Drums of the King’s Royal Yorkers

The Drums of the King’s Royal Regiment of New York
good drummers but ill-disciplined

The history of the modern Corps of Drums of the King’s Royal Regiment of New York.

The Drums of the King’s Royal Regiment of New York began in 1976 with the first drummer Andrew Anderson. The following year he was joined by a fifer, Gavin A. Watt. Both drummers were trained by Bill Henry (of Fort York and Fort George fame) who joined later as the first Drum Major of the Yorkers in 1979. With him came a cadre of fifers and drummers from Fort York and the Yorkers first large corps of drums came into existence. For four years the corps re-enacted frequently playing music that was unique (Canadian/Loyalist) to the fifing and drumming community of that time. The early corps was belligerently Loyalist and did not commonly mass with other corps, preferring to play their distinctive grouping of tunes, and to perform as functional duty drummers for the Yorkers and not as the hodge-podge of mediocre skill that massed musicians often were. Their sense of professionalism, attitude and fun, led to the motto of the drums “Good drummers, but ill-disciplined.” At the same time in Prescott (Fort Wellington), under the tutelage of Paul Fortier, a small group of fifers and drummers supplemented the corps at events. The corps broke apart with the untimely demise of one of its key members, and much of the experienced corps trickled away.

In 1987, the Drums gained new life with an infusion of fifers and drummers from the newly raised corps of the 41st Regiment from Fort George. This corps was trained by Drum Major Gavin A. Watt and the exceedingly talented Drum Sergeant Peter Alexander. This group was different from the original corps because they were Drummers first and foremost, and didn’t dabble in infantry pursuits because they were too young. This corps stayed together for several years before many of the group stopped working at historic sites and left the hobby.

Throughout the years that have followed the Drums have stayed the course, with membership spread around Ontario. Several stalwart and dedicated folks (who haven’t worked at historic sites) have taken to fifing and drumming to fill the ranks when others can’t make it and their dedication maintains the integrity of the group. All who are interested are welcome to join.

Becoming a martial musician takes a dedicated body, one who should practice diligently the tunes and calls of the late 18th century to do credit to the remarkable skill, talent and bravery of their predecessors. The Drums of the King’s Royal Regiment have a long standing tradition of excellent musicianship the heart of which has been corps of experienced and dedicated people who have worked at historic sites in addition to pursuing it as a hobby. We collect, learn and perform music of the late 18th century that has a British/Loyalist spin and fancy that as Canadians and Loyalists we have a truer sense of the importance of this music to our identity. When a long parade is over and you’ve done your job by providing the unique and interesting music of the 18th century to the 21st century (and the soldiers buy you a beer to say thanks) it is all very worthwhile.

To learn the instruments, takes a bit of dedication and hard work, but the end result when the group is together, is still a fine and distinctive Loyalist product. For information about how to get started, contact Drum Major Gavin A. Watt at gavin.watt@gc.pc.ca .