MCV has always functioned strongly within its traditional fife sections and drum sections, but through preparations for the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, we have had the opportunity to work closely in smaller groups and develop some fun team identities.

Our drill program has been designed to use a system of teams who work together to make our pretty pictures. I think it helps to have a consistent working group to solidify those gates and make those straight lines – and to have some fun, too. The “A Team” took full advantage of their name and worked together to make custom t-shirts with an appropriate character’s name on their backs.

The A-Team!
Complete with character names!
Complete with character names!

They also extended an hand to our Canadian guest, Nathan, who was granted his own shirt, the “Eh Team.” A little brotherly humor! Such clever fifers!

The "Eh Team!"
The “Eh Team!”

We’ve been reviewing old photos and videos of the last time we were at RNSIT and are REALLY getting excited to return to the warm crowds, meet old friends and make a lot of new ones.  It’s hard to think about anything else except preparing for that spotlight.6a00d8344e670a53ef01543290153a970c

-Andrea Wirth, snare drummer

Temporary Locals

MCV is going to be in Basel, Switzerland for 16 days, which is longer than this corps has ever been in a non-English speaking country, assuming you don’t count Scotland :-D.  In addition to the alumni joining DSC_4953_2our ranks from within the USA, we have three folks who are local Baselers who will don the wig as well.  DSC_5107They have only limited rehearsal time with us in the USA and they must learn most everything on their own from afar.  We’ll show up on their doorstep in July and we’ll be joined together again as one team.  I suspect it will be a bit strange for them, marching in their own city while under the flag of another country.  They’ll be temporary foreigners in their own land.

The trick is that they transform into MCV members so well, that you don’t even notice that they haven’t been in rehearsal with us all of these weeks.  They just show up and make it happen.  This seems effortless, but, on the contrary, I know how much extra work these folks have to put in through self-motivation in order to assimilate with the group.  And, on top of all that, they are dealing with a different language and culture from their own, with its own politics and pitfalls. 

With this in mind, I, too, made a cultural exchange with Basel earlier this year.  Through our MCV DSC_5113Baselers, I was invited to play with a fife and drum corps in Basel (a Clique) called Déjà Vü, for their pre-Lenten festival called Fasnacht.  This annual festival involves hundreds of Cliques with thousands of fifers, drummers, brass bands, floats, poets, all scaring away winter in a non-stop 72-hour festival.  Oh, and did I mention it’s all done in costume with masks?  It’s social commentary though street performance on a very grand scale.  When you are going to play drums in a city with about 14,000 drummers, it’s always intimidating!  This is a highly-educated audience when it comes to the rope drum!

With this new identity, I did my best to become a temporary local Basler.  I worked hard to use my DSC_5075limited foreign language skills when I could as I knew it would be vital for an insider cultural experience.  I prepared on my own a completely new repertoire using equally logical but different drumming systems.  I tried to memorize a lifetime’s worth of common musical knowledge in a very short few months.  But, I had lots of help and encouragement from my Swiss friends and they were kind to give me a chance to join in the fun!  Through proper preparation, I felt successful that I had not completely embarrassed myself in my new group and might have actually made some music!


In the end I appreciated the dedication of our MCV remote members, both foreignDSC_5359 and domestic, much more.  I got to experience a group though a new set of eyes as a rookie, rather than a 20-year member, navigated the social scene in a foreign language, and learned valuable lessons about managing expectations from others and myself.  MCV Temporary Locals, ladies and gentlemen, my hat is off to you!  Together we will form a band and make music.  We will be, quite literally, the states united!

-Andrea Wirth, drummer


Photo credits: Michael Szkolka and Matthew Noell

The Payoff

Let's face it.  Tattoo shows are a lot of hard work.  Hours and hours!  We civilians sacrifice our vacation time and time with our families to do a job for which we do not get personally paid!  So, why the heck would we do this?  It's all about the opportunity to travel and see new lands, to perform for new enthusiastic audiences, and making new friends amongst the rest of the cast members. Here, I think we really found our reward!  Not only did we have returning friends there from the Malmö Fire Brigade band and the Royal Regiment of Scotland, but we made a whole bunch more new friends in the charming and talented young folks in 249731_10100770527887783_5251247_69211041_6155427_n His Majesty the King's Guards Band and Drill Team from Norway.

 Even though their group is world famous and always spot-on in terms of performance, these young soldiers are only in the group for one year, so, as individuals, this was their first arena show!  We had a pretty lively mutual admiration society going as we watched each other warm up and rehearse.  

(^His Majesty the King's Guards [HMKG] Photo credit: Barbi Risken)
(>The tall and the short of it.  MCV's Barbi Risken and friends from HMKG.)


(His Majesty the King's Guards' drummers from Norway and MCV drummers pose before the last show.  Photo credit: Evan Hodges-LeClaire)

Drummers are kinda the same everywhere, I think, and drummers love to swap equipment and check out how it all works within the context of what they do.  We had lots to compare and admire with each other.   Jim
I know that many of the drummers were impressed with our clean performance.  Some even have said they found it inspiring!  What a great compliment!  It's one thing to play for the the paying audiences, but we know that the real folks in a position to fully embrace all aspects of what you accomplish are your peers.  They are the most critical audience.  We know how many hours it takes to make big long lines straight and all of the details fit exactly right.  So, when you see those qualities in others, you can't help but burst out into applause!  And there was a lot of cheering each other on the rehearsal floor and backstage.  There are those moments when you say to yourself, "Man, I know how hard that is to do and they just nailed it!"  I think it's a great energy we give each other. 

