Against the spectacular backdrop of Scotland’s top tourist attraction over 1,000 performers, 35 Zulu warriors, 40 fiddlers, 45 steel drummers, along with one or two surprises, are set to provide the richest of entertainment at this year’s Homecoming-themed 65th Tattoo on the floodlit esplanade of Edinburgh Castle (August 1 - 23).
Over 97% of tickets for the 24-performance, 3-week run on the Castle Esplanade have already been sold; 220,000 visitors are expected to be thrilled by the multinational extravaganza. The 2014 theme of ‘Our Home, Friends and Family’ conveys the notion of individual and collective journeys away from home to absorb experience and then return. Scots have travelled all over the World - over a number of centuries - in search of success and adventure and have always kept their heritage and culture close at hand.
The Tattoo Chief Executive and Producer, Brigadier David Allfrey said: “I am fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to the ends of our inhabited earth to meet our friends and allies and am always struck by the impact that Scotland has made and the warmth with which visitors are greeted. And, nowhere is this more evident than across the countries of the Commonwealth.”
Opening this summer’s proceedings is a specially-commissioned fanfare, created to celebrate the Year of Homecoming - entitled ‘Ready to Go!’ composed by Michael McDermott - which will be performed at the start of each evening by one of the largest fanfare teams ever to be gathered for the Tattoo.
The extraordinary sight and sound of some of the very best pipers and drummers from around the world then cross the drawbridge through smoke and light, to take to the arena: The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, The Royal Dragoon Guards, The Queen’s Royal Hussars (Queen’s Own and Royal Irish), The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, The Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland and 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment. This prodigious 260-strong pipe band is completed by The Royal Army of Oman, Australian Federal Police, Tasmanian Police, Canada’s Paris Port Dover, Manchester Scots Guards Association and Tattoo debutants The Pipers’ Trail, a new pipe band formed by the Tattoo to enable a wider community to play a part.
While this dazzling opening sequence marks ‘The Departure’ from home, the audience is then taken on ‘A Journey’ around the World encompassing a number of Commonwealth nations. First stop is the island fortress of Malta – with all its history and links to our own. The Band of The Armed Forces of Malta is making their first appearance at the Tattoo, with 58 musicians and dancers on parade, under the baton of Director of Music, Major John Ivan Borg.
Early trading routes between China and India rounded the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of Africa, and - with South Africa celebrating 20 years of democracy this year - the perfect pretext to draw in the iNgobamakhosi Zulu Dance Troupe with some of their battle songs from the KwaZulu-Natal iButho.
The Producer commented: “We are delighted to be hosting this wonderful group, named after one of Cetshwayo’s regiments that fought at the Battle of Isandlwana. The troupe has been brought together for us by Cheryl Goss with support from the South African Government.”
When on a journey, however demanding it might be, our thoughts are sometimes drawn to home. This year, the Tattoo hails the music of the Shetland Isles and their Northern Lights - The Mirrie Dancers. Great seagoing venturers, the Shetlanders will celebrate their culture and love of fiddle music. A huge band of 40 fiddlers from across the islands, clad in distinctive Shetland Island jumpers, have been specially assembled for this year’s Tattoo.
Then, across the Indian Ocean to the mountainous state of Nagaland, in North East of India. The Nagaland Folkloric Group will add their unique contribution with songs and dances from their colourful Hornbill Festival, celebrating the distinctive rural lives and history of the 14 tribes.
As the voyage continues, the audience are joined by The Tattoo Highland Dancers with an item choreographed by Aileen Robertson, in her first year as Tattoo Dance Director. The piece features Dougie MacLean’s ‘The Gael’ accompanied by The Shetland Fiddlers and the Band of The Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Ever further east, the expedition takes us to Singapore - founded with the encouragement of two far-sighted Scotsmen, Philip Dundas the Governor of Penang and Lord Minto, the Governor General of India – and a stunning display by the Singapore Armed Forces Central Band, Music & Dance Company and Military Police Drill Team.
Of course, wherever Scots venture abroad, they take their music and it is not uncommon to hear the Great Highland Bagpipe in the most remote places. This year, the military showpiece event is delighted to celebrate the music of the pipes right across the programme with one the largest Massed Pipes and Drums ever assembled on the Castle Esplanade.
New Zealand Kapa Haka Dancers – Te Waka Huia & Te Whanau a Apanui – in company with the New Zealand Highland Dancers then stage a unique presentation of highland dancing and award-winning Kapa Haka, as Scots arriving in New Zealand are challenged by the Maoris.
Many other Scots have sought new lives in sunny climes. So, the tale “heads for home,” from the southernmost island of the Caribbean, with its compelling calypso and steel-band music. The Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Orchestra returns to the Tattoo and the Scottish capital for the 5th much-anticipated occasion.
This year we are celebrating a remarkable 350th anniversary of the founding of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines. 120 outstanding musicians from HM Royal Marines Plymouth, Portsmouth and Scotland - who the Producer describes as “perhaps the greatest musical instrument on the planet” - will mark the occasion alongside the Royal Marines’ seaborne soldiers, the Commandos.
The voyage is concluded as the Massed Pipes and Drums join the Massed Military Bands alongside the talented international participants for a huge coming-home party. The finale with over 1150 cast members and musicians will include the gifted Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools Choir, balloons, flares, dance music from across the century and synchronised fireworks.
As the light gently dims, presages a moment of reflection with the Evening Hymn, flags being lowered on the ramparts and the iconic Lone Piper playing the Scottish soldier's traditional call to the end of the day, this year performing the lament ‘After the Battle’.
Also, during August, Tornado and Typhoon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth and Leuchars will open the show on a number of evenings in spectacular style with an impressive flypast. On Saturday, August 9th at 8.30pm, the world’s premier aerobatic display team, the Red Arrows - representing the speed, agility and precision of the RAF - are set to enthral spectators with their own matchless contribution to the 2014 Tattoo.
The Brigadier observed: “The Tattoo has a remarkable pedigree and appeal. Each year we bring together a special cast and audience drawn from all corners of the earth. At the start of each evening we assemble perhaps as strangers, each from our own place. But, as the Storyteller makes the introductions, the Lone Piper welcomes us all with a toast and then, the atmosphere of the place, the power of the music and a shared experience draws us together. We stand for anthems, Auld Lang Syne and tunes of glory before departing as friends - Scotland, Scotland the Brave!”
“It is invigorating to set out on a journey, to visit new places, meet new people and to grow, but always it is uplifting to come home.”
Some tickets for the 2014 Tattoo (1-23 August), priced £25 to £62, can still be obtained at www.edintattoo.co.uk/tickets or acquired by telephone on +44 (0)131 225 1188 or in person from the Tattoo Ticket Sales Office at 34 Market Street in Edinburgh.