Military Music
With thanks to our hosts:Funded by:
Organised by:
Whether for intimidation, to boost morale or to
Let’s face the Music...
Bright, colourful and eye catching many of us have seen military bands marching through the
Ceremonial and Parade Music
The Ceremony of the Keys
Origins of this Ceremony date back to the 14th century. The 700 year ...
Marching Music
© Courtesy of Henry Phythian-Adams
One of the most dramatic Fusilier songs was written and composed by Wal ...
Soldier’s Songs
Bawdy, rude and not to be published…or a realistic look at
life of an everyday soldier?
Soldiers Songs wer...
Rock, pop and jazz. Wind, strings and brass. Big band music…
Playing both at home and abroad, military
Making Music…and other jobs
The Drummer Boy
Robert Mason of 23rd Welsh Fusiliers
Robert Mason was born into the Fusiliers ...
The Military Band
Military Band Formation
Drum Major
Trombone Trombone Trombone Trombone
Tuba Euphonium Euphonium Tuba
See Drummers with
Fifers come,
And the Beater with the
massive Drum,
The Grand Drum Major
first doth stalk,
With Gold Knob...
The Corps of Drums
The Drummer’s Uniform
Traditionally drummer’s have worn a very distinctive
uniform so as to stand out o...
Modern Military Music
Major Bruce Miller – Chief Instructor at Kneller Hall
Major Miller is the Chief
Instructor at the Co...
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Military Music


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Military Music is a community curated exhibition produced by the volunteers of The Fusilier Museum London. Volunteer researchers help the museum explore subjects which have not previously received much attention. The projects culminate in an exhibition, displayed in a local library or community venue, and a celebration event which brings together interested members of the public and the Regiment.This is the latest exhibition...

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Military Music

  1. 1. Military Music With thanks to our hosts:Funded by: Organised by: Whether for intimidation, to boost morale or to celebrate the traditions of its long and varied history, music provides a unique viewpoint of the history of the Armed Forces. The volunteers of The Fusilier Museum London have been looking at the evolution of military music, its traditions and what it means in the context of today’s army. They have uncovered some fascinating Fusiliers stories along the way. Please have a look around, we hope you enjoy the exhibition With thanks to... David Jones Bill Fahey Stewart Hardman Alastair Lamb-Crawley Jim Morrison Yulia Naumova Bruce Gibson (work experience) If you would like to be involved in the next community curated exhibition organised by The Fusilier Museum London please contact: Stephanie Killingbeck, Museum Officer 0203 166 6912 Associated Event Talk – The Importance of Military Music in the Modern Army Date – Monday 16th September 2013 Arrival 6.30-7.00pm, talk starts at 7.00pm At The Fusilier Museum London, Tower of London, EC3N 4AB. Major Bruce Miller from the Military School of Music will be discussing the role, training and importance of military music in the modern armed forces. FREE but booking essential Book on 02031666912 or Find out more about the Fusiliers on our website. Or use your smart phone to scan here.
