfoolery' can explain away conduct that in the end makes history (and living historians) look stupid and wrong. "

  8. #8
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    I showed the instument to the wife, it will be about $600.00 American Dollars. Guess I have a new toy to start saving toward! The sound is different from her flute but she says by looking at it she has the necessary skills to work it. According to her (over forty years playing experience) any well skilled flautist could handle the lessons to "make it sound pretty" ( her terms). And the boys still agree James Galway rocks the flute, but they love brass. We've exposed them to great male flute players and the wife will teach them fife, should they want to join daddy's game. I can not afford two more rifles and full uniforms!
    Peter Kappas, reenactor
    63rd PVI Co. C
    Freedom, PA

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete K View Post
    I showed the instument to the wife, it will be about $600.00 American Dollars. Guess I have a new toy to start saving toward! The sound is different from her flute but she says by looking at it she has the necessary skills to work it. According to her (over forty years playing experience) any well skilled flautist could handle the lessons to "make it sound pretty" ( her terms). And the boys still agree James Galway rocks the flute, but they love brass. We've exposed them to great male flute players and the wife will teach them fife, should they want to join daddy's game. I can not afford two more rifles and full uniforms!
    Hey Pete, I found some models for much less than $600. They have between 1 and 5 keys and no lip plate, and are probably closer to the original instrument than the high end models from Peter Worrell. Check these out:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Miller-Brown...-/250690365298

    http://www.ernemusicsupplies.com/flu...ory-40_41.html

    Thinking about getting one of these for myself. It may be too late for you, though.

    (Galway's OK, but Ian Anderson really rocks on the flute.)
    Last edited by Quickstep; 01-23-2012 at 08:02 PM.

  10. #10
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    Here's some more info guys: About piccolos and other woodwinds.

    Subject: Re: Question about picollo music that Steve used

    Depending on the band and their books, some of the tunes have pic parts as part of the arrangement (many also have clarinet parts as well). For example, the Port Royal books have those woodwind parts, but the 26 NC books do not. Whatever tunes didn't have parts, Steve would copy/transpose the Eb cornet part for pic. Usually the woodwind part double the cornets; pic and Eb clarinet double the Eb cornet part and Bb clarinet doubles the Eb and/or Bb cornet part.

    I belive his instrument was of the period. I think it was a 6 key simple system pic. which was typical for the time. He also had an Eb flute (later than CW period) that he would sometimes play in rehearsal just for fun.


    So it it very possible that there would be woodwind accompaniment in a brass band.
    Scott Sonntag
    Hardhead Mess
    Regimental Volunteer Band of Wisconsin

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