(^Director Jim MacConduibh with the drummers from the Band of the Royal Swedish Army and the Royal Swedish Navy Cadet Band. Photo credit: Carrie Geldart.)


(^MCV/HMKG snare drum bonding.  L-R Gerard Cortese/MCV, Lasse Thorgersen/HMKG, Trond Vambeseth/HMKG, Andrea Wirth/MCV.  Photo credit: Kate Bolcar)

I'm very proud of all my new-found friends.  Travel experience involves adopting bits of new cultures into your own.  This new patchwork quilt of my life will have lots of Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and Polish bits in it.  I will carry you with me where ever I go!  I hope you'll remember us as well.  Tinybrokenheart

-Andrea Wirth, drummer


Attention to Detail

I'm soooo excited about being given the honor of representing the United States at the first Sweden International Tattoo in Malmö.  We've worked for months and months crafting the show and the performances.  Now is time to let all of that hard work pay off.  It's always intimidating because most of the other bands on the show are professional military bands.  Here we are, the Yanks, only doing this part-time, struggling to balance a 40-hour work week, plus our own studios and hobbies, and let's not forget our families and loved ones, trying to make it look as though we live and breathe this music every moment.  When you're talking about peers, these groups are the some of the best in the world.  So, to be a fife and drum corps, which is already pretty obscure, to be the sole US representation at the event is pretty extraordinary.  But hey, that's why we're all here.  We love to play music.  I'm really excited to meet some new drummer friends from Scandinavia.  Can't wait to put the show all out there for the world to see!



-Andrea Wirth, snare drummer

Halifax Camp Weekend a Success

The assorted members of MCV gathered from far and wide to a Halifax Camp Weekend in Bedford, Massachusetts, at MITRE Corporation, our home away from home.   It was great to see so many familiar faces return to the wig and delightful to see how many new folks have dared to join us. 

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We kept up a grueling rehearsal schedule, with two hours on Friday night after a long work week, EIGHT hours on Saturday, and another two on Sunday before we donned the wig and gave the premier performance of the Halifax show,

 Gch_6997jk       MCV at Lincoln Salute, April 20, 2009
PLUS a full day of parades on Monday when "normal" people were enjoying a holiday.  We emerged with a better sense of what we don't know, which is a useful thing, but also a great sense of self confidence that this show is actually going to work!  It's come such a long way already and we have plenty of time to polish up the fine points.  Many kudos to our new members who are getting thrown right into the thick of it and are blending right into the Collective, as we like to say!  I am personally amazed at the hard work everyone has put in to make this little folk music band shine! 166786924308_0_ALB Many thanks to our drill sergeant, Bill Phenix, and to our Support Staff for clothing us, feeding us, and taking care of our equipment.  We couldn't do it without you!  I'm really looking forward to everyone experiencing the joy of creating something bigger than the sum of its parts.  Useful discovery learned from this weekend:  Peanut butter cookies and salsa are actually pretty good together!  Too bad we're not having any fun! 
515666924308_0_ALB  – Andrea Wirth, drummer
[photo credits to Michelle Godin and Glenn Harder]

We’re no awa’ tae bide awa’

emt017When people ask me, “How was your summer?”  I say without the slightest bit of hesitation – “awesome.”   And they want to know if I had a nice vacation and… well… “nice vacation” is not exactly how I would describe it.  It’s more like crazy, intense, harder-than-my-everyday-life, kind of experience, but worth every ounce of energy I put into it to make it happen!  There are very few instances in my life where I get to feel like I really own a piece of music.  And with the Edinburgh Tattoo, I really got the sense that I owned every note in that show and I owned everything that went with it including the drill, the routine, my uniform, The Castle, the audience, the little blue line down the center of the Esplanade, and the magic that is EMT.

tattoo_and_edinburgh_2007_008I learned that, hey, we’re pretty good up here on this international stage.  We can definitely represent the United States and the community of fife and drum with great elegance and pride.  It’s a pretty incredible feeling for an amateur, I’ll tell you!  I’m very thankful that I had the opportunity to show that we care about carrying the torch for this little folk music hobby called fife and drum and got to demonstrate our self determination for excellence.  I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished.

img_0849I thought that the people of Scotland were fantastic hosts for us.  I kind of got the impression they’d never seen anything like us with our warm sounding fifes, intricate harmonies, and powerful drum sound.  Plus the bass drumming is just so incredibly different!  They responded with such enthusiasm and kindness, it was a joy to be the first representative of a fife and drum corps on the Esplanade.

scottbrianandmeThough I am extremely sad that the show is over, I look forward to the next time we can take center stage and represent the average American trying to keep alive a spirit and tradition central to the history of our country.  As the song we came to know and love goes,

For we’re no’ awa’ tae bide awa’,
For we’re no’ awa tae le’e ye,
For we’re no’ awa’ tae bide awa’,
We’ll aye come back an’ see ye.

astleview20070823223524poppies  -Andrea Wirth

Snare Drummer, MCV