  2. 2. Let’s face the Music... Bright, colourful and eye catching many of us have seen military bands marching through the streets marking ceremonial occasions. We may even have been there, cheering by the roadside. The beat of the drums mirroring the step of many well trained feet, the uniforms vibrant and the music energising…but what is the story behind this music and these traditions? For the early soldier life was signalled by the beating of the drum and the sounding of the trumpet and the bugle. But it was the Romans who took military music to a new level. They used trumpets, horns and drums not only for intimidation but to send signals. Complex battlefield manoeuvres would be signalled to the troops using trumpets known as buccina. Over the centuries there have been many foreign influences on British military music. The Crusaders returned from the Holy Land with side drums and kettledrums, taken from the Saracens. Whilst the Ottoman Turks, the first modern European country to have military bands, were considered so good that their musicians were to be found throughout the European bands of the eighteenth century. The first official British “military band” was formed under the reign of King Charles II in the 17th century (1660-1685). Whether in camp or on the battlefield, instruments shaped daily life. Though we cannot pinpoint the exact date music was introduced to the battlefield its origins of intimidation and morale boosting reach far back into the depths of history. Early man knew the power of noise to strike fear into the enemy and as a rallying cry for their own warriors. Music allowed them to enter “into an altered state of consciousness…where they would not feel fear and pain, and would be religiously dedicated to group interests”. We first find ‘instruments’ mentioned around 30,000 years BC. The log or slit drum, is perhaps the oldest known drum. Its origin a hollow log. There are records of percussion instruments in China and India around 3,000BC. From the Americas, evidence exists of drums being used by the Mayan’s and other early civilisations. The ancient Egyptians were the first to use military drums in an organised way. Did You Know? Even the great William Shakespeare gave a nod to military music. In perhaps his most famous play Macbeth, the hero Macduff proclaims: “Make all our trumpets speak; give them all breath, those clamorous harbingers of blood and death.” The Battle of Bunker Hill, 1775
  3. 3. Ceremonial and Parade Music The Ceremony of the Keys Origins of this Ceremony date back to the 14th century. The 700 year old tradition is still carried out every night when the Tower of London is locked and secured at 10.00pm. Although there is no longer a monarch in residence at the Tower there are many other valuables – including the crown jewels. The duty regiment (which has included the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers) escorts the Chief Yeoman Warder and the Queen’s key throughout the ceremony before the Duty Drummer sounds the Last Post at the end of the ceremony. Beating Retreat Origins of this Ceremony, originally known as Watch Setting, signalled a cease fire in the fighting when men could return to the barracks and rest before battle began again the following day. A drum call and later bugles, ordered troops to return to barracks at sunset. Today this Ceremony is re-enacted on Horse Guards Parade by the massed bands (Drummers from the Royal Fusiliers have taken part in this ceremony) and has evolved into a colourful spectacle of Military Music and precision drill. Trooping the Colour This ceremony dates back to the early 18th century, when Regimental Colours were trooped in front of the ranks, so that the soldiers could recognise their Regimental Flag in battle. After marching across the parade ground a lone drummer breaks away from the band to play the Drummers Call. This signals the moment when the colour is to be trooped through the ranks. Since 1748 the ceremony has also marked the Sovereign’s official birthday. © courtesy of Harald Joergens, 16.6.2012 Today the musical instructions, once signalled by the Corps of Drums to the everyday soldier, are mainly heard at ceremonial occasions. Occasions such as Beating Retreat and Trooping the Colour. As the use of ceremony grew, so did the number of instruments being used. Across the years new instruments joined the drums and fifes, until around the 17th century the military band as we know it today was born. During these ceremonial occasions the Corps of Drums and Military bands often come together to lend size and spectacle to the events. Top: On parade, the 1st battalion Royal Fusiliers band taking salute at the Presentation of New Colours, 1956 Left: The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers marching through the Tower of London during the Freedom of the City parade, 2008 Above: Musketry Instructor and Band Boy, 1st battalion, Albany Barracks, Isle of Wight 1905 Did You Know? The term ‘Drummed Out’ is derived from a ceremony still in use until the mid 1800’s. When a disgraced soldier was discharged from his regiment he would have his cap and collar badges removed, the shoulder straps and buttons cut off his tunic and he would be marched towards the gates. As he marched the ‘Rogues March’ was played by the fifes and drums. When he reached the gates and was thrown out, the smallest Drummer Boy administered a kick to his behind as the gates closed behind him!
