DNX Music | Fifes, drums, and rock n’ roll, pt. 1

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Hannah A. Papasin
Writer. Critic. Professor. She started writing since primary school and now has two published textbooks on communication. A film buff, she's a Communication, Media Literacy and Journalism Professor of the University of St. La Salle-Bacolod, and has a Master's Degree in English.

First of three parts

“Oh baby, I’m coming home tonight
And I’ve missed you for the longest time
Sleep tight, I will be there in the morning sunlight…

Goodbye, lonely, now you got me to yourself
Takin’ it slowly, till you grab me by the belt
Until next time, ’cause I’m leaving in the morning sunlight.”

Morning Sunlight, by Ballyhoo!

The bare, naked longing for his love, the underlying sexual tension of a love-making tryst, that pure emotional yearning for one who is away, the hunger, the ache, the heart-wrenching desire to be in the arms of his lover. 

Ballyhoo!’s song, that aria of a man coming home to a girl he loves is perfectly captured by the raw emotions of vocalist Howi Spangler.  The song is perfect, an idealist if romanticized look of a faithful lover who is lonely anywhere else but his woman’s bed. 

The lyrics, the vocals, the accompanying instruments – the bass, the drums, the piano all providing both emotional and technical crutch for the song about sweet love-making – is hard to beat; indeed how do you tell someone that you want to make sweet love to them without WORDS?

It takes considerable talent to do just that, using mostly (relatively unconventional) instruments. 

But Connor Purcell has done that exactly. 

And boy can he play.

Connor is part of the Purcell Family of musicians in Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvannia. 

Both parents – Kathy and Ken – are musically-inclined, playing and teaching piano and guitar, while older brother Corey is an accomplished musician and has been a member of different bands, the latest of which is The Poor Man’s Gambit.

Not one wanting to be hemmed in, though, Connor’s rebellious streak broke through.

Since both parents played and taught piano and guitar, Connor opted to explore other instruments, such as tuba and fife.

“I played [these] extensively when attending the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts,” he tells DNX.

At the age of 16, he attended a fife-and-drum camp.  One thing led to another and pretty soon, Connor was entering tourneys that showcased his expert-level skills.

The pivotal time came when he participated in the North-Eastern Championship fife competition at age 17.

“I performed an original composition as my solo tune and achieved the highest score in the history of the entire competition, being awarded the John McDonagh perpetual trophy,” he recalls.

Connor’s musical career has seen him performing as a member of the jazz band, several small jazz ensembles, brass ensemble, and a Celtic-jazz fusion band, as well as directing a brass quintet.  

He was also member of other musical organizations, like the Fifes and Drums of the Old Barracks in Trenton, New Jersey, both the Colonial Musketeers Junior and Senior Fife & Drum Corps of Hackettstown, New Jersey, and the Yankee Volunteers of Seekonk, Massachusetts, as well as founding his own fife and drum corps, the Whitehall Guard, in 2008, and a smaller “elite petite” corps, Skullduggery, in 2010.

With such an impressive background in music, could a recording career be far behind?

“I did some recordings, but with a group,” he shares.  Should everything fall in the right place, the prodigy from Lehigh Valley will have his first-ever solo album, comprised mainly of covers from well-loved bands, like Ballyhoo, The Rolling Stones, Sublime, Marcy Playground, My Chemical Romance, Maroon 5, and ABBA.

The latter’s Paint it Black is also reinterpreted by Connor.

“I see a red door and I want it painted black

No colors anymore, I want them to turn black” –

Paint it Black, The Rolling Stones

Depression.

Creators of Paint it Black, writing credits to Monsieurs Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, used colors for metaphors, of the emptiness, the loneliness, the never-ending abyss that one gets pushed through when going through depression.

But the lyrics could also speak, on a literal level, of turning something into a different form, of going to a path less travelled, of turning something apart, and putting everything back but this time with different parts – and seeing something new and beautiful at the same time.

That is how Connor has been doing to songs, producing covers of well-loved songs and putting his own spin to it. 

That, he said, is his intent in his solo album, to be released early next year.

Next: The method behind the art

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