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April 22, 2008

CW's Fifes and Drums in first international appearance at Switzerland Tattoo

Celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2008, Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes and Drums will make its first international appearance July 15-19 at the Basel Tattoo in Basel, Switzerland. Participation in this prestigious event is by invitation only and consists of 12 international bands, massed Pipes and Drums, with top-class formations.

“This is truly an extraordinary opportunity,” said Colin Campbell, president of Colonial Williamsburg in announcing the European performance. “Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes and Drums is the only U.S. group invited to perform for an international audience where the tattoo originated. Our fifes and drums have served for 50 years as Colonial Williamsburg’s musical ambassadors and we are honored to extend this role to a global stage.”

Forty-one youth performers and five adult performers will travel overseas for the performance. The Fifes and Drums will participate in nine performances over five days.

“It is a privilege to perform in the Basel Tattoo,” said Tim Sutphin, Colonial Williamsburg’s director of historic events. “We not only represent the proud 50-year tradition of fifing and drumming in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area but also will represent the United States.”

The Basel Tattoo is the world’s only tattoo to take place where the tattoo originated – in the courtyard of a historical barracks. Since its inception in 2006, the event has become the world’s second largest open air tattoo.

In the 17th century, a tattoo was the command given by the commander to the publican serving his troops to close the beer taps so that the soldiers or sailors could return to their quarters.

For more information on the tattoo, go to the Web site,

The Foundation’s musical ambassadors celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2008. Founded in 1958, the Fifes and Drums perform in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area nearly 500 times during the year in daily programs from mid-February through December and during special programs observing major holidays.

The Fifes and Drums are comprised of boys and girls from the local community aged 10-18. Nearly 100 youths perform as members of either a junior or senior group. Junior group members train while waiting for a “front-line” vacancy in the senior group. Each member on average receives two periods of instruction and participates in two full rehearsals each week. The senior members enjoy a busy travel schedule as well, performing at special events outside the Historic Area.

A quasi-military unit, the present Fifes and Drums follows 18th-century practice by recruiting youth with the exception of the drum major.Members pass tune and
marching requirements to advance through the rank system that begins at recruit. Field musicians were vital to commanders as the sole means of relaying orders during battle. Whenever companies were mustered into regiments, company musicians were similarly massed into Field Music. In this formation they were responsible, under the drum major’s direction, for marching the regiment in proper cadence and for beating daily ceremonies – Reveille, the General, the Assembly, the Retreat and the Tattoo.

The world-renowned military musicians have represented Colonial Williamsburg throughout the country, including performances at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the Lexington and Concord 225th Celebration in Boston and the New-York Historical Society. In addition, the Fifes and Drums performed for several events commemorating America’s 400th Anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in the Americas, including Landing Party Festivals at six ports of call during the Godspeed Sail, the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and His Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and America’s 400th Anniversary Weekend.

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture — stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic tradespeople research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. “Revolutionary City®” - a daily dramatic live street theater presentation - is a 2008 Rand McNally Best-of-the-Road™ Editor’s Pick. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121