  4. 4. Marching Music © Courtesy of Henry Phythian-Adams One of the most dramatic Fusilier songs was written and composed by Wal Pink and George Le Brunn for the Music Hall singer Charles Godfrey. During his Inkerman scene staged in 1892, Godfrey appeared as an old Chelsea pensioner, sitting in a chair and singing a story of the Battle of Inkerman to his three grandchildren. The old warrior sings a ballad and tells of how the Russians dammed a stream near the British camp. How they planned to force the troops to surrender out of thirst but how after three days, 'my dearest brother Fred' volunteered to breach the dam. This he does but at the cost of his own life, adding his name 'to the scroll of British glory'. The martial chorus ran: Oh! Fighting with the Seventh Royal Fusiliers Famous Fusiliers. Gallant Fusiliers. Through deadly Russian shot and Cossack spears We carv'd our way to glory! Oh Glory! At length the veteran is overcome by his feelings and bursts into tears. Quickly recovering and ashamed at having broken down, he gives the word of command, the children fall into the line and march out. The song was such a great success that General Sir Ian Hamilton recalled in 1908 that the song 'produced such an overwhelming rush of recruits that the authorities could easily, had they chosen to, have raised several additional battalions’. The 7th Royal Fusiliers – A Story of Inkerman By the end of the 19th century musicians were no longer accompanying soldiers into battle. Instead troops kept their spirits up by singing on the march. Songs were usually music hall favourites or hymns. On a march up to the Front Line singing or even whistling a tune was a way of calming the nerves and of bonding the men for what lay ahead. Marching songs were often accompanied by a flute or harmonica as well as by the beat of the men’s boots on the ground. Battalions often personalised songs, putting their own words to the tunes: Above: Sheet music to the Seventh Royal Fusiliers (a story of Inkerman) Did You Know? After landing at Le Havre, France in WW1, a Fusilier Regiment responded to the French welcome by trying to whistle the ‘Marseillaise’, but soon broke into the popular Music Hall song ‘ Hold Your Hand Out You Naughty Boy’. Sung with great gusto, it was received with bared heads by the French troops, who thought it must be the British National Anthem Words by an unknown author of the 22nd (Kensington) battalion Royal Fusiliers Keep your Head down, you Fusilier, Keep your Head down, you Fusilier, There’s a Blooming Great Hun, With a Blooming Great Gun, Who’ll Shoot you, Who’ll Shoot you, There’s a Sniper up a Tree, He’s waiting for you and me, If you really want to see ole’ Blighty once more Keep your Head down you Fusilier.
  5. 5. Soldier’s Songs Bawdy, rude and not to be published…or a realistic look at life of an everyday soldier? Soldiers Songs were written by the soldier, for the soldier and reflected the everyday experiences of the men. Their words were often set to the popular tunes of the day. They were not intended for publication. These were the songs of the lower ranks with lyrics that grew out of the situations they endured. They came from men who were facing death on a daily basis. Men writing about their hopes and their fears. These songs were songs of the bar and of the barrack room, not the music of the officially provided entertainment. Songs of support for comrades at arms and a celebration of friendship. An outlet for complaints and a chance to poke fun at the bravery of dying exalted in many other art forms. © Courtesy of Private Frank Gee and the Fusiloils Pte. Frank Gee, a variety artist and entertainer, kept his Battalion, the 22nd (Kensington) Royal Fusiliers, amused during their training at Horsham in Sussex. He organised concert parties with his musicians who were later known as the Fusiloils. He became a contributor and later editor of the battalions fortnightly newspaper – The Gazette. Deciding that the Battalion needed their own Marching song, Gee put his own words to the tune, The Battle Hymn of the Republic. This song continued to be sung at reunion dinners right up until the final battalion reunion in 1977. After he was demobilised Frank Gee returned to his professional career and to the stage. Sadly this larger than life character was to die in destitution, refusing any help from the Battalion’s Old Comrades Association. The Battle Hymn of the Republic (John Brown’s Body) Words by Pte. Frank Gee 22nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers - The Kensington Battalion We are the Kensington Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, We said goodbye to all the Girls and kissed away their tears, We get a bob a day and if we saves it up for years, We’ll all be Millionaires – So to hell with the Kaiser and his Bosches, We’ll make set for Belgian losses, And to him where to stick his Iron Crosses, When we get to Berlin. Diary of Bandsmen W. Yeoman of the 3rd Royal Fusiliers. Marching through Kandahar, India, 1880 © courtesy of Geoff Inglis © courtesy of Geoff Inglis
