Using music, he carries on the tradition of battle reenactment.
Interview by Danielle Castonzo
Drum major Ross Flowers developed his interest in military music as a kid, watching his father perform in a trumpet band with the Canadian Army. He’s performed at the War of 1812’s Battle of Stoney Creek Reenactment for about 20 years.
Flowers currently runs the Drums of the Crowned Forces, a group formed in 2000 by drummers from various War of 1812 reenactment units. They’re always looking for new members, he says.
We talked with Flowers about what it’s like to be a drum major and to participate in reenactments. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation.
When did you start playing drums and what inspired you to get involved with drumming for a reenactment like this?
I’ve always been interested in the instrument, in terms of military music and simply as an instrument. I was 12 or 13 when I started to drum. My father was in a trumpet band with the Canadian Army, so going to see him perform got me interested in military music.
Why are you interested in the War of 1812?
Growing up in Toronto and studying Canadian history, I became interested in that particular war, because it was obviously relevant to where I lived. It was easy as a youngster to learn about the war, and I liked to be able to participate in a reenactment that I felt a connection to.
What is unique about the type of drumming you do?
The thing that we try most to do is to honor the music of the period we represent. We try to find the arrangement from that period in music stores, both from the fighting perspective and also from the drumming. It’s hard to find drumming scores for the period for a variety of reasons. Drumming was taught by learning from someone else as opposed to a published piece of music.
We make an effort to honor the quality of the music that we play and also our appearance. We try to consider that our appearances closely resemble the regiments, in terms of the colors and the type of materials that we use for our uniform.
What are the qualities of a successful drum major?
Listening to other people in your group, leadership skills, discipline, being organized and being willing to learn on your own and also from other people.
What is your favorite part of the reenactment?
We spend the fall, winter and spring rehearsing and learning, and my favorite part is knowing that we played well. There’s always something more that you can do. There’s another song that you can learn, or there are new people in the group to work with. There’s always room for improvement.
There are things that aren’t as attractive about the hobby, too, like playing in the rain or in the humidity, but they don’t outweigh the things I enjoy.