Is that the high twiddle of "British Grenadiers" in the distance? It is if you're at Lorton's Gunston Hall Plantation on a busy day, where John "the Fifer" O'Loughlin plays jigs on the fiddle and fife and tells stories from the days of the American Revolution.
"In colonial days everyone participated in the dancing, and music and dance were a part of life," said O'Loughlin to Patch. "I'm trying to unleash the inner musician in people. There is not enough music in our lives, and it's in our DNA to make happy, communal music."
O'Loughlin, 60, was born in the District and graduated from Georgetown Law School. Although he played multiple instruments as a child, (trumpet, piano, recorder) he became a general practice litigator, and performed in the courtroom for 25 years.
"About 10 years ago I started missing music, which had always been my first love," he said. "And eight years ago I played the Plantation Christmas at Gunston Hall for the first time, but I didn't have an overcoat and it was cold outside. I called up Gunston Hall and asked if they could lend me one, and when I went to pick it up there was a note pinned to the lapel that read 'John the Fifer'. There was something about that name."
- See Photos: A Plantation Christmas at Gunston Hall
O'Loughlin has played at Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria, and teaches in his home studio in Cobb, MD. He is available to play public events, including Fourth of July celebrations and other major holidays.
What's O'Laughlin's most cherished memory of playing music at Gunston Hall?
"It was when kids from Gallaudet University came and their teacher told me that they wanted to dance," said O'Loughlin. "So, I got my fiddle out and they got into a square dance formation. The fun they had when I started playing was intoxicating. They could keep the rhythm together, and it was one of the most joyous things I have ever seen in my life. An experience like that tells me I'm doing the right thing."
O'Loughlin can be reached for event bookings via (301) 259-0536.