  6. 6. Entertainment Rock, pop and jazz. Wind, strings and brass. Big band music… Playing both at home and abroad, military musicians perform music from a wide variety of styles and genres, entertaining the troops and performing at numerous events. You might find a small ensemble playing for State Visits, Regimental Balls or Public Concerts or the full band performing at large scale events such as The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Military bands have performed alongside celebrities such as Robbie Williams and Jools Holland, on concert tours and even at last years 2012 Olympic Games. The main job of the military musician is to support the army and to promote the UK. The first class music they play helps to raise the profile of the army and its associated charities throughout the world. Educated at Eton and Oxford, Christopher Stone initially joined the Public Schools Battalion as a Private but soon applied for a commission with the 22nd (Kensington) Battalion Royal Fusiliers. In 1915 he became a 2nd Lieutenant and stayed with the battalion throughout WW1. An author before and after the War, in 1927 Stone began hosting his own radio programme for the BBC. He played gramophone records over the air, a completely new concept at the time. His programme was hugely popular with the public and Christopher Stone became known as the UK’s first disc jockey. Later Radio Luxemburg paid Stone an astonishing fee of £5000 a year to play records on the air. He was described by Roy Plumley, host of Desert Island Discs, as ‘The First Gentleman of the Gramophone’.© Courtesy of Geoff Inglis Major Christopher Stone D.S.O. M.C. (1882 – 1965). Soldier, Author and Radio Broadcaster Did You Know? It is thought that the expression ‘Tattoo’ is derived from the Dutch, Doe Den Tap Toe meaning ‘Turn Off The Taps’. When Soldiers were billeted in towns and villages, the local innkeepers had to turn off the beer taps at 10.00pm. The sound of the Drummer walking through the streets beating the call, notified the men to return to their billets. Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Drum Platoon with the Olympic Torch Bearer, 2012
  7. 7. Making Music…and other jobs The Drummer Boy Robert Mason of 23rd Welsh Fusiliers Robert Mason was born into the Fusiliers and at just 9 years old he joined the regiment as a drummer boy. In 1777 he was transferred to the 23rd Light Company who were in desperate need of reinforcements. The regiment set sail for New York. The aim - to draw the French away from Rhode Island. When they met the French warships a fierce battle ensued but the British fleet were victorious. Yet it was not all glory for Robert Mason. Shortly after reaching New York, he deserted from the army, was captured and escaping hanging was imprisoned. Talented and charming Mason won over the officers. The army, always in need of a gifted musician reinstated him – even promoting him to Corporal. He eventually rose to the rank of Drum Major having surviving the war in America and a court martial. Around 11,250 men served with the 23rd regiment – 247 returned home. Robert Mason was one of them. Both are soldiers and both play music but their roles are very different… A Drummer or Infantry Musician is first and foremost a fighting soldier. He must complete basic training and at least a year’s service before he is able to learn an instrument. A bandsmen on the other hand is a musician first and a soldier second. He too must complete basic training however once completed his main task is to represent the army at ceremonial and other events. However the military musician also has an operational role, traditionally in a medical capacity. Today their position is much the same, musicians support the Army Medical Services and perform general duties - guarding key installations and prisoners of war, driving, protection, equipment care… Above: Drummer boys Casey and Sawyer were the first to enlist with the 1st battalion after its return from India in 1870 Left: A letter to the editor from the Fusilier Chronicle 2nd Battalion Royal Fusilier Band, WWII Did You Know? In days gone by the musicians were also charged with dealing out punishments such as floggings - this made them very unpopular with their fellow soldiers.
