Replica Bugles for West Point
I recently completed these two bugles for the West Point Military Academy to be used in concerts and other historical demonstrations. The smaller is a standard infantry bugle in C with crook to Bb as used there until the late 19th century. The other is a seven keyed bugle in Bb. This is only the 22nd keyed bugle that I have built in 27 years, but the story here is the importance of West Point and the military in general to the development of popular music in the US. Although it may be a stretch to make a connection between the United States Military Academy and Lady Gaga, you have to go back more than 200 years to a time when the populace didn't have many opportunities to experience music. If there was any music in the average home, it was likely religious songs as the residents would have learned in church. The church, indeed if they were lucky, would have been the most common venue to experience music. If you lived in a larger town or city, your local militia might have had a drum and fife for signaling that would also likely parade for the citizenry. Bugles were becoming common in Europe and Britain, but hadn't made their way over to these shores in large numbers yet. The aristocracy might have musicians on staff, but their music wasn't accessible to the common folk. It was at the beginning of the 19th century when there was the beginnings of a middle class and the demand for musical entertainments. The keyed bugle was being developed from the signalling bugle and immediately put to work in military bands of music.
West Point, New York, a military post since 1778 and established as the United States Military Academy in 1802, utilized the bugle for signalling at least by 1813. Irishman Richard Willis was hired on to play the keyed bugle by 1816 and became the music instructor. The academy purchased two additional keyed bugles the next year. This innovation spread quickly as instruments were imported from Britain and Europe and town militias were demanding more music. At the same time, the growing middle class was discovering the foreign past time of dancing and attending concerts of music of increasing complexity. Between 1819 and 1844 West Point band would put on Hudson River Barge concerts with the audience following in other boats. By this time, Francis Johnson and Ned Kendal had become famous as keyed bugle performers. Francis Johnson divided his time between leading bands for the militia and performing in concerts and dances. His band was key in the development of the resort area of Saratoga Springs, New York. Ned Kendal, after becoming popular as a keyed bugle soloist and forming the Boston Brass Band, one of the first civilian brass bands, gained much of his fame leading bands with traveling circuses. Back at West Point, keyed bugler Louis Benz
famously served from 1833 until his death in 1878, although photos show that he
progressively lost keys as the years went by, mostly serving as a duty bugler. There are also photos showing him with an infantry bugle like the replica that I just completed.
Much of the facts above and much more to learn come from Bob Eliason's "Keyed Bugles in the United States" and Ralph Dudgeon's "The Keyed Bugle". Also, a West Point bugle time line is published on line without author and the countries authority on military bugles is Jari Villanueva.