The Towpath Volunteers Fife & Drum Corps

The Towpath Volunteers Fife & Drum Corps
Our first involvement with the Italian fife and drum corps from Ivrea, Italy started in 2011 as we shared a cozy motel while we participated in the European Fife and Drum Festival held in Saint Tropez, France. While the festival and our host did keep us very busy, we did have time to get to know them a little and enjoyed the constant singing and ability to always having a good time.

They second time we spent time with them was when they hosted the Volunteers for the Historic Carnivale in Ivrea, Italy in 2014. The relationship and friendships between the groups continues to grow.

Now, it is our turn to host this group, known as one of the elite fife and drum corps in all of Italy, here in America! In preparation for this historic event, here is a little history of who they are and what to expect.

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Italian Fife and Drum The group of Fifes and Drums
of the City of Ivrea, Italy

Italian Fife and Drum
The group of Fifes and Drums of the City of Ivrea 2015


The group of Fifes and Drums of the City of Ivrea seems to derive from the ancient tradition of Ivrea districts’ carnivals of 15th and 16th century, some pieces of their repertoire bear the names of the five different parishes of the old quarters of the city.

The music is also due to the ancient tradition of military bands that accompanied armies through the countryside of Europe.

Once lost the military connotation, this musical accompaniment, was adopted to give rhythm to the pace of a carnival procession, composed in the mid '800 mostly by people in military uniform and of modest proportions.

At the beginning of the 20th century the Group consisted of few musicians, who appear in rare photos: only three or four fifers and drummers, some in civilian clothes. But in 1908, the centenary edition of the Carnival, the group was composed by a macebearer, five pipers, five drummers, a bass drum carrier and a bass drum player. In that period the "Committee for the reorganization of the fifes and drums" was formed by the music teacher Angelo Burbatti, transcriber of all the music, by Pietro Cavallo and Nicola Viglio.

Italian Fife and Drum 1906
The group of Fifes and Drums of the City of Ivrea 1906

Over time the number of players increased until, in the years following the First World War, it reached the number of 6/8 fifers, and 8/10drummers, in addition to the bass drum carrier and the player. This headcount has remained largely unchanged since very recently and currently includes 15 fifes, 15 drummers, the carrier and the player of the bass drum.

Some sonatas of the repertoire were inspired by the marches of the Piedmontese army led by the Prince Emanuele Filiberto, restorer of the Savoy State in the sixteenth century. Then other pieces were added to the repertoire: the “Monferrine”, cheerful and lively folk dances of Piedmont, some marches typical of the Napoleonic period and other music of Risorgimento (the period of Italy’s unification, dated 1861).

The bond between the Group and the historic Carnival of Ivrea is indissoluble, the Group is the soundtrack of the party.

There’s no doubt that the Fifes and Drums are the most loved and followed component of the Carnival of Ivrea, their following has increased from year to year and now involves thousands of people of all ages.

On the official memorandum of the Carnival, that relates the highlights of the ceremony, was reported that "without the music of this precious group, the Carnival of Ivrea could not begin nor end."

They is "a heritage to which all Ivrea and Canavese are linked with great feeling of affection and identification."

Italian Fife and Drum 1906
The group of Fifes and Drums of the City of Ivrea 2014

Towpath Volunteers Fife and Drum Corps Inc.
PO Box 31 Macedon, New York 14502 *
©Towpath Volunteers Fife and Drum Corps Inc. 2015