  8. 8. The Military Band Military Band Formation Drum Major Trombone Trombone Trombone Trombone Tuba Euphonium Euphonium Tuba Cornet Cornet Cornet Cornet Cornet French Horn French Horn Cornet Snare Drum Cymbal Bass Drum Snare Drum Saxophone Clarinet Clarinet Saxophone Clarinet Clarinet Clarinet Piccolo In 1831 the bandsmen’s uniform was regulated for the first time. Bandsmen were to be dressed as the rank and file but with double-breasted white coatees and facings of the regimental colour. Bandsmen's tunics stayed white until 1873 when they were changed to scarlet, in conformity with the rank and file. The new tunic had wings, white piping on the back and sleeve seams, and a badge of a lyre and crossed trumpets on the upper right arm. The Bandsmen's Uniform Right: Lt. Steele and band, 2nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers, Jubbulpore, India, 1910 Below: Group photograph of the 2nd battalion Royal Fusilier Band, 1910 3rd battalion Royal Fusilier band, Lucknow 1914 In 1968, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was formed when the four English Fusilier Regiments and their associated bands amalgamated: Did You Know? During Regimental Sports Day a race was organised in which Bandsmen had to play their Instruments while running to the finishing line. The two Drummers would occupy the first two places followed by the Buglers with the poor Base Drum coming in last despite being given a head start! 1968 - Northumberland, Warwickshire, Lancashire and the Royal Fusiliers merge. 1969 - Four bands become three. 1984 - The St. George and Duke of Kent’s bands replace the three remaining bands. 2006 - The two remaining bands join the Minden Band of The Queen’s Division. 2012 - The band becomes a ‘reduced capability band’ (1 Wind Quintet, 1 Brass Quintet).
  9. 9. See Drummers with Fifers come, And the Beater with the massive Drum, The Grand Drum Major first doth stalk, With Gold Knobbed stick and pompous walk, And as he marches o’er the ground, He thinks he turns the world around. Quotation from 1748 The Drum Major Apron – regiments serving in Africa tended to wear Leopard skin aprons and those in India, tiger skin. Aprons protect both the uniform and the instruments: Cymbals are muffled against the chest and could leave marks on the uniform. Whilst the Bass Drum may be scratched by the tunic buttons. Today’s aprons are made from synthetic materials. Traditionally the elaborate uniform of a Drum Major was used both for show and for assistance. At ceremonial occasions it displayed a regiment’s wealth and prestige. On the battlefield, it provided a visible aid in the confusion. As well as leading on parade the Drum Major commands the Corps of Drums and takes responsibility for its musical standard. Drum Major's mace – the mace can be traced back to the 17th century. Also known as a 'leading staff’ it was used to clear the way ahead of a carriage or a procession in crowded streets. The Drum Major's mace was officially introduced into the British army to be used to define drill movements and signal commands to the corps of drums and to the band. The Drum Major of a Fusilier Regiment wears a bearskin and a scarlet tunic. The collar, cuffs and shoulder straps are white and the wings are of gold lace. A four bar gold chevron and drum are embroidered in gold on the right sleeve of the tunic. In some regiments the Drum Majors wear gold dress cords. Their white buff sword belt with sword and knot suspended on white straps from their left hand side. The most distinctive features of the Drum Major’s uniform are the Sash and Mace. The Drum Major’s Uniform When the Band and Corps of Drums parade together it is the Drum Major who leads and takes command, irrespective of the rank held by members of the band. © Harald Joergens, 15.6.2013 Did You Know? A red sash is worn from the right shoulder and from the left, the Drum Major's shoulder belt. The sash may originally have been worn because it could be used as a stretcher with which to drag the wounded from the battlefield Lancashire Fusilier Corps of Drums Marching through Warwick Castle, 2005
  10. 10. The Corps of Drums The Drummer’s Uniform Traditionally drummer’s have worn a very distinctive uniform so as to stand out on the battlefield. Until the introduction of the bugle, all signals in Regiments of Foot were by drum – in an age when close formation manoeuvre could win or lose a battle the drummer was a particularly important person. Hackle – red over white is worn by the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (the London, Lancashire, Warwickshire and Northumberland Fusilier regiments) Scarlet Coatee – the drummer's tunic is of scarlet cloth with the collar, shoulder straps and cuffs in blue. From 1855 the drummer’s white double- breasted tunic was replaced with the coatee. Wings – drummer's have worn 'wings' on the shoulders of their tunics since the 1600’s. These wings made the uniforms easily identifiable on the battlefield. During the Crimean war they disappeared from all uniforms apart from drummers and bandsmen. Crown lace – one of the most distinctive marks of drummer's uniform is the lace. It is white with scarlet imperial crowns woven into the fabric. Today the crown lace is applied to the drummer's coatee along the top edge of the rounded collar, along the front and back seams of the sleeves, and along all of the back seams above the waist. Left: 1st battalion Royal Fusilier drummers, 1885 Over the years the drummer’s role has changed but their uniform has remained one of the most elaborate in the British Army. Sealskin – drummers have worn this traditional fur cap since 1768. Today the head-dress for Fusilier Regiment's drummers is of black sealskin. Royal cords – scarlet, blue and yellow cords are worn by royal regiments. The wearing of dress cords by drummers came into general use between 1900- 1914, and this custom was later followed by bandsmen. Dress cords are an adaptation of plaited bugle cords and can be worn in variety of styles. Drum sling – players begun to sling the side drum diagonally across the body around the mid 16th century, controlling it with the leg. This freed both hands to beat the drum. Some regiments permit a regimental badge to be worn on drum slings. Leg apron – for a side drum. It is traditionally made of white buckskin and is worn to prevent wear and tear of the tunic and trousers.
  11. 11. Modern Military Music Major Bruce Miller – Chief Instructor at Kneller Hall Major Miller is the Chief Instructor at the Corps of Army Music at Kneller Hall in West London Major Miller helps to train the army’s new recruits who go on to play with one of the 22 bands of the modern British Army. Each new student is auditioned and their ability as a musician is rated. However each must must complete 28 weeks of basic training before concentrating fully on their life as an army musician. Once training is complete the students are sent to bands across the country where they are soon engaged in playing at musical events worldwide. The opportunity to travel is something Major Miller has greatly enjoyed. He has played at Royal events in the UK and at exotic overseas assignments. He even played at the Sultan of Brunei’s 60th birthday tattoo and has met most of the current Royal family. As Major Miller said, “music is fun” and he’s “living the dream”. Lucky man. Kneller Hall After only thirty years the school had become so successful that, during Queen Victoria's Jubilee celebrations, it was granted the right to use Royal in its title. The school has gone on to earn an international reputation as a centre of excellence and all musicians in the Corps of Army Music are trained at Kneller Hall. The 22 full time bands can be seen at events around the world, are tasked with supplying musical support to the troops in operational areas and has itself an operational capability supporting the Army Medical Services. The Royal Military School of Music was established, with 85 pupils from 48 different regiments, at Kneller Hall near Twickenham, in 1857. Originally known as Whitton Hall, after the nearby village, the building is thought to have been designed by Sir Christopher Wren. © courtesy of The Royal Military School of Music “Donald, where’s me troosers” The traditional Scottish song, made popular by Andy Stewart, has a special significance for Major Miller. At one event, in Manchester Cathedral, Bruce was front and centre on the stage – but realised he had no trousers! They had been left at Kneller Hall. A brave Lance Corporal saved the day by lending his trousers to Bruce. In the finest traditions of music, “the show must go on” Did You Know? In 1854 during the Crimean War, the Duke of Cambridge held a grand military revue to celebrate the birthday of his cousin, Queen Victoria. Twenty bands gathered to play the National Anthem – but all had different arrangements! The resulting, racket led to the Duke setting up a school of military music at Knellar Hall