Contemporary Fifes

Fifes available on this page below:

 

Historical Note:

10 hole fifes (and 11 hole) with all open tone holes are a latter 20th century innovation and not historically accurate for earlier impressions, if that is what is important to you – these were made to meet a growing demand for still better tuned instruments largely for fife & drum competitions, and the development of the fife provided for greater versatility and more artistic expression.  While flutes in the 18th century began to manifest extra tone holes and keys in custom form, the norm being six holes with a 7th covered by a key that facilitates a D#, the fife was not regarded as a serious instrument beyond its military and folk purposes.  It is in the start 19th century that we begin to find examples of 2-piece fifes and with conical bores (France and Galicia (in Spain); extra tone holes beyond 7 not coming into being until much later; and more noticeably varying tonehole sizes and irregular placement to work towards better intonation.  The musicologist David Munrow made a rather convincing argument with data to back it up that the fife (rather than the flute itself) is the direct precursor to the piccolo… The piccolo began to have keys from the early 18th century but the fife – however closely designed – was not to see the same until the late 19th century with still only six open tone holes, the others covered by lever keys.  All that said – fife and drum today is a style of folk music and unless you are insistent upon a historically accurate approach, play what suits you!

Corps Discount for sets purchased – Please inquire!

MusiqueMorneaux@gmail.com      or    860.749.8514

 

I have followed you as a fife maker since the late 80s when you worked for Pat (Cooperman).  I have played the fife since the 60s and I honestly have yet to find any maker as good as you. Quality, playability, caring for the customer.  I am always surprised when I meet fifers who don’t know you or play your handiwork.  Thank you for the Ralph Sweet model fife and please keep doing your craft!”   Frank Riccio, New York, NY.

 

NEW!

MCM Fife

By several requests and finally a commission, we’d begun working on a new model.  This is the MCM (Morneault Contemporary Model) fife.  It features a Boehm head design (like on modern flutes), cylindrical bore, properly undercut tone holes, leeward cutaway for the embouchure, and a wood-on-cork joint that is far better for sealing than metal on metal.   Ferrules/rings are brass on Rosewood but stainless on Blackwood or Katalox.  I make the cap usually of the same wood as the fife, but sometimes I make it of something different for contrast per request.  You can let me know at the time of ordering.  The model in the photo is of African Blackwood bodies and the head on the right while the left head is of Padouk Wood.  African Blackwood is the most common choice, but reach out if you have a special request.

 

 

 

 

 


Benjamin Ruesch playing a pair of original tunes: “The Two Claw Jig” and “The Fiddler Crab”, both by Ben. Played on the extraordinary new MCM 10 hole fife from MusiqueMorneaux, handcrafted by Joseph Morneault.

 


Kate Bolcar and Donald Heminitz playing a duet of the Humors of Hubert on the new MCM fife with Cocobolo heads joints.

 

“Just wanted to let you know that I LOVE the new fife so far. Sooooo easy to play right away. Very well in tune so far playing alone. It’s also frickin’ gorgeous too. Thanks so much!”  David A Cabral, Lynn, MA.

The MCM 10-hole fife has gone above my expectations and proudly represents a quality, high profile instrument. Not only is the fife carefully well-crafted, this fife stands up perfectly to other 10-hole model fifes on the market. The hole sizes allow for louder than average volume without detriment to intonation and tone. Tone is clear but warm throughout its entire range. The fife is responsive even in fast passages, and yet is delicate enough for a variety of dynamic changes. The MCM 10-hole fife by MusiqueMorneaux is a true joy to play.” – Donald Heminitiz, Plymouth, MA.

“… I LOVE this FIFE!!!!!! I felt like a giddy teenager for most yesterday. Jane commented that I never willingly had it out of my hand. She had to persuade me NOT to bring it in when we had dinner at a Thai place in Manchester on the way home. It is so responsive, and very much in tune—both with itself and in terms of blending with the other head joints, and instruments currently in the MCV line. And it actually kept getting better the longer I played it. Very responsive and crisp! I have been playing fife now since 1973, so about 48 years; I served in the Old Guard as a soloist—at least back then—as well as a member of MCV for over 12 years. I haven’t felt this way about an instrument since I got my first really good handmade recorder from Von Huene.” – Bill Phenix, Haverill, MA.

 

The following video is of MCV playing the MCM model at the Old State House as part of Boston Harborfest. Tune: Horses to America – Greg Bacon. Photo credit – Michelle Godin/MCV.


MCM Fife



_______________________________________________________

ALSO NEW

The Seaman Model Fife

This fife became the new wave of the fife in the US in the 1960s.  Original concept by John McDonagh who approached Roy Seaman, piccolo maker, to develop this new fife.  It was a marked changed from the historical and traditional models everyone was playing on, and it enabled corps that played upon it to up their game in musical composition and performance.  After many years, Roy decided to hang up fife making and focus on his piccolo business, leaving a former employee Larry Trout to continue making the model.  Roy later retired, selling his piccolo business and his brand name to Gemeinhardt flutes; still later, itching for something to do, he opened a little shop under his wife’s maiden name – Wilson, thus Wilson Woods – and made fifes again for a time.  Cooperman Fife & Drum Co were making this model for a while, but after several years of people placing custom orders and assuring us that Coopermans no longer makes the model, we have decided upon offering it as part of our regular lineup.  With instrument grade African Blackwood (often called Grenedilla) still being relatively expensive to obtain, we have decided to make these in Katalox (say CAT-a-loash) wood, unless you specifically request the Blackwood (higher price) or another wood.  I have replicated these from original Roy Seaman made models I obtained in the early 1980s and hold in my collection.  The joint will normally be exactly as Roy had done his, but for a couple of people I have made it with the internal cork design.  It is offered as a standard 6-hole (Roy’s “J-Model”), 7-hole (for those who wish a D# option), “Basler” 10-hole (Roy’s “L-model” with no thumb hole on the right hand, double hole for F#/F-nat, and left thumb hole placed higher), and “Yankee” 10-hole (like the M-model, but only single hole on the F# top rather than a double).  Be aware, though, that exactly like the original model, this is A=440 (concert pitch) and therefore noticeably flat in pitch compared to the standard pitch (traditional pitch) used by most other fifes! Contact me with questions, price for African Blackwood will be quoted when you ask, and the prices below are introductory; likely going up sometime in 2022.

 

The Seamen/McDonaugh model fifes that Joe is making are rock solid! I ordered one in grenadilla and the material selection is wonderful. The wood is dense while being very responsive and the third octave projects extremely well. I am glad someone is still producing this classic fife design.”  Kevin Dill, Alexandria, VA.

 

African Blackwood price upon request

Seaman Model Fife



 

____________________________

The “Bass Fife”

In Eb, it is actually a flute; larger than a traditional fife (over 22 inches when assembled), it has a tapered bore and is designed for a strong lowest register.  It is meant to be played in concert with the contemporary Bb fife designs and has 10 tone holes to facilitate chromatics.  This is specialty item made to order and will rarely if ever be in stock.

“Bass Fife” in Katalox Wood
Bass Fife in African Blackwood
Bass Fife in Bocote Wood
Bass fife in Maple wood

Bass Fife



________________________________________________________

The Ralph G Sweet Signature Model

 

Ralph Sweet had developed his “M-1” fife in the 1980s and it remains in use to this day with modifications made over time.  Key of trad-Bb, this model features a tuning slide with minimal-disruption tenon, conical bore, and the leeward cutaway that aids in third register playing as well as Ralph’s signature on the head.  The cost of obtaining Blackwood has become too expensive so it will be made by custom order only… Mopane is the other option which is an excellent wood but simply not black.  See the Enfield Model below for an example of Mopane wood.


Ralph G Sweet Signature Fife



________________________________________________________________

Enfield “New Model” Model Fifes

 

This is pitched in “traditional Bb” (a bit sharp of A=440) and is the culmination of input by several employees of Ralph Sweet’s and Joseph Morneault’s.  Conical bore like the modern piccolo, carefully undercut tone holes, embouchure with a leeward cutaway and designed to be responsive for the performer, so it is a clean sounding instrument with terrific intonation.  Embouchure designed for the actual performer, not those few who lack air control and spend more time blowing all their air instead of playing the instrument.  The tuning barrel and ferrules of stainless steel; glued on for strength and no more dealing with compressed cork… This fife is now only in TWO pieces! – a clean look and classy.  The stainless tuning slide goes into a brass socket and is designed for a lifetime without galling, or oxidizing together and so sticking.  Don’t be sucked in by imitations… This is the best of this design to be had!  Six and ten hole designs as you choose.  Available in African blackwood and for international orders it is available in Mopane.  Special tone hole offset can be arranged upon request.

<< Great resonation! First octave really shakes and tickles fingertips. I can only imagine what it will be after being fully oiled and settled down. Thank you for a good instrument! >>  Lauri Gadd – Espoo, Finland.

 


Enfield Model Fife



_________________________________________________________________________

“Piccolo” Fifes

 

Piccolo fife in Granadillo

These are smaller, thus higher pitched, fifes designed for more of a folk music use over the fife & drum association.  We offer them in the keys of Eb, D, C#, and C and have conical bores, rendering them more in tune with themselves than a traditional cylindrical bore would.  They are available in Honduras rosewood and in African blackwood, but for international orders we offer mopane as an alternative – similar in colour to the rosewood, it is free from the recent CITES rules imposed on rosewood and blackwood.

These are available in 10-hole/chromatic versions.  Please inquire before ordering.



Piccolo Fifes in D or C



 


Piccolo Fifes in Eb or C#