01 Mar

About a week before Christmas 2009 Chuck Daellenbach  of the Canadian brass called to ask if I would be interested in helping the ‘Brass’ make a recording of American patriotic music for The American Heritage Society. Chuck wanted to use rope tension field drums. He knew the sound of these instruments quite well because we had played a concert together in the Glenn Gould Theatre in Toronto about eight years earlier. I had made an arrangement of four prominent military songs  for the Canadian brass and Nexus which was premiered on that concert.

At that time Chuck and I talked about the possibility of piccolo trumpets playing music intended for fifes. Chuck had remembered that conversation as well as the sound of the rope drums and when the American Heritage Society contacted him, he immediately thought of me and my interest in-fife and drum music, and my rope drums.

The brass arranger for this recording would be the venerable Canadian musician Howard Cable, who incidentally, lives just a couple of blocks from my home. When Chuck mentioned me to Howard, Howard suggested that he and I get together. I have known Howard for probably 40 years. He has a distinguished career in Canadian music as a producer, script writer, conductor, composer and began his association with the Canadian Brass in 1977.

Howard came to my home, heard my arrangements for the brass, and asked if I would be interested in doing all the percussion parts for his arrangements. I was happy to accept. Soon, Howard’s arrangements began arriving from his copyist to my computer, and I set out writing for rope field drums and cymbals. All of the arrangements were completed by mid-January, and rehearsals began in a Toronto church on February 8, 2010. The CD is scheduled to be released in time for the Fourth of July holidays in the United States.1

Below this article are some photographs from the recording sessions. They show the drums used for the recording. I think the collection of drums is impressive, and it seems quite possible to me that no recording in the past has included such a large and interesting array of snare drums, bass drums and cymbals.

I wrote each arrangement with specific players in mind. I had asked Chuck to engage Bob Becker and Russell Hartenberger, former colleagues of mine in Nexus, and Ryan Scott a former student who is now one of the most sought after percussionists in Toronto. All of them are expert drummers and fine musicians who appreciate the particular style of drumming I employed in the arrangements; that is, the “Ancient” or “Open” style prevalent during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Drums used on the recording sessions.
Drums used on the recording sessions.

(Bass drum dimensions are Depth-diameter. Snare drum dimensions are Diameter-depth,)

Front row, Left to Right : Ryan’s Ludwig Universal model Bass drum, 14″x28″, calf heads, (ca. 1961)-

Bob’s Ludwig “Super-Ludwig” Theatre Model, brass shell, 15″ X 5″, calf heads and gut snares, (ca. 1927)-

Ryan’s Noble and Cooley Birch Snare Drum (with Patterson cable snares) 14″x8″-Rogers Dynasonic 14″x5″ (ca.1967).

Middle row: Robin’s Eames Bi-Centennial model field drum, plywood shell, calf heads, heavy gut snares,16″x18″, (1976)-Coopperman Bass drum, plastic heads, (2002)-

Russell’s Cooperman Liberty model field drum, 17″x20″, calf heads, gut snares, (ca. 1978)-

Bob’s Cooperman Liberty model, 17″x20″, calf heads, gut snares, (1981).

Back row: Bob’s Spenke & Metzel, brass shell, 14″ X 5″, calf heads, wire wound silk snares, (ca. 1965)-Premier Field drum, mahogany shell with chrome veneer, 15″ X 12″, calf heads and gut snares, (ca. 1975)-

Ryan’s Ludwig and Ludwig,14″x4″ free-floating wood shell, original maple rims, 16 claw lugs, calf snare head, with “Ludwig Playon Plastic” batter head.  Original wire wrapped gut snares and working throw (ca. 1920).-

Robin’s Cooperman custom made field drum with narrow inlayed hoops, brass hooks and Liberty strainer, 17″x15″ (2002)-Walberg & Auge, 16″x15″, single tension wood shell field drum, calf heads, original gut snares, serial # 02820, (Worcester, Massachusetts, before 1910)-

Ryan’s Joseph Rogers Jr. &  Son “Union Brand The Quality Drum”, original wire wrapped gut snares,14″x10″ (ca. 1938)-

Robin’s Cooperman custom made (for this recording) snare drum, ash shell, brass hooks, calf heads, gut snares. narrow hoops, modified Liberty strainer, 14″x12″ (2010).

Cooperman concert Bass drum, 19"x36", ca.2000.  (On loan from The Canadian Opera Company.)

Cooperman concert Bass drum, 19"x36", ca.2000. (On loan from The Canadian Opera Company.)

Russell Hartenberger, Bob Becker and Ryan Scott
Russell Hartenberger, Bob Becker and Ryan Scott
Cymbals and beaters.
Cymbals and beaters.
Chuck Daellenbach, Bob Becker, Russell Hartenberger, Howard Cable, Ryan Scott & Robin Engelman.
Chuck Daellenbach, Bob Becker, Russell Hartenberger, Howard Cable, Ryan Scott & Robin Engelman.

Notes about the music:

The works recorded consisted of marches and songs written during a span of time beginning with the American war for Independence and ending soon after the First World War:  Chester by William Billings, the 1814 and 1931 versions of The Star-Spangled Banner, Dixie’s land, Stars and Stripes Forever, National Emblem, Battle Hymn of the Republic, Johnny Comes Marching Home, Hail Columbia (The President’s March), America, a selection of George M. Cohan songs, a medley of U.S. military service songs, and also, O Canada.

1. The CD “Stars & Stripes” is now available to the public.


Posted by on March 1, 2010 in Articles, Fifes & Drums


6 responses to “ROPE DRUMS and BRASS

  1. Robin Ridington

    March 1, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Fascinating foray into acoustic history. I look forward to hearing the recording.

  2. Barbara Bailey

    October 12, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Hi, I’ll have to get out and get one of these ASAP. HOpe all is well with all of you and this is very